Don’t you wish kids came with a manual? Like how am I supposed to operate this thing? Is this normal? Let me assure you – you are not alone. When it comes to knowing whether your child needs help from an occupational therapist it can get tricky. Well just sit tight because by the end of this post you will know about my surprisingly simple yet effective strategy for discerning whether ‘it’s just a phase they will grow out of’ or it’s a sign your child needs OT services.
Something to keep in mind..
It can be tricky knowing when something is just a unique quirk and when something is more than a quirk and needs to be addressed with a professional. What I always tell my parents & teachers is to remember that we aren’t robots. We will all have days when we are off. Depending on what’s going on in your life, maybe you have multiple off days! Don’t forget to give yourself, and your children some grace.
Look For Patterns
So yes, sometimes your child will have off days (& maybe multiple off days), but how many off days are acceptable? Well, it’s hard to put a number on something so individualized, but what I would suggest you do is look for patterns in your child’s behavior. When that behavior starts interfering with your child’s success, that’s when we want to intervene.
To be successful in their daily lives your child at a minimum needs to be able to get a full night of rest, eat a healthy balanced diet, regulate & understand their emotions, communicate their needs, build meaningful relationships with family & peers, learn at school, and be independent (in relation to their age & development). If something is preventing them from being able to do any of those on a consistent basis, it’s definitely worth a closer look.
So one way you could determine if your child’s quirk is something to worry about is by asking “is (their behavior/struggle) preventing them from finding success in any of the areas discussed above”. If yes, then perhaps they need some professional support. Let’s say sometimes your child receives marks in their agenda for being off task during the school day. What I would say is how often does this happen? Do you notice any patterns? Is this behavior preventing your child from learning at school?
Some other red flags you might want to keep an eye out for include
- when your child is emotionally fragile & needs a lot of protection,
- when your child is having trouble participating in sports,
- when your child isn’t able to keep up developmentally,
- when they have trouble being flexible
Honor Your Parental Intuition
I like to say it’s never a bad idea to get a second opinion. If you find yourself constantly worrying over something concerning your child, it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and talk to an OT to get a second opinion to give you peace of mind.
Many years ago one of my old client’s brother started displaying some red flags with motor coordination & balance so I told his Mom to come into the gym so I could have a lookise (aka quick observation) to see if there was anything to worry about. It turned out that something serious was going on that ended up requiring major surgery. I am so thankful that his Mother reached out to me when she did because who knows what would have happened had we waited until much larger issues arose.
Obviously this is not the case every time, but it goes to show you that your parental intuition is powerful. If you feel like something is up, don’t resist your intuition. Save yourself the worry & sleepless nights & book a no-strings-attached, casual consultation with someone you trust.
So, even though it can be tricky knowing whether your child needs OT services, there are still a few warning signs you can look our for. If your child is struggling with something on a consistent basis & you find that it is getting in the way of their every day success, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion.
Don’t be afraid to give an occupational therapist (or two, or three) a call to see what they have to say. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? If this is you – wondering whether the best next step is to pursue therapy – please reach out to us. We would love to be your sounding board. You can give us a call at (770)798-9844 or email us here. It’s time we put your worries to rest, what do you say?