Occupational Therapy for Special Needs Children

Therapist working with children
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Although it sounds like it should involve finding a job or developing work skills, occupational therapy actually deals with strengthening fine motor skills like writing, cutting, shoe-tying and using utensils. For adults recovering from an accident or stroke, that may include work-related skills; for children, whose "occupation" is school and play, it will focus more sharply on developmental milestones and skills required for playground and academic activities.

Occupational therapists working with children typically use techniques and routines that may seem like play but are designed to target areas of delay and difficulty. Some occupational therapists are also trained in therapy with a sensory integration approach, which uses play-like activities to help children better process and tolerate the information they get through their senses.

Occupational Therapy and Special Education

While you may want to pursue private occupational therapy for your child, it's also a common service offered to children in early intervention and special education. IEPs or IFSPs will outline the amount of time your child will spend in occupational therapy and where it will be delivered. Your child's occupational therapist should be part of your IEP team and present at any meetings in which that document is planned.

Arrange to observe one of your child's school occupational therapy sessions.

Ask questions and make sure IEP goals are being addressed, sessions are being accommodated consistently, and the therapy space is conducive to good work. A school OT can be very helpful in addressing problems in the classroom, recommending writing utensilsseating solutions to keep your child from fidgeting, or weighted items to help calm and focus.

You'd like to think that teachers, therapists, and case managers would just naturally strategize this stuff without your intervention, but often it takes a parent questioning and requesting to make those connections

Keep up good friendly communication with the occupational therapist, and you may also be able to ask about any problems you need advice on at home and find out if there's any work you could do with your child to further occupational therapy goals. OT exercises often look like games to kids and may a good way to sneak some substance into your playtime.