OT for children with Special needs

OT for children with Special needs

OT for children with Special needs

Before discussing How Occupational Therapy helps children with Special needs, I would like to share something. As an occupational therapy enthusiast, I have had the privilege of learning about the various ways this therapy approach helps children with special needs. In my opinion, occupational therapy is a godsend for children who are struggling with developmental disabilities because it addresses several key areas that have a significant impact on their lives. Occupational therapy is a powerful tool that can be used to help improve the daily lives of people of all ages and abilities.

Before understanding How does OT help children with special needs, lets understand what can you expect from OT session

What to expect from OT?

The occupational therapist (OT) first evaluates the child’s strengths and weaknesses and conducts an interview with the parents to determine their goals for the therapy. Based on this assessment, the therapist designs a personalized therapy plan for the child, which incorporates play-based activities aimed at improving the child’s motor skills, sensory processing, social skills, and cognition.

Lets first see what OT for children with Special needs program looks like in details and then understand how it can help a child with special needs and they can deal with which aspects of development

A typical OT program includes

  • An initial evaluation where the client, their family & the therapist identify the client’s goals.
  • A customized intervention plan to address the client’s needs & improve their ability to complete daily activities & reach their goals.
  • Ongoing evaluations to make sure the interventions are effective & goals are being achieved. Changes can be made to the treatment plan, as required.
  • Session typically lasts from 30-60mins, scheduled regularly with frequency set depending on needs & goals of the individuals.
  • The ultimate goal is to be able to translate every learned skill in a variety of natural settings individual’s everyday life.

So, after assessment therapist understands better about why the breakdowns are happening & after explaining the parent, they discuss goals which are important for parent.

How does an OT help children with special needs?

Let’s understand How can Occupational Therapy helps children with Special needs and in which areas..

Motor skills

Development is a crucial element of occupational therapy. Children with developmental disabilities often have trouble with fine and gross motor skills, which can cause delays in daily activities such as brushing teeth, buttoning clothes, and writing.

Fine motor skills – The occupational therapist designs activities that help the child strengthen their fine motor skills, such as squeezing playdough, using scissors, using cloth clips. These activities help with improving fine motor skills which also helps in developing appropriate grasp & grip to be able to manipulate fine objects, pencil, and so on.

Goss motor skills –

The occupational therapist also designs activities that help the child develop gross motor skills such as obstacle course, jumping, running, etc. These activities help with improving gross motor skills which also helps in balance, coordination & ambulation. These activities also in improving hand-eye coordination and postural control.

Gross Motor skills

Sensory processing

This is another significant area that occupational therapy focuses on. Children with developmental disabilities have difficulty processing sensory information such as touch, sound, taste, smell, and sight. This can lead to sensory overload or sensory-seeking behavior.

Occupational therapists work with children to develop strategies to better regulate their sensory systems through exposure to a variety of sensory experiences. Sensory processing difficulties can often be a cause that can disturbing for child to be able to participate in day to day living skills like preparing meal, walking barefoot, having bath, wearing particular cloth or accessories, etc.

The occupational therapist also designs activities that help the child to overcome these difficulties by using kinetic sand, theraputty, wilbarger brushing protocol, and so on. Occupational Therapy works on improving sensory processing using sensory play and goal-directed interventions.

sensory processing

Social skills –

This skills are also essential to children’s development. Several children with developmental disabilities struggle with communication and social interactions. Occupational therapists design group-based activities that encourage teamwork, taking turns, and communication.

These activities help children with developmental disabilities develop friendships and build social skills that are essential in life. As children with special needs struggles with communication, they often avoid social interaction which leads to social isolation & anxiety disorder, social phobia, depression. It is of utmost importance for them to be able to engage with others in meaningful manner.

Occupational therapist along with Speech therapist help them process language & auditory processing to help them interact with others. Occupational Therapist also work on social skills like impulse control, turn taking, joint attention in group discussion, auditory filtering & so on.

children with developmental disabilities

Higher executive functions –

Lastly, occupational therapy improves cognitive development through the use of games and puzzles. Children with cognitive disabilities can benefit greatly from therapy that focuses on memory – visual & auditory, attention – joint & passive, problem-solving & organisation skills. From learning to count and spell to enhancing their reading and writing skills to overall enhance school readiness, occupational therapy helps children with developmental disabilities develop their – Higher executive functions – cognitive abilities and improve their overall quality of life.

Higher executive functions

Takeaway message –

In conclusion, occupational therapy has an incredible impact on children with special needs. By addressing key areas such as fine & gross motor skills, sensory processing, social skills, and higher executive functions as cognition, attention, Occupational therapists can improve these children’s daily lives drastically. Through play-based activities and personalized therapy plans, occupational therapy helps children with developmental disabilities achieve their full potential and lead fulfilled lives. If you know of a child who needs occupational therapy, I highly encourage seeking expertise from an occupational therapist.

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