Help from professionals
Occupational therapists are concerned with a child’s ability to manage all aspects of life at home, and school and at play. Children are often referred for occupational therapy if they have difficulty with activities such as dressing, writing, using a knife and fork, organising themselves, riding a bike or handling tools and equipment.
Occupational therapists (OTs) work in partnership with the children and their families to consider their individual concerns and expectations. Their assessment may be carried out at the child’s home or school, or in a clinic setting. It will include gathering information from the child and his/her family and where appropriate, the child’s teachers and other people who know the child well. The child is usually observed carrying out activities that they find challenging. The OT may also carry out some standardised tests to assess the child’s fine motor, gross motor, perceptual and sensory motor abilities in comparison to other children of the same age. OTs are also aware that difficulties in these areas can mean that the child has difficulty concentrating or making friends, and that this can affect their self esteem.
OTs can help children to succeed in everyday activities by:
- Helping children to develop specific skills, for example through fine motor activities or a special handwriting programme.
- Suggesting changes to the child’s environment. This might include suggesting the child is positioned differently in the classroom to reduce distractions or that he/she uses a different chair at meal times.
- Suggesting different ways of doing things, like using a different pencil, trying a computer or teaching new ways to tie shoe laces.
Some OTs specialise in providing sensory integration therapy while others follow a neuro-developmental or sensory-motor approach. However they are all concerned with helping the child to manage everyday activities at home and school, and encouraging a child’s participation in hobbies and leisure interests.
For more information on helping children with everyday activities at home, school and play try the following:
- Dyspraxia: The Hidden Handicap – Dr Amanda Kirby
- (ISBN 0 285 63512 3)
- Developmental Coordination Disorder: Hints and Tips for Activities of Daily Living – Morven Ball (ISBN 1 84310 090 8)
- Occupational Therapy for Children at Secondary School in Praxis Makes Perfect II available from the Dyspraxia Foundation
- The Out-of-Synch Child – Carol Stock Kranowitz (ISBN 0399523863)