Why You Should Consider Occupational Therapy for Your Child with Special Needs
For those who have a child with special needs, you may be interested in looking into occupational therapy to assist you with certain challenges. However, it can be overwhelming trying to navigate the logistics of where to begin.
Both occupational therapy and physical therapy can be incredibly helpful to children with special needs; however, it’s important to figure out what options are best for you and your little one. Let’s discuss how occupational therapy can help and some tips for handling the process.
So, how can occupational therapy be helpful for your child with special needs?
Sensory Processing and Integration
Occupational therapy can be incredibly useful when it comes to your child’s sensory processing.
Having the ability to register, interpret, organize, and properly execute a response to both the environment and the body’s sensory input is efficient sensory processing. When a child struggles with an intellectual disability, developmental disability, etc. and has sensory issues, it’s known as sensory processing disorder.
These disorders can affect children with special needs in different ways, including:
- Social skills
- Learning skills
- Activity level
- General behavior
- Regulating emotions
- Motor skills
Kids can be either over-response (sensory avoider) or under-responsive (sensory seeker) or even have some traits of both depending on the situation they are in and/or their sensory system.
So, how can occupational therapy help with this? Essentially, it allows children to meet their sensory needs by using active engagement with specific activities and equipment. They can provide your child with therapy in a sensory gym, which you won’t find anywhere else and is incredibly useful and provides long-lasting help.
Occupational therapy is also extremely helpful when it comes to motor skills. It typically uses playtime rather than exercising to motivate children in ways that are both engaging and developmentally appropriate.
For children with developmental disabilities that affect their motor skills, there are some common motor delays. Some of the most standard ones include hypotonia (low muscle tone), struggling with posture and balance, and dyspraxia (motor planning).
Having these issues can make it difficult for your child to keep up with others their age and can even affect their handwriting. Over time, these struggles can increase and make it even harder for someone with motor skill impairments.
Occupational Therapy Tips for You and Your Child
Once you have decided to start taking your child to an occupational therapist, here are some tips to ensure that everyone gets the most out of the sessions.
Communicate Thoroughly with the Therapist
As a parent or an aide of a child with special need, it’s very important to be involved in setting up and encouraging your child’s therapy goals. You, better than anyone else, know what the child struggles with the most.
It might also be a good idea to communicate with your child’s teachers as well. They observe your child during the school day and may have additional input on therapy goals.
Participate in the Therapy Sessions
Ask the occupational therapist if they would mind you observing or participating in the therapy treatment sessions. Doing this will allow you to understand how your child experiences the therapy and what weaknesses they have throughout the process.
However, if you decide to observe and/or participate in the session, make sure that you communicate with the therapist beforehand and decide when it’s best for you to ask questions, participate, etc.
Dress Your Child in Comfortable Clothing for Therapy Sessions
Last but not least, make sure to dress your child in loose, comfortable clothing for their therapy sessions. If they do have sensory issues, make sure that there are no uncomfortable items with unpleasant textures as well.
Also, make sure that you choose items that you don’t mind getting dirty. Often times you will find your child coming home with paint, playdough, and other substances on their clothes – don’t worry, it’s the sign of a productive session.
Getting More Involved as a Parent or Aide
While it can seem overwhelming to get started, occupational therapy is a fantastic way to connect with your child and assist them in handling everyday tasks in a more efficient way.
Looking for additional assistance with a child who has a developmental or intellectual disability? Take a look at our information on CL and FIS to see if a developmental disability waiver is something you should apply for as well. Moms In Motion is here to assist you every step of the way!