Child occupational therapy: what is it and what are its objectives?
An overview of child occupational therapy and how it works.
Some children may have some difficulties in their daily life. These limitations may be due to simple individual differences, as some children are better at some aspects while others find them more difficult.
But sometimes, the problems can be of real concern, especially if a disorder explains them.. That is why intervention focused on improving a child's weaknesses is essential for optimal intellectual and motor development.
Occupational therapy for children is in charge of detecting the limitations that a child may manifest, analyzing how to correct them and initiating a program focused on this improvement, with the intention of enabling the child to fully develop at home, at school and socially.
In this article we are going to talk about this type of therapy, explaining more in depth how it is performed and what are the characteristics expected in those professionals who perform it.
What is child occupational therapy?
Child occupational therapy is a type of intervention that is specialized in to find which are the problems that can manifest a child that make difficult to him to be able to have a rhythm of development and vital fullness expected in other children of the same age. This type of therapy aims, once the infant's limitations have been detected, to initiate a process of overcoming them and promoting greater autonomy in the child.
Although is usually focused on those problems related to motor skills, such as problems with walking or walkingAlthough it is usually focused on those problems related to motor skills, such as problems in walking or grasping objects, the truth is that it is intended to go a little beyond this, and see if there could be problems in the cognitive sphere or even perception. The aim is to improve fine motor skills, gross motor skills and motor planning, in addition to problems of self-regulation and sensory processing.
There are several reasons that may be behind a child suffering from some kind of problem affecting their behavior and interaction with the world around them, with developmental disorders and medical illnesses being particularly significant.
One of the disorders in which this type of intervention is most needed are dyspraxia, in which coordination problems occur, although it can also be applied in people suffering from autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and other developmental problems.
The word "occupational" is used to indicate that this type of therapy is focused on providing the child with the necessary skills to help him or her to develop and develop. therapy focuses on providing the child with the necessary tools to be able to accomplish daily activities, such as, for example, lacing his or her own shoes. such as, for example, lacing shoes, using a pencil or scissors correctly, or preparing a backpack.
All of these daily actions fall within several spheres of fundamental importance for the mental and physical health of the child, such as self-care, leisure, social interaction and participation in activities with other children. activities with other children.
Thus, occupational therapy for children is a type of intervention whose objective is to make the child as independent and autonomous as expected at his age and, thus, to make the rest of the learning that may occur naturally occur more easily. This therapy focused on childhood can be performed at school, at the child's own home, in the hospital and in specialized health centers.
How is it done?
Learning, during the first years of life, takes place mainly through interaction with the environment.. Children relate to the world around them and become familiar with it. This child-world interaction is what allows the infant to develop, especially in terms of motor skills and intelligence.
Each child is different and if we add to this the fact that each behavioral and intellectual facet can develop differently, it is possible that there are children who are more advanced in some aspects while in others they are quite behind.
The environment in which the child has been raised and the stimuli he has received from the people who make up his close environment may be key factors in explaining why the child has some limitation.
It is for this reason that, for example, it is recommended from the moment the child is born to talk to him, even if he does not have the ability to pronounce "mama" or "dada". Having received this type of stimulation from the moment he or she is born, helps the child to learn to speak. helps the child to learn to speak early, more fluently and more quickly.
The therapy is adapted to the specific needs of the child, for this reason, before the therapy begins, the child occupational therapist must analyze the child, see what are his skills and what challenges are present in his daily life, as well as understand what are the daily tasks, whether at school or at home, that pose problems for him.
Based on all this information, the professional will develop an intervention program with focused activities. an intervention program with activities focused on improving the child's weak points..
Some examples of activities that are usually done in occupational therapy for children are the following:
- Learning to dress
- Writing and drawing
- Throwing and catching balls
- Organizing the table, desk...
- Reacting to sensory stimuli
- Running obstacle courses
The earlier this therapy is performed, the more benefits will be achieved.. Working on what is a problem and improving it can have as an effect a better satisfaction in the child, seeing that there are problems that apparently had no solution how they are being fixed, in addition to improving their self-esteem. This can have another positive effect, such as greater confidence when interacting with other children.
Detecting children's limitations in time is essential, since children with problems, especially in the field of motor skills, are usually not very well accepted by other children, who may make fun of their difficulties, depress them, negatively affect their school performance and isolate themselves.
What should child occupational therapists be like?
Childhood is a critical period. That is why the professional who carries out any type of therapy focused on children must be a specialist in the field.
In the case of occupational therapists for children, it is necessary that, in addition to having extensive knowledge of psychology and pedagogy, they know about motor skills that allow them to motor skills to improve both fine and gross motor skills as well as aspects more related to the mind, such as planning and stimulation. such as planning and sensory stimulation.
They must have sufficient skills to enable them to deal with the difficulties that children may suffer, either intervening individually or in groups of varying sizes. In addition, they must know how the interactions between these children are and if there is any kind of social hierarchy in the group that depends on the difficulties of its members.
The occupational therapist has, as mentioned above, the main task of detecting to what extent the child's difficulties prevent him/her from relating to the world, from having a satisfactory level of physical and psychological maturation and to what degree he/she is behind the rest of the children of the same age.
The child's occupational intervention must comply with the following phases:
- First intervention to define objectives to be met.
- Fully defined intervention.
- Evaluation of the results obtained.
- Analysis of weak aspects of the therapy and improvement of them. Bibliographical references:
- Rojo-Mota, G. (2008). Occupational therapy in the treatment of addictions. Trastornos Adictivos, 10, 88 - 97.
- Viana-Moles, I. and Pellegrini-Spangeber, M. (2008). Contextual considerations in childhood. Introduction to child development. Occupational therapy in childhood.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)