Pediatric Occupational Services
The act of playing is an important tool that influences a child’s life. The primary goals of childhood are to grow, learn, and play. It is often through play that children learn to make sense of the world around them. 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 experiences and explore new environments. Our 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. Many of our patients suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder. This results from difficulties in how the nervous system receives, organizes, and uses sensory information from the body and environment. One person may over-respond to input from clothing, physical contact, sounds, lights, and food, while another person may under-respond by showing very little reaction to stimulation, or even to pain. Difficulties in sensory processing may impact organization of behavior, self-care activities, motor planning, self-regulation, and social skills.
What is an Occupational Therapy Evaluation?
An occupational therapy program is designed after a complete evaluation. Many tools are used for the evaluation. Some are standardized (scored on a statistical standard) and some are criterion referenced (performances are judged on an average performance scale for a specific age group). Another form is clinical observation: the Occupational Therapist looks at the style and form with which the child does specific tasks.
What can I expect during the evaluation?
The evaluation might be used to explore your child’s:
Sensory Processing Skills
The way the body takes in and processes information, which includes the five sensory systems:
- Visual - how your child processes what he sees
- Auditory - how your child processes what he hears
- Tactile - how your child processes what he touches
- Vestibular - how your child processes himself in motion
- Proprioceptive - how your child processes his actual movement
Motor planning: the way your child can plan and make movements
Self regulation: the way your child calms himself
Visual-Motor and Visual-Perceptual Skills
- Cutting and scissors
Upper Extremity Use
- Range of motion
- Using both hands together (bilateral skills)
Gross Motor Control
- Motor control—how well your child moves
Activities of Daily Living
- Feeding—feeding self and the ability to eat a variety of foods
Autism is a developmental disability that affects how the brain functions, specifically those areas of the brain that control social ability and communication skills. Boys are more likely to develop autism, and most children are diagnosed before the age of three. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulty in both verbal and nonverbal communication. People with autism may have a difficult time relating to the outside world and may have unusual reactions to the people around them. People with autism may demonstrate aggressive behavior that may cause injury to themselves or others. The disorder also may cause sensitivity to the senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Occupational therapy can provide intervention that helps children to develop appropriate social, play, and learning skills. The therapist aids the child in achieving and maintaining normal daily tasks such as getting dressed and playing with other children.
What can parents and families do?
- Join a support group for parents and families of children with autism. Families of people with autism can experience high levels of stress because of the child’s challenging behavior and the financial demands.
- Collaborate with the Occupational Therapist and other medical and educational professionals to encourage improvement in social skills and daily tasks.
What can occupational therapists do?
- Evaluate a child to determine if she or he has accomplished tasks appropriate to the child's age such as dressing and play skills.
- Provide intervention to help child appropriately respond to information coming through the senses. Intervention may include developmental activities, sensory integration, and play activities.
- Facilitate play activities that aid a child in interacting and communicating with others.
Learning Through Play
The act of playing is an important tool that influences a child’s life. The primary goals of childhood are to grow, learn, and play. It is often through play that children learn to make sense of the world around them. 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 experiences 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.
What can parents and families do?
- Encourage exploratory play by using balls, sand and water toys, slides, swings, finger paints, and magnets. During exploratory play, children use their senses as they explore, discover, examine, and organize their activities.
- Try manipulative play by asking the child to perform a task, such as stacking cereal boxes, slipping coins into a piggy bank, or playing with a deck of cards. Handling items such as puzzles, pegboards, beads, and lacing cards test the child’s eye and hand coordination and dexterity.
- Suggest imaginative or symbolic play that includes role-playing, playing with dolls and stuff animals, toy furniture, and telephones. This type of pretend play encourages good social skills and a positive self-image.
- Choose toys that are appropriate for the child’s age. They do not have to be expensive or complicated to be beneficial to the child. Common objects, such as pots and pans, empty boxes, spools of thread, shoelaces, and wooden spoons can stimulate activity. The best toys require active participation.
- Remember when choosing a toy, to consider whether a child must be supervised while playing with it. Toys should not have small parts that break easily or that can be swallowed.
What can an occupational therapist do?
- Evaluate a child’s motor (movement), cognitive (thinking, reasoning), social-emotional, and behavioral development.
- Recommend toys and play activities that promote healthy development and provide stimulation to the child.
- Intervene when needed to promote development and skills for living.