Occupational Therapy helps children with special needs develop the skills necessary for independent functioning and success in childhood. Since the "occupation" of children is play, it is through the use of play that occupational therapists assist children in learning the skills necessary for successful living, including feeding, bathing, and dressing through the development of fine motor hand and dexterity skills, as well as neuromotor and sensory integration skills.
Occupational Therapists are able to assist with obtaining adaptive equipment and can perform home safety evaluations. Our occupational therapists have specialized training in Sensory Integration Therapy, Handwriting Without Tears, and Interactive Metronome training.
The following are general indicators that a child may benefit from Occupational Therapy assistance:
- Weak, stiff or uncoordinated movements
- Awkward grasp or clumsy use of crayons, pencils, scissors or other tools and utensils
- Excessive seeking or avoidance of movement or touch
- Absence of hand preference after age 6
- Difficulty with age appropriate self-help skills such as dressing and toileting
- Attention and organizational problems with school tasks
- Difficulties with social interaction
- Difficulties with feeding, food aversions or a very limited diet
- Poor balance skills
- Difficulty tolerating touch, such as brushing hair or brushing teeth
- Difficulties in sports, such as catching or throwing a ball
- Unable to ride a bicycle independently by age 8 • Poor organizational skills
- Difficulty regulating activity level
- Frequent emotional outburst or “meltdowns” in behavior
- Lack of age appropriate play skills
As human beings, we experience the world and all that is around us through our five senses — taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. But there are actually seven senses through which we can help children develop improved ways of interacting with the world. These are the senses that make up sensory integration: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, pull of gravity (vestibular) and body awareness and movement (proprioception.)
Because these seven senses provide our brains with information about both our external and internal environment, they are needed to help us develop a sense of who we are, where we are, and what might be going on around us. In some instances, we can't hear as well if we can't see the source of a sound clearly. In other instances, seeing something move can give us a sense that we are moving as well and cause a lack of balance or ability to stay still. The brain has to make sense of all of this so that we can direct our attention, learn, plan and be organized. Developing such abilities is what's knows as sensory integration. Without proper sensory integration, the brain is unable to process all these things into a single composite picture, and therefore interferes with more complex learning and behavior development.
A child with sensory integration deficits may exhibit:
- Oversensitivity or undersensitivity to touch, taste, sight or smell
- Oversensitivity or undersensitivity to movement
- High or low activity levels
- Difficulties with motor coordination, writing or other hand skills
- Social or emotional problems
- Difficulty with change and transitions between situations
- Easy distraction tendencies, or impulsiveness (lacking self-control)
Click here for a Developmental Milestones breakdown.