OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY FOR CHILDREN

Occupational Therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do, through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).  It is a child’s “job” or “occupation” to play to develop physical coordination, emotional maturity, social skills to interact with other children, and self-confidence to try new things and explore new environments.  Occupational therapists have expertise in evaluating children’s neurological, muscular, and emotional development; and determining the effects of infant and childhood illness on growth and development.

SPS Occupational Therapists evaluate the child’s motor coordination, visual perception visual-motor coordination, muscle strength, balance, cognition, and self-care and play skills to determine if any of these areas need intervention.  They then select increasingly complex play activities to fine-tune the child’s skills and advance his performance.

Occupational Therapy at SPS is designed to provide children with the tools they need to be better equipped for the job of living.

Sensory Processing

Our brain is an information-processing device. It takes in information through our senses, determines what that information means, and directs the rest of the body to perform specific tasks. Sometimes the information received from our senses is confusing and disorienting.

Sensory processing difficulties can pose challenges in performing everyday activities. These difficulties can interfere with the ability to learn, play, work, socialize, and behave appropriately (Schaff & Smith Roley, 2006). Sensory processing and modulation disorders often lead people to have extreme over reactions to what others consider mild stimuli, or to completely shut down and disengage. Differences in interpretation of stimuli can impact motor skills and coordination, further limiting engagement and participation.

Without intervention, difficulties with sensory processing continue into adulthood and have been reported to impact work performance, relationships, and general functional abilities.  Occupational Therapy utilizing a sensory processing approach encourages sensory rich play by using balls, sand and water toys, slides, swings, finger paints, and magnets, allowing children to use their senses to incorporate smell, touch, sound, vision, and movement.

Occupational Therapists at SPS combine brain-plasticity programming such as iLs and Interactive Metronome to remediate sensory processing difficulties.

Sensory Processing Checklistadapted from The Sensory Processing Measure (SPM), 2007
Does your child:

  • Seem bothered by bright light (squinting, blinks, cries etc.)?
  • Close one eye or tip head back when looking at something?
  • Enjoy watching objects spin or move more than other peers?
  • Walk into objects or people as if they were not there?
  • Flip light switches on and off repeatedly?
  • Seem bothered by ordinary sounds, such as a vacuum cleaner or toilet flushing?
  • Respond negatively to loud noises by running away, crying or holding hands over their ears?
  • Appear not to hear certain sounds?
  • Seem easily distracted by sounds not noticed by other people?
  • Pull away from being touched?
  • Become distressed by the feel of clothes?
  • Have an unusually high tolerance for pain or enjoy things that should be painful like crashing themselves onto the floor or hitting their own body?
  • Bump or push other children?
  • Grasp objects too hard or too loosely so it is difficult to use the object?
  • Tend to pet animals with too much force?
  • Seem excessively fearful of movements?
  • Show poor coordination or appear clumsy?

Gross Motor & Balance

For children to carry out skillful, coordinated, and effective movements, whether they are fine motor or gross motor actions, they must have adequate foundation of balance and postural control.  Children with poor posture and or balance often exhibit limited motor skills, in part because the foundation for carrying out skillful movements is not well developed (Case-Smith & O’Brien, 2010).

happy occupational therapy for children photo

Fine Motor Control & Handwriting

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects how easily children acquire and use written language. Dysgraphia involves difficulties with spelling, handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper.

Occupational Therapists evaluate the underlying components that support handwriting, which include muscle strength, endurance, coordination, visual and perceptual abilities, and motor control.

When addressing specific fine motor difficulties, our Occupational Therapists use manipulative play, such as play dough, LEGOs, and board games. Toys such as puzzles, pegboards, beads, and lacing cards can help improve the child’s eye-hand coordination and dexterity.

smiling occupational therapy child

Attention & Concentration

ADHD may keep child from being able to pay attention, control their activity, and restrain impulsive behavior. These problems may interfere with the child’s ability to follow instructions, complete assignments, and perform tasks at home.  With Occupational Therapy intervention, children can learn to master day-to-day skills and be engaged at school and at home.

SPS offers iLS and Interactive Metronome as supplemental treatment options to improve attention.

occupational therapy child learning to read

Pediatric Feeding

Pediatric feeding and swallowing dysfunction pertains to oral-motor strength and coordination, as well as dietary preferences.  SPS Occupational Therapists can help the child who has difficulty transitioning from a bottle to pureed food, who won’t eat food with certain textures, or who prefers such wheat-based products such as pasta, Goldfish crackers, and white bread.

Visual Integration

Information coming soon.

Dyspraxia’s affect on motor functions: A child with signs of apraxia/dyspraxia may…

Have Difficulty Nursing,
Drinking, and/or Eating

They may have difficulty with the sequence and coordination of these fine motor movements. In addition, the child who is extremely sensitive in the mouth may not want to move the tongue as much to produce speech, as it may be this type of touch may be very irritating.

It is very important for infants and toddlers to experience lots of oral input by exploring objects with their mouths, by chewing and swallowing,and by producing sounds. Often the child with oral or verbal dyspraxia may have an underlying oral defensiveness that prevents the oral practice needed to be able to drink, eat, and talk.

Be Late to Talk

 An early sign of dyspraxia is a reduction in the amount and types ofbabbling a child produces at ages 6-9 months. At age 9-12 months,a child typically is able to string together more complex consonant-vowel combinations and add inflection, as if having a conversation.

The child who has poor, unintelligible articulation may demonstrate dyspraxia due to the difficulty sequencing and producing sounds rapidly to produce speech.

Be Late to Sit, Crawl,
Stand, and/or Walk

A child who does not achieve early Developmental motor milestones may be having difficulty with praxis. There are other reasons, such as muscle weakness or sensory processing problems, that may cause a child not to sit, crawl, stand, and/or walk ‘on time,’ but dyspraxia should be one possible culprit.

The child who does not play with toys at age 9-18 months, may not be interested due to the difficulty to perform the motor movements required to activate and play with toys. This child may throw toys due to his inability to play effectively and receive enjoyment from doing so.

Actions such as throwing toys or moving from toy-to-toy may be misinterpreted as ‘bad behavior’ or just not being interested, when dyspraxia may be root of the problem.

SPS Atlanta occupational therapy services

750 Hammond Drive
Building 4, Suite 100
Atlanta, Georgia 30328
404-459-9192
frontoffice@sps-atlanta.com