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How Occupational Therapy Helps Children

November 23, 2018

Occupational therapy (OT) presents an excellent opportunity for people of all ages with physical or cognitive disabilities to become as independent as possible. Through exercises, patients improve their everyday skills and give them a sense of accomplishment.

If a person with special needs is left without therapy, not only is it an inconvenience for them, it is also dangerous. They pose a threat to themselves and to those around by not being able to perform functions properly, like crossing the road or climbing crowded stairs. To minimize this threat, occupational therapy is a tried and tested course of action to reinforce the patient’s independence and satisfaction.

Occupational Therapy for Children

OT for children aims to help them perform daily activities. It holds more importance for children as it can have a direct impact on their development and learning experience.

The early years of a child’s life are critical since their cognitive, social, and physical development takes place in those years.

Unfortunately, not every kid is able to pass through their developmental milestones successfully. Some do not mature as they should, resulting in restricted or delayed development. If your child suffers from any of the disorders mentioned in this article, OT could be exactly what they need for optimal growth, and improvement in their overall well being.

Occupational Therapy Development Milestones

A child’s early years are filled with experiences and stimuli that develop their motor skills and fuel their cognitive, social, and physical growth. There are several intervention programs that bundle a collection of therapies and support services to help children with disabilities. Occupational therapists monitor the child’s growth, keeping in mind several charts that dictate development milestones.

However, parents must remember that these charts are not applicable to every child, and leeway of 2 to 3 months is warranted to cater for slow development.

Conditions in Children That Can Be Treated with Occupational Therapy

There is a long list of conditions that OT can help children with, including:


Children with Autism have difficulty communicating and interacting. Unfortunately, their actions might result in them endangering themselves or others, but occupational therapists help reduce this risk. They analyze their environment and work with educational institutions and parents to develop exercises specific to the child’s needs. Exercises can increase the child’s attention span, social skills, response to stimuli, analytic prowess, and motor function.

Down Syndrome

In addition to working in clinics, occupational therapists also visit schools and colleges, creating plans for children with Down syndrome. These courses aim to improve their abilities to perform basic tasks. Typically, children desire to be independent – OT can help them achieve that.

Duchene Muscular Dystrophy

DMD or Duchene Muscular Dystrophy is a genetic condition in which the muscles start “wasting away.” Strangely, the condition only affects boys. DMD is mostly due to a lack of Dystrophin, a protein that provides a structural link between the muscles. Its absence causes the muscle fibers to break down and get replaced by fatty tissue. This, in turn, increases overall muscle weakness.

Occupational therapists can help children with DMD by assessing and advising on housing needs and mobility assistance. They also support the child’s education by working with learning establishments.


Dyspraxia is a brain-based condition that makes it hard for patients to coordinate physical movement. Children with dyspraxia appear clumsy and ‘out of sync with their minds.’ If left untreated, they struggle to perform the most basic tasks, such as balance or maintain posture.

OT can help children with dyspraxia to write, cut, dress, tie shoes, and more with the help of biological sensory feedback or regulated exercises. Occupational therapists might ask children to trace letters or numbers, cut using different types of scissors, and dress starting from T-shirts all the way to coats, to form neural pathways that can ultimately lead to seamless functioning.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorders are when children are unable to process information. This results in the child being too sensitive or not sensitive enough, making them uncomfortable, anxious, or overwhelmed.

Occupational therapists can help those children by explaining to them what each type of incoming information means. They can also give them exercises to keep learning what type of information signifies what.

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a birth defect due to which the backbone and membranes around the child’s spinal cord don’t close completely, leaving it partially exposed.

Children with Spina Bifida usually aren’t able to maintain their posture and balance, something which OT can help with, with the help of specialized equipment and therapies.

Other conditions that OT can help with include:

  • ADHD
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Learning Difficulties

If you see your child exhibiting signs of any of the conditions mentioned above, consider consulting an occupational therapist. To request an appointment, please complete the form below, and we will get back to you shortly.


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