December 10, 2020
It can be difficult to see signs your child needs help from an occupational therapist. How are you supposed to know whether something is ‘just a phase’ or a sign they need more support? Understanding where the line is between a unique quirk and something that needs to be addressed with a professional can be tricky.
What we always suggest parents to keep an eye out for is patterns in your child’s behavior, and whether or not these patterns are interfering with their child’s success. When your child is not able to perform developmentally appropriate tasks on a regular basis, that’s when we want to intervene.
On a consistent basis your child needs to be able to get enough sleep, eat enough food, effectively regulate their level of alertness, communicate, build and maintain healthy relationships, be available to 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.
A question you could ask yourself to help determine if your child’s quirk is something to worry about is by asking “is (their behavior/struggle) preventing them from being available to do any of the tasks mentioned above?”. If yes, then perhaps they need some professional support.
Is their inability to sit down & eat a full meal preventing them from eating enough food? Is their inability to fall asleep and stay asleep preventing them from getting enough sleep? Are their handwriting challenges preventing them from getting all of their work done at school?
Let’s say sometimes your child receives marks in their agenda for being off task during the school day. What I would ask is how often does this happen? Do you notice any patterns? Is this behavior preventing your child from learning at school?
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 to the gym so I could do a 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.
What I always remind my parents & teachers is that we aren’t robots. We will all have days when we are off. Maybe you have multiple off days, and that’s ok! It’s completely acceptable to give yourself, and your children some leeway. That being said, it’s hard to identify a specific threshold for how many off days are “acceptable” before you should seek professional support, but keep looking for patterns and reflect on whether those patters are preventing your child from being successful in their every day lives.
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. Do you think your child could benefit from working with an occupational therapist? We’d love to connect & see how we can support you. The best way to get ahold of us is by filling out our contact form.
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