Occupational Therapy
Pediatric occupational therapy addresses children’s “occupations," or the activities they engage in on a daily basis—be that tying their shoes, writing their name, stacking blocks, or navigating a playground. Remediating and teaching these basic life skills through the use of play and therapeutic activities allows children to develop to their fullest potential and engage in age-appropriate activities with increased independence and confidence.
             
Our occupational therapists provide evaluation, treatment and collaboration in the following areas of development:

Click here to fill out a checklist to see if your child may benefit from occupational therapy.

Sensory Processing – Sensory processing is our body’s ability to receive sensory information (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), process it, and respond appropriately. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate motor or behavioral responses. These responses make up the skill sets we use to learn, play, and develop. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.
The goal of occupational therapy is to foster appropriate responses to sensation in an active, meaningful, and fun way so the child is able to behave in a more functional manner. Over time, the appropriate responses generalize to the environment beyond the clinic including home, school, and the larger community. Effective occupational therapy thus enables children with SPD to take part in the normal activities of childhood, such as playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping.
–SPD Foundation

Fine Motor and Visual Motor Skills – Fine motor skills utilize the small muscles in our hands and can be accomplished without the use of sight (such as buttoning one’s shirt). Visual motor skills require both fine motor skills and the use of sight (such as completing a puzzle or copying a sentence.) Strong fine and visual motor skills include proper grasp and release of items, appropriate grasp on objects including markers/pencils, finger dexterity, in-hand manipulation skills, handwriting skills, cutting, and keyboarding skills. When children struggle with fine motor and visual motor skills, it often impacts their ability to perform age-appropriate tasks such as schoolwork or tabletop play activities. Often, underlying weakness in children’s core, upper body, hands, and even eye muscles impact their fine and visual motor skills, so occupational therapists work to strengthen the musculature needed for strong motor skills if this is an area of weakness.

Gross Motor Skills – Gross motor skills encompass eye-hand skills such as throwing, catching, and dribbling, as well as other coordination skills such as performing jumping jacks, completing a hopscotch board, and navigating in, out, over, under, through, and around all types of play equipment. Children with poor gross motor skills often appear clumsy and without intervention can begin to avoid sports or gym-type classes out of a fear of failure. Poor gross motor skills are often seen in combination with difficulties in the areas of motor planning and sensory processing. In addition, children often have decreased strength and balance. By addressing all the components causing challenges with gross motor skills, occupational therapists help children build self-esteem and learn the skills required for success in important social and extracurricular activities.
Motor Planning – Motor planning, or praxis, is the brain’s ability to conceive, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions such as navigating an unfamiliar playground or obstacle course or learning to pedal a bicycle. Children with motor planning difficulties often appear clumsy and may have trouble moving in space, discriminating left/right, up/down, labeling body parts, learning to perform jumping jacks or other body movements, following multi-step directions, and mirroring body positions. Occupational therapists are experts at breaking down novel motor skills into manageable parts at a child’s specific skill level so that a child can greatly improve upon skills that may otherwise seem unattainable.

Self-Help Skills – Developing self-help skills is important for children’s self-esteem and independence. Self-help skills include toileting, feeding (proper use of utensils, drinking from an open cup), grooming, tying shoes, dressing and undressing and manipulating fasteners such as zippers, buttons, and snaps. Often times, underlying issues such as decreased strength, poor finger dexterity, or difficulties with visual-perceptual skills impact a child’s ability to perform self-help skills. Occupational therapists work on both the underlying issues and the direct tasks to help children move from “I need help," to “I can do it myself!"

Challenges in the above areas are common in children with various diagnoses including Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delays, Cerebral Palsy, Global Apraxia, and Down Syndrome. They also occur in children with no diagnosis. Many children—even those who are very bright—are not able to reach their fullest potential if they have difficulties with sensory processing or motor development. Occupational therapy can help!

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