At Capable Kids, we also Occupational therapy for children and young adults. Sometimes a child has been referred to Occupational Therapy alone, but other times they have been told they need to come to Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology.
Occupational Therapists must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and Occupational Therapy Australia. In order to be eligible for registration, they must complete a minimum four years university study comprising of at least 1000 hours of supervised practice. Many Occupational Therapists complete higher study at university and achieve masters degrees or PhD level qualifications. Beyond their supervised practice, Occupational Therapists must complete university level study in anatomy and physiology, neuroscience, psychology, child development and occupational therapy practice. In order to maintain registration as an Occupational Therapist must complete 30 hours of continuing professional development per year.
At Capable Kids, we specialise in paediatric Occupational Therapy. Although many people think that Occupational Therapist spend their day crashing, hanging out in swings and playing on the floor there is method to the madness, and all of the techniques that Occupational Therapists use are based on research and related to functional goals. A child may be referred to Occupational Therapy to assist with the following areas:
- To assist the development of gross and fine motor skills. This includes development of core strength and coordination that is needed for sitting, walking, running and jumping. Core strength development also serves as a basis for fine motor skills. Fine motor skills include coordination and strength of the muscles of the hands and fingers for eating, playing, dressing, writing and cutting.
- Improving play and social interaction. There are many stages of play which relate to a child’s level of abstract thinking. Play is also closely related to language development and social engagement. An Occupational Therapist will assist your child move through the stages of play from function play to pretend and imaginative play. Play progresses from individual or solitary play, to play along side a peer which is known as parallel play. Beyond this, children learn to play cooperatively with their peers.
- Sensory Processing. Sensory information is how the human brain finds out about the world around it. Beyond the five senses that we learn about in school: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch exist three more: proprioception, the bodies awareness of where it is in space; vestibular, the inner ear sense which impacts on balance and eye sight and interoception; the internal body feelings such as knowing you are hungry or need to go to the toilet. Everyone processes sensory information slightly differently and has different sensory preferences – some people love fast movement, some people don’t; some people love noise, some people don’t. When your sensory preferences are extreme or they get in the way of being able to function in the world, they are considered sensory processing difficulties. Sometimes sensory processing difficulties present as being fearful of a sense such as a texture or taste or seeking it out to the point that a child cannot sit still or ignore their need to have more noise, more visual input or more movement. Occupational therapy assists with sensory processing difficulties by providing strategies to decrease or increase the responses that the body has to sensory information.
- Handwriting: Hardwiring is the end product of the coordination of they body’s core muscles, the muscles of the hands and fingers and the ability to the eyes and the brain to effectively communicate information. The earlier difficulties with hand writing can be addressed the more successful the outcome. In order to accurately assess handwriting, your Occupational Therapist will assess all of these areas as well as your child’s ability to hold a pencil, form letters that are the right shape and size and write down information fluently and legibly.
- Fussy eating: Fussy eating can be related to sensory processing difficulties. Sometimes a child will have a particular response to the sight, smell or texture of food. Fussy eating is often assessed and treated in conjunction with a Speech Pathologist as this way the sensory impact of food can be viewed in conjunction with the child’s functional ability to use their mouth, tongue and throat to eat.
- Visual processing: Visual processwing goes beyond the focussing ability to the eyes. It refers to the brain’s ability to recognise, interpret and give meaning to what is seen. Visual processing impacts all areas of our function. Difficulties with visual processing can manifest as a clumsy child, someone who is fearful of movement, poor attention or difficulty with reading and writing.
- Activities of daily living: Being able to incorporate gross and fine motor skills, sensory processing and visual perception is important for daily functioning. Activities of daily living for a child include all of their daily tasks such as eating, dressing, school activities and playing. Occupational therapy can assist your child in all of these areas.
- Equipment prescription: if your child has a reason that they cannot use their body to participate in activities of daily living they may need a little bit of help. Specialised equipment can be prescribed by your Occupational Therapist to help your child reach their maximum potential. Equipment can include things such as pencil grips and slope boards to assist with table top activities as well as specialised play equipment and wheelchairs to offer independence with mobility.
Your Occupational Therapist may work on one or many of these areas with your child. Often sessions take place in a clinic room however they can occur wherever your child lives their lives. Occupational Therapy often looks like play, as this is the child’s main occupation. As a child, all of our skills are developed through play. Occupational therapy is often a collaboration between the child’s care givers, the Occupational Therapist as well as your child and other education or health professionals where necessary. It is often expected that the child’s care givers will be active participants in therapy, attend therapy sessions with their child and complete homework and follow up activities in order to obtain the best results.