Alright, alright – If I were to ask you to explain pediatric occupational therapy to someone, what would you say? Typically what comes to mind is somewhere along the lines of either a) helping someone who has trouble with handwriting & or cutting, or b) helping someone recover from a physical accident or trauma.
While both of those scenarios are indeed challenges occupational therapists can address, that is just the tip of the iceberg. By the end of this post I guarantee that you will feel inspired by your new understanding of occupational therapy (OT) & hopeful that you will be able to get your child the help they need by working with an OT. So, without any further ado – let me clear the air and tell you what OT is all about and how pediatric occupational therapy can help your child.
What is Occupational Therapy?
The core purpose of occupational therapy is to help people of all ages develop the skills they need to be successful in their everyday lives where they live, learn, work, and play.
Wow, like that narrowed it down. Simply put, we as occupational therapists help build everyday skills for extraordinary lives. Some of these everyday skills could include getting dressed, emptying the dishwasher, playing sports, working as a team, or making a snack.
An occupational therapist can aid in developing physical skills (like balance, coordination, & strength), emotional skills (like understanding emotions & how they affect your mind body system), social skills (like working as a team & making friends), communication skills (like speaking up for yourself), & more.
Occupational therapists are trained to help people at all stages of life. From infant therapy to geriatrics, & everything in between, we are there to problem solve and strategize solutions with you to help you harness success in your everyday life. I specialize in pediatric occupational therapy because I am inspired by & in love with children, but you really can’t be too old or young to benefit from working with an OT.
What makes Pediatric OT different
To understand what makes pediatric occupational therapy different from other therapies we need to take a closer look at what the ‘occupation’ of children is. Maria Montessori, the physician, educator, & innovator whose philosophies build the foundation of modern day Montessori schools, tells us that “Play is the work of the child”. Play is the work of the child.
Even Mr. Rogers acknowledges this fact when he said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”.
Our privilege as pediatric occupational therapists is to leverage the power of play to help our children build the skills they need to be successful in their everyday lives.
To be successful in their everyday lives, at a minimum children need to be able to get a good night’s sleep, nourish themselves, regulate their mind body systems, communicate their needs, understand their emotions, build meaningful relationships, learn, & have a level of independence. Occupational therapists can help build these skills so that your child can..
- Sit still and focus during school
- Work independently
- Persevere when faced with a challenge
- Complete homework in a timely manner
- Listen to & follow directions
- Play well with classmates or friends
- Be a good sport when things don’t go their way
- Tie their shoes & dress themselves
- Pack their backpack
- Cut paper, food, etc.
- Write legibly
- Stay in control of their body
- Communicate their needs
- Copy information off the board or out of a book
- Establish peer relationships
- Participate in group settings
- & More
Occupational therapy can help in ways you can’t even imagine – even if your child doesn’t have a formal diagnosis. The tools & strategies that we as occupational therapists have accumulated through our training & personal experiences can benefit everyone.
What working with an OT can look like
Working with an OT looks different for everyone – you just have to find what works best for your family & your unique needs.
Individual therapy is one of the most conventional ways to work with an OT, but it’s not the only option when it comes to getting the specialized help your family needs. There are many different ‘access points’ to gain an OT’s unique perspective & expertise. Some of these alternative avenues could be parent coaching, school consultations, or educational materials and workshops.
No matter where you are in your journey, it never hurts to get a second opinion. Any good therapist will be more than willing to talk with you about your personal situation & give you their professional advice on what to do next.
There you have it! You now know that the core purpose of occupational therapy is to build everyday skills for extraordinary lives. You can see the true scope of OT – that it helps build not only physical skills, but emotional, social, & communication skills too. You have been enlightened to the work of children – play! – and can construct a list of tangible benefits pediatric occupational therapy can provide to your child.
Hopefully you are feeling encouraged & believe that you can finally get your child the help they need to be successful in their everyday lives by working with a pediatric OT. I invite you to hop on over to our services page to discover all the different ways I support my families on their individual roads to success. View Services Here.