Occupational therapy is beneficial at any age, especially during the childhood years. The ability for a child to experience and play is what drives cognitive, social and physical growth. An OT is able to evaluate a child’s current skills to determine if they should require additional support. Occupational therapy can help children learn ways to deal with academic and social challenges that they may face due to their disability.
What is School-based Occupational Therapy?
According to AOTA, School-based Occupational Therapy is defined as supporting “academic achievements and social participation by promoting occupational within all school routines.” School-based OTs focus on assisting children to fulfill their role as students as well as prepare them for future endeavors.
Benefits of Occupational Therapy For Children
Childhood is a crucial time for development which is why it is essential for students to receive occupational therapy if necessary.
School-based occupational therapists can help children navigate through everyday, yet essential, tasks. The improved ability to perform basic tasks, can result in an improved sense of self-esteem for a child. Depending on the child’s diagnosis and goals, an OT may help children improve motor skills, balance and coordination. School-based occupational therapists also work to improve fine and gross motor skills, motor planning, self-regulation and sensory processing.
Individuals goals vary, but a common theme is working on building specific skills, which can help students to prepare for their coming school years as well as improve their self-esteem. It is crucial to identify both the strengths and challenges that a child faces in order for an OT to properly create an individual plan for them.
Tips for Working with Children
Although every child is different, there are a few things to keep in mind when working with children.
Implement a Client-Centered Approach
A client-centered approach involves the client taking an active role in their therapy. There may be some instances when a child cannot be involved in setting goals. But children should participate in goal setting when possible. Also, when implementing therapy, give students a choice of activities as much as possible.
Building rapport is important for success when working with children. Although you should not try to be your students best friend, showing a general interest in their lives can improve your relationship. For instance, spend a few minutes before therapy engaging in informal conversation about what’s new or happening in their lives.
Use a Variety of Activities
Children often get bored easily, which means using a variety of therapy activities is helpful. Considering changing the order you do things or take a therapy session outside your office if possible. The playground, library, and gym are alternative areas that add variety to therapy sessions. Children enjoy games, so look for age-appropriate apps and activities to keep them engaged throughout therapy.
Consider Accommodations Carefully
Kids might be self-conscious if they feel they are different. They often want to fit in and be just like every other student. While certain accommodations may be necessary, they can also be tricky. Children don’t necessarily want to be seen as different or stand out. Consider the benefits versus the cons of implementing accommodations.
Therapy Activities For Kids
- Sensory Bins
- There are several benefits to utilizing sensory bins in OT. Kids have the opportunity to explore their senses such as feeling textures, seeing a variety of colors, hearing any sounds that the objects make and even tasting the objects.
- Q-tip Painting
- Kids can use Q-tips to trace objects as an OT activity. This is a fun way to target fine motor skills and can help to build the smaller muscles of their hands.
- Play-dough Activities
- Play-dough activities are a great go-to for building both sensory and fine motor skills. While this activity will provide kids with the opportunity to experience the texture, color and smell of the play-dough, it will also allow them to work on their fine motor skills as well. Kids will knead, press, roll and pinch the play-dough, helping to strengthen various muscles.
- Craft Pom Poms
- There are endless options when it comes to craft pom pom activities to use for OT. Transferring Pom Poms to a different container, gluing them onto a specific shape or picking up the Pom Poms using a clothespin are all great ways to utilize these crafty materials.
- Gardening offers several benefits that can assist with OT. In terms of sensory skills, the possibilities are abundant. Walking in the dirt barefoot, smelling the various types of flowers, feeling the seeds and covering them with dirt, listening to the outdoor sounds are all benefits to planting and gardening for OT. There are also plenty of opportunities to practice physical activities such transferring plants to the ground, walking around the garden and even picking plants/vegetables.
Working with children as a school-based occupational therapist can be rewarding. You have an opportunity to help kids become independent and transition into their teenage-years better equipped to handle the changes. Do you have any tips for working with children?
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