Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on increasing a child’s level of participation in all the activities that they want and need to complete on a daily basis. Some of the most important activities in a child’s life include areas of self-care, play, school/academic-related skills, and attention and regulation. As these areas vary greatly according to the child’s needs, age, and interests, occupational therapy sessions can look very different depending on the child.
The following are some of the activities a child may experience in an occupational therapy session:
Fine Motor/Visual Motor Activities
Fine motor skills involve the controlled movements of the fingers and the hands to carry out tasks. For a child with difficulty in this area, occupational therapy sessions may work on the ability to hold a writing utensil properly, fasten buttons and zippers, or put on socks. This may also include engaging in small manipulation tasks such as stringing beads, transferring coins from palms to fingertips, or manipulating scissors. Visual motor activities often go hand-in-hand as they combine fine motor control with visual perception. Occupational therapy sessions targeting visual motor skills may include activities such as drawing shapes, writing letters, cutting out shapes, completing puzzles, completing mazes and dot-to-dots.
Sensory Integration Activities
Occupational therapy sessions targeting sensory integration are designed to help your child take in, process and respond to sensory information from the environment more efficiently. For example, for a child who is hypersensitive to tactile input, a session may involve encouraging the child to tolerate playing with sand, dirt, or finger paint over time. For a child who seeks out constant movement, a session may involve providing deep pressure input (yoga poses, rock wall, animal walks, etc.) via the proprioceptive system to help this child get the input they are seeking through appropriate means so that they can sit and attend to seated work, stay safe on the playground, or even fall asleep easier at night.
Executive Functioning Activities
Executive functioning skills are those that help guide our brains to complete tasks. These include skills such as task initiation, planning, organization, problem solving, working memory, and inhibition. In teaching these skills, the occupational therapy will mimic real life tasks to improve the ease at which these tasks are completed. For example, to work on planning and organization, your child’s session may involve planning for and carrying out a long term project with step by step completion, using strategies from the OT to increase adherence. For a child who has trouble with task initiation, a homework routine or contract may be created with the use of auditory and/or visual timers, movement breaks, etc.
Strengthening and Coordination Activities
Upper body strength and coordination as well as core strength and postural control also play a large role in a child’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Activities such as tying one’s shoes, sitting upright at circle time, playing basketball at recess and sitting in a chair long enough to take a test are all affected by these skills. Upper body strength may be addressed by activities such as manipulating theraputty or propelling oneself on a scooterboard with his or her arms. Core strength is often addressed through tasks challenging the core musculature, like completing yoga poses, maintaining a seated position on an unable surface, or even playing “crab soccer” in the crab walk position. Coordination activities target the planning and putting together of movements, particularly those that use both arms at the same time or the arms and legs at the same time, such as throwing and catching a ball, completing jumping jacks, or climbing a playground ladder.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!