It might sound like your child doesn’t need occupational therapy until he is old enough to hold down a job. But occupational therapists help your child with the job of performing everyday activities, or “occupations” we often take for granted.
Our patients may need occupational therapy because they are born with a condition that affects their ability to care for themselves, play, rest as needed, or attend school. Occupational therapists work to improve your child’s ability to participate in routine activities. The occupational therapist might provide education and will work with you and educators, medical staff or members of the community to make the environment more suitable for your child.
Occupational therapists may help an adolescent with a mental or cognitive disability by teaching skills to help your child prepare to become more independent, such as time management, budgeting, household chores and use of public transportation.
Examples of conditions in children and adolescents that might require occupational therapy include:
Children may need occupational therapy temporarily to help regain skills they have lost because of an injury, illness or treatment. Your child may need ongoing occupational therapy or help at various times if she has a chronic illness or a condition that requires some adapting at home, school or in the community.
Some children are born with a condition that makes it difficult to perform certain tasks. Others have a problem related to physical, mental or emotional development. Occupational therapists can help prevent or delay the sorts of problems that can keep your child from being able to perform activities that children normally can do at certain ages and levels of development. We specialize in using occupational therapy to help children recover from trauma to the arm and hand. We focus on the types of activities that are important for your child’s age and individual wants and needs.
For example, children learn to get dressed on their own, feed themselves, brush their teeth and use pencils or crayons. They learn to sit still by a certain age. If your child has a condition that delays certain skills from developing, an occupational therapist can help your child learn to perform certain skills. Occupational therapists are specially trained to work with children and adolescents, using activities and equipment appropriate for your child’s age.
At the first visit, be prepared to answer plenty of questions about your child’s health or to support your adolescent’s interview with answers about your child’s school or home environment. The occupational therapist will thoroughly evaluate your child during the first visit.
Occupational therapists can help children and families find ways for children and teens to participate in school programs by suggesting how schools can accommodate the child’s needs. They also can help educate children, parents and other family or community members.
Parents can encourage their children by helping them follow through on completing activities or interventions recommended by the child’s occupational therapist.
Our pediatric occupational therapists help many children who are being treated as inpatients to gain or regain important skills before leaving the hospital. We also see children regularly for scheduled outpatient visits.
Before your child or adolescent sees an occupational therapist for the first time, it helps to let the child know that the therapist will work together with your child to help solve problems.
Develop a list of questions that you and your child have, and discuss or make notes about the problems your child is experiencing and the types of activities your child has trouble performing. For example, if your child has hypersensitivity to touch, the occupational therapist may ask additional questions about triggers for the problem. If your child had an injury to his or her hand, let the occupational therapist know if one of your child’s greatest concerns is returning to a favorite sport.