What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy for Children

An Occupational Therapist (OT) is a health professional that helps enable people of all ages assume or resume the skills needed for the job of living. These day to day activities are what occupies your time such as social activities, taking care of yourself (e.g. getting dressed, brushing your teeth), and taking care of your home. Meaningful occupations vary with age, abilities, interests and responsibilities.  OTs will work with you to identify barriers and achieve your occupational goals in your everyday life.

OT for children – Children’s occupations include taking care of themselves (e.g. dressing, eating, toileting, washing hands), play (e.g. playing with toys or playing with others), and school activities (e.g. using a crayon/pencil, drawing, printing). At the SLN, a multi-sensory play-based approach is used to help children build skills and abilities. Some of the most common areas that occupational therapists support children with to enhance their independence and success with their everyday activities include:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Visual-perceptual skills: ability to make sense of what the eyes see
  • Motor Planning: how a child plans and carries out movement

Sensory processing: is how the nervous system receives sensory information from our body senses and the environment and takes it to our brain to process it and tell us what it means. We have 5 familiar senses of sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. Our 3 less familiar senses are our sense of movement and balance (vestibular), body awareness (proprioception) and interoception (internal sensors that provide a sense of what our internal organs are feeling such as when we are hungry, thirsty, cold/hold or need to use the bathroom). We all have sensory preferences and what feels ‘just right’ is different for every person. For example, some people prefer things quiet, while others prefer some background noise. Our preferences at the time may depend on what we are doing. Children and youth with sensory processing issues have trouble interpreting sensory information from their senses (their brains mis-reads or distorts the information). As result, their reactions to sensations may be too strong or not strong enough. They may struggle with self-regulation and have motor problems.

Self-regulation: ability to manage stresses we face in our day to day lives. Children with difficulties with self-regulation often struggle to find and maintain the ‘just right’ level of alertness to match the task. Difficulties with self-regulation may be seen as excessive meltdowns, large reactions to small problems, difficulties with attention. For children with differences in sensory processing, the process for self-regulation can be much more difficult.