As parents, one of the hardest things can be asking for help. I have the privilege and responsibility of raising several children who have special needs. In order for my children to be successful, my husband and I have had to grow a team of professionals around us who support, encourage, and provide ideas to help our children with their struggles. One team member is an Occupational Therapist. In case you’re wondering, here are five areas an Occupational Therapist can provide help with:
1. Assessing gross motor function: Sometimes it is difficult for us as parents to sort out when our child just needs more time to develop and when there is an actual problem that needs therapy. If your child struggles with gross motor skills like walking, running, jumping, and climbing stairs, you may want to contact an Occupational Therapist. An OT will be able to assess the gross motor function of your child, tell you whether your child needs help or not, and make suggestions on how to help your child improve.
2. Dealing with Sensory Issues: Some children really struggle in dealing with their environment. These struggles which cover a broad range of symptoms are called Sensory Processing Disorder. For instance, I have one son who surrounds himself with soft things. Getting him to put on clothes he hasn’t worn before is a real challenge. He wants his shirt and pants to “be gentle”! Other sensory issues have to do with smell or sounds. Living with these children and helping them learn to cope is a challenge, but not hopeless. An OT can guide you and make the journey easier.
3. Modifying the environment: OTs can offer advice and tools to help your child succeed in different environments, whether home or school. Do you have a child who can’t sit still? There are many things that may be contributing to that. Perhaps your child’s chair is too high. Maybe your child is seeking stimulation. An OT is able to observe your child in different settings and give you ideas to try.
4.Using Assistive Devices and Technology: Does your child have mobility issues? Or maybe your child struggles with balance. An OT is familiar with appropriate developmental milestones, assistive devices, and technology. He will be able to give you advice on what will be useful to your child. She will know whether your child needs specialized exercises or assistive devices.
5. Playing to Promote Development: Perhaps your question is as simple as, “What can I do to promote healthy development in my child?” OTs have the training and experience necessary to answer this question.