Occupational Therapy

How do I know my child needs Occupational Therapy?

The following concerns often identify the need for Occupational Therapy Services

  • Avoidance of or difficulty in social situations
  • Difficulty attending children's birthday parties
  • Avoidance / limited interest in coloring, writing &/or cutting
  • Lack of confidence in oneself
  • Being a "picky eater"
  • Difficulty dressing oneself
  • Difficulty with writing skills
  • Having to watch others before engaging in unfamiliar motor tasks
  • Difficulty copying from the blackboard
  • Limited play skills
  • Avoiding constructional toys (i.e. Lego's, blocks, puzzles)
  • Difficulty manipulating small objects (i.e. Buttons, zippers)
  • Difficulty with age appropriate sports
  • Difficulty with ball skills
  • Avoidance of Playground equipment

If you have said “yes” to at least one of the above items your child would likely benefit from Occupational Therapy services.

Our Occupational Therapists focus on a child’s “occupation”. A child’s occupation is the ability to play, perform in school, and interact with people and objects at a developmentally appropriate level. A child’s ability to engage in all these tasks requires fine motor functioning of the hands, gross motor functioning of the whole body, adequate sensory processing, perceptual motor skill, visual motor integration and the ability to put it all together for learning. The Occupational Therapists utilize their training and expertise in neurology, neuro-anatomy, motor learning, hand functions, perception and development to focus on the following areas:

  • Fine Motor Deficits
  • Visual Motor and Perceptual Motor deficits
  • Handwriting Remediation
  • Emotional Adjustment
  • Peer Relationships
  • Play Skills
  • School Related Tasks
  • Feeding / eating tolerance
  • Gross Motor Deficits
  • Motor control
  • Self-Care Skills
  • Attention to task
  • Self-regulation

Frequently Asked Questions

Occupational therapists play an active and vital role in the development of all children. Below are a few examples of specific skills that can be addressed in children through OT intervention.

Fine Motor Skills
Children may face difficulties in using classroom supplies such as pencils, crayons, erasers, glue sticks etc. They may also find it challenging to manage fasteners such as buttons, zippers and laces. Their small hand muscles may not have the strength and coordination that is needed for those tasks. An OT utilizes the knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics and neurology to understand the missing components that may be hampering the development of a child’s hand functions. Through various therapeutic activities the child’s hands can get stronger and more coordinated, thus allowing him to experience greater mastery, increased skill and independence.

Gross Motor Skills
Children may show some delays in achieving gross motor milestones like crawling, walking, running, catching and throwing or simple jumping activities. These challenges later make it difficult for them to keep up with their peers. These children may avoid the playground, physical games or sports that other children their age find highly rewarding. An OT is the appropriate professional to address the child’s needs in this area. Please call our office to discuss what services can be provided by us to support your child.

Some children have significant difficulty with eating. They either eat a very limited repertoire of foods and / or gag very easily when trying new foods. These children are often referred to as “picky” eaters. Our therapists take a complete history of those foods that the children will eat including but not limited to taking note of the various temperatures, colors and textures the child will tolerate. Treatment for these children focuses on the sensory system that may be oversensitive and incorporates experiences with total body exploration as well as oral exploration. New foods are incrementally introduced following a protocol of what is more likely to be tolerated.

Handwriting skills from the basics of letter formation to taking class notes legibly can be extremely difficult for some children to learn. Occupational Therapists uncover the underlying causes of a child’s difficulty in this area. The child may have weakness, coordination deficits, sensory limitations that do not allow easy control of the pencil, visual tracking deficits or motor planning limitations. Occupational Therapists use a multisensory approach to handwriting remediation that is based on the foundations of hand anatomy, biomechanics and sensory functioning. OTs are familiar with the handwriting programs that are often utilized in your local school district and can be the expert you need to maximize their effectiveness.

Visual Perceptual and Visual Motor Intervention
From stacking blocks and doing puzzles to writing letters appropriately, a child must be able to perceive differences and relationships between objects in the environment. Occupational Therapists help children discover these relationships and begin a map of the spatial planning that is required to function in our world. All skills are learned through play as children are provided with therapeutic experiences that progress from simple to complex. Through Occupational Therapy treatment improvements have been reported by parents in a child’s handwriting, organizational skills, play skills and school performance.

Our Therapists work with children to maximize each child’s potential by providing individualized sensory-motor challenges that require a child to perform with a little more skill each time. Children learn and improve their motor skills through therapeutic play. In addition, when children engage in motor challenges, they not only learn the skills, which are stored as the “joint and muscle memory” but also this learning have a great impact on their social & emotional development, self-esteem and peer relationships.

Our therapists utilize a play based individualized approach that helps each child thrive. All our children look forward to come for their therapy sessions every week as they realize that the therapist understands their needs and will help them develop their skills. Our children simply view their therapy sessions as “play” with a special person in a fun filled environment.

Since therapy is play, it looks like play. The child is not aware that with every activities, the therapist has a therapeutic goal in mind and is moving towards those goals within each and every session. Many of the “equipments” are usually available in therapy catalogs however others are highly familiar and can be utilized in a new therapeutic way. Each treatment session is planned and customized for an individual child’s needs, goals and engages the particular child’s inner drive.

Occupational Therapy interventions can last from 3 months to few years depending on the severity of the child’s needs, parent’s goals and observable progress. The parent is given a choice to make informed decision after discussion with the therapist regarding the frequency and duration of service.

Therapy offered in a school district focuses on the “measureable” academic delays. If a child’s difficulties are not “measurable” and not significantly below average a child will often not get approved for therapy services at his / her school district. Private services can intervene and provide assistance to the students even though the school’s therapist might not identify them as significant.
School based services follow the frequency and duration based on their case load as well as based on their working days at a specific school. Private therapists follow the frequency and duration as requested by the parents and based on the assessment report and intervention goals.

We believe that if a child has a difficulty that is interfering with his /her daily functioning it makes sense to get a “trainer”. This holds true for sensory-motor functioning. If a child has a difficulty with sensory – motor functioning, an Occupational therapist can make a definite difference in the child’s daily life. The teacher and the parent may not know how to intervene to help and as a result the concerns may not resolve. “Practicing” a skill may help with that one skill but therapists are trained to understand the foundational skills that may be interfering. Our therapists work on the foundational skills so that a child can independently begin to master his / her environment.

Sensory Integration dysfunction or sensory processing difficulties are not caused by anything the parent did or did not do. Sensory processing difficulties are simply a weakness in that area of functioning for the child. We all have strengths and weaknesses and children do as well. If the child’s weakness in sensory processing is significant enough to interfere with a child’s self-esteem and / or ability to engage in the environment Occupational therapy services would be indicated.

It is believed that 95% of children on the autism spectrum have sensory integration difficulties. Children on the spectrum typically have a different way of perceiving the environment. This different sensory perception can interfere with the child’s ability to attend, have peer relationships and can interfere with learning. This alternate way of perceiving the environment can be highly distracting resulting in paying attention to less relevant stimuli rather than focusing on the stimuli that are necessary to complete a task.

There are many strategies that can be provided to a parent to help their child at home. Once a therapist gets to know your child, a home program can be provided that includes exercises, activities and suggestions that take into consideration your individual child’s current level of functioning. If you have not yet started therapy, an initial evaluation can be performed and you can be provided with ideas of what you can do at home.

Contact us for a FREE, no obligation discussion with our Occupational Therapist to discuss your child’s challenges and to receive recommendation on Occupational Therapy assessments and interventions at Symbiosis. We respect your privacy, all information shared will be kept confidential.