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Every parent wants the best for their child. We want our little humans to thrive and experience all the good things life has to offer without hindrance. Although that is not always possible, most parents will do everything to ensure their children experience as few obstacles as possible.

If your child experiences developmental delays, you can help them gain independence and experience the childhood they deserve through occupational therapy (OT). To discover if your child can benefit from occupational therapy, continue reading about the signs occupational therapy could help your child.

what is occupational therapy?

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy helps children with developmental delays in physical, sensory and cognitive areas. Conditions that often cause such delays include autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy and physical injuries. To help children with such delays, OT teaches them the functional skills they need to thrive in their environment and be more independent.

Your child's environment and daily needs inform the specific skills that occupational therapists focus on. In this way, occupational therapy is a highly individualized treatment. Depending on your child's needs and environment, the areas their therapist may focus on include:

  • Fine or gross motor skills: Fine motor skills include movements with your fingers, toes, wrists, lips and tongue. Gross motor skills involve movement with your arms, legs and torso. These skills range from handwriting or holding a small object to climbing stairs or throwing a ball.
  • Visual and perception skills: These skills involve interpreting and understanding what we see. When combined with fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills make up hand-eye coordination. They also include recognizing shapes, numbers, letters and understanding the concept of left and right.
  • Cognitive skills: Cognitive skills involve thinking, reading, remembering, and using language. They impact our social interaction skills, memory, concentration and learning abilities. They also affect our ability to play and interact with our environment.
  • Sensory-processing skills: These skills help us process information gained through our senses. They include our response to sound, touch or movement. Delays with sensory processing can impact our focusing abilities and ability to adapt to change.

How Is Occupational Therapy Different?

The benefits and methods of occupational therapy are often compared with other pediatric therapies. Some of those therapies include:

  • Speech therapy: Speech therapy focuses exclusively on remedying swallowing and communication disorders. Comparatively, occupational therapy takes a holistic approach to help children develop skills that help them in all areas of their life.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy emphasizes gross motor skills to improve movement quality. In contrast, occupational therapy emphasizes fine motor skills needed for daily functional tasks.
  • Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy: ABA therapy and occupational therapy are similar in many ways. The main difference is that ABA focuses more on socially meaningful behaviors. In contrast, OT focuses on developing specific skills that help children gain daily independence in their life.

Signs Your Child Might Benefit From Occupational Therapy

Determining if your child could benefit from occupational therapy isn't always an exact science. Although charts outline when your child should reach certain developmental milestones, every child is on a unique journey. Thus, your child may exhibit one or more signs of developmental delays listed below, but that does not necessarily mean they are off-track. However, it warrants closer attention to see if occupational therapy could help them.

If your child demonstrates difficulties in any of these developmental categories, it may be a good idea to seek out occupational therapy:

Fine or Gross Motor Skills

Toddlers and young children are still developing, but continued difficulty with fine and gross motor skills may indicate a need for professional help. Some signs that occupational therapy could help your child improve their gross motor skills include:

  • Difficulty climbing stairs without a rail past the age of three and descending past the age of five
  • Inability to coordinate both sides of the body and understand the concept of left and right
  • Balance issues
  • Troubles throwing and catching balls past the age of five

Concerning issues with fine motor skills include:

  • Trouble holding a pencil or spoon
  • Difficulty using a straw or spoon past the age of two
  • Trouble drawing, coloring or using scissors
  • Difficulty manipulating zippers, buttons and shoelaces to get dressed

Visual Processing

Difficulty with visual processing can manifest in several ways. Occupational therapy might help your child if they show any of the following signs:

  • Difficulty understanding the concept of time
  • Frequently forgetting letters or numbers or reversing them when writing them down
  • Below average reading comprehension
  • Difficulty following moving objects with their eyes

Oral Motor or Oral Sensory Skills

Oral motor and sensory skills control muscle movements in the face and around the mouth. These include the use of the lips, jaw, tongue and palate. As such, they affect language, speech, eating and drinking abilities. Some concerning signs of difficulties in this area include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Chewing food in the front of the mouth instead of using the molars
  • Difficulty drinking from a cup past the age of two
  • Inability or difficulty drinking from a straw past the age of two
  • Losing large amounts of liquid or food from their mouth after drinking, chewing or breastfeeding

Social Interaction Skills

Social interaction skills are essential for developing friendships and empathizing with others. They help us form bonds with loved ones and family members. Some signs your child is experiencing developmental delays with social interaction include:

  • Trouble engaging and interacting with family and peers
  • Difficulty adapting to new and unfamiliar environments
  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Exclusively focusing on one subject of interest for a long time
  • Inability to cope with emotions and learning challenges

Play Skills

Play is the way children work and make sense of their world. They develop confidence, problem-solving skills and social skills as they play and interact with their environment. Here are some signs your child could use extra help in developing play skills:

  • Relying on adult guidance to initiate play
  • Short attention spans
  • Participating in repetitive play for long periods
  • Experiencing difficulties with imitative play
  • Refusing to play with peers or siblings

Focus

If your child has consistent difficulty or an inability to focus on tasks, events or games, they could be dealing with a developmental delay. Some signs that your child's ability to concentrate could benefit from occupational therapy include:

  • Fidgeting, squirming or getting up to wander around when asked or expected to sit still
  • Having emotional reactions to loud noises, specific movements and other sensory stimuli
  • Easily distracted by visual or auditory stimuli
  • Frequent and unpredictable meltdowns
  • Difficulty accepting or adjusting to change

Receive in-home OT from Premier Pediatric Therapy

Receive In-Home Comprehensive OT Services in Texas With Premier Pediatric Therapy

Premier Pediatric Therapy's pediatric occupational therapists in Texas provide in-home comprehensive therapy to children with developmental delays.

Having in-home care comes with enormous benefits to our kids, particularly because it allows them to learn and challenge themselves in a comfortable environment. Furthermore, it gives parents an opportunity to get involved. Children with developmental delays receive greater benefits from occupational therapy when parent participation is high.

If you think your child could benefit from occupational therapy, we would love to sit down with you and discuss how we can provide that service to your child! For more information or to schedule a consultation with us, request an appointment today!