Occupational Therapy

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Occupational Therapists (OTs) help kids experiencing difficulties in “doing things”.

“Doing” what sort of “things”?

OTs assess and treat problems in fine and gross motor function and organization and sequencing of meaningful activities.

For example:

  • An 8 month-old infant does not like lying on her tummy and bearing weight on her hands. She has difficulty maintaining balance to enable herself to reach and grasp toys or other objects. Does she need to be firmly encouraged to spend time on her tummy, or should she be left to her preferences?
  • An articulate, popular 4½ year old who loves preschool is yet to show a hand dominance, and cannot draw without swapping hands. Is he ready for school next year? Will he be able to keep up with his classmates or will he become frustrated and “switch off”? If he stays another year in preschool, is he likely to show a spontaneous improvement, or will he need intervention?
  • A year 4 student is disorganised, loses his books and equipment, has trouble keeping up in class and is not enjoying school. His teachers are concerned that although he is a bright child, he is falling behind in his school work and expressing negative thoughts about his own abilities. Is he held back by problems in motivation or self-esteem? Does he have problems in learning and performing the sequences and steps specific to various academic tasks? Or all of the above?
  • A very able high school student is found to test very poorly under exam conditions because he cannot keep writing legibly for three hours. Can he be taught to write with greater legibility, better speed and less fatigue? Should he be trained to use a computer keyboard instead? Does he qualify for special Exam Provisions for the HSC?

What can I expect of an Occupational Therapy assessment?

An occupational therapy assessment will begin with a discussion with the parents and, where appropriate, the child or adolescent, regarding the problems they are experiencing.

This will be followed by an assessment based on structured tasks and standardised tests, which will usually be of between 1½ to 2 hours duration.

The results will be discussed with the parents and followed up with a written report including specific recommendations. These may involve therapy and/or liaison with teachers and/or liaison with other professionals who may be working with the child.

What can I expect of an Occupational Therapy treatment program?

Therapy is usually in the form of individual weekly sessions which work towards specific goals. As therapy is designed to be enjoyable, with younger children it may look like play.

The individual programs aim not only to train the child or adolescent in areas of difficulty but also to enhance their confidence in their abilities.

With children, parents are encouraged to sit in the sessions and work with them at home.

With adolescents a more independent course of “homework” is provided.

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