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What is Occupational Therapy and How Does It Benefit Children?

What is Occupational Therapy and How Does It Benefit Children?

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is healthcare service that helps people with physical, sensory, or cognitive (mental) health problems develop independence in all areas of their lives. For children whose daily life is impacted by physical or mental injuries, disabilities, or illness, Occupational Therapy provides therapeutic treatment that focuses on developing competency with daily activities such as school performance and other basic life skills and activities. 

Through Occupational Therapy, patients with mobility struggles will be taught gross and fine motor skills development exercises so that they can perform basic functions necessary for independent living. Occupational Therapy provides those with impairments the opportunity to be treated and support so that the patient can heal, recover, and improve the skills necessary to engage independently in daily life activities.

Who Provides Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy treatment can be provided by an Occupational Therapist (OT) and/or an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA). 

OT stands for Occupational Therapist, and OTA stands for Occupational Therapist Assistant. It is important to note that an Occupational Therapist (OT) receives certification through a State Board, which means OT certification requirements differ by each state for licensure. 

The work that both an OT and an OTA perform is similar, however an OTA administers treatment under the direction and supervision of an OT. Whereas an OT will design and prescribe the overall plan, an OTA is typically the healthcare professional responsible for carrying out the Occupational Therapy treatment plan prescribed by the OT. 

Occupational Therapists can specialize in different skills. For example, many educational institutions provide Occupational Therapists, however a school-based Occupational Therapist will focus primarily on the occupational needs that affect academic performance. Alternatively, an Occupational Therapist with a mobility specialization will focus on seating, wheelchairs, and moving around the home, at school, or elsewhere. 

Another specialization an Occupational Therapist may have is “Sensory Integration,” which is therapy that incorporates therapeutic interaction in an environment that integrates all of our senses. By interacting in a safe environment that is therapeutically “sensational”, children are taught how to engage in comforting behavior while processing sensory input. Occupational Sensory Integration Therapy is often play-focused and is especially beneficial to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and/or any child who struggles with hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to surrounding stimuli. 

 Benefits of Using An Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapy can boost a child's self-esteem and encourage a mindset of understanding over confusion and self-sufficiency rather than dependency. Children who participate in Occupational Therapy can improve fine motor skills, develop better penmanship, and become competent with basic life skills such as getting dressed, showering/bathing, brushing teeth, feeding, communicating, hand and eye coordination, and other everyday activities. 

Occupational Therapy also benefits children by identifying and providing the necessary equipment required for optimal independence. This special equipment could include wheelchairs, splints, specific bathing equipment, communication devices, and even dressing gadgets. Occupational Therapy will also teach children how to use special occupational equipment so that they are well-suited to navigate daily life as normally, successfully, and independently as possible. For a child with sensory integration challenges, the child and his/her parents will learn more about their needs, strategies to calm their nervous system when presented with sensory challenges, and the Occupational Therapist will help parents develop a "Sensory Diet."

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