Occupational therapy is concerned with addressing areas necessary for successful independent function in the areas of self-care, work and play. When working with children an occupational therapist will look at a child’s main job which is playing and learning. An occupational therapist can evaluate a child’s skills for play activities, school performance, and activities of daily living and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group. In addition to dealing with an individual’s physical well-being, OT practitioners address psychological, social and environmental factors that may hinder an individual’s functioning in different ways.
This involves the ability to coordinate large body movements. Areas assessed include muscle tone, strength, endurance and coordination of the upper and lower body muscles. An OT will look at the quality of the movement, speed response, balance and coordination. Difficulties in this area can affect a child’s ability to maintain a proper seating position, endurance for tasks, movement in the classroom and throughout the day and the ability to perform necessary skills for physical activity.
The skill and coordination of the small muscles, specifically the ones in the hands. Areas assessed include hand grasp patterns, control of refined movement, dexterity, speed and coordination of the hands. Another fine motor skill assessed is in hand manipulation skills which are necessary for things like cutting and holding a pencil. Difficulties in this area can affect, dressing, eating, classroom tool use, writing and cutting with scissors.
Sensory processing is the ability for the body, through all its senses, to take in environmental information and to formulate an appropriate body response. This system underlies the development of all motor and social skills as well as the ability to learn and perform complex adaptive behaviors. The sensory system is also responsible for helping a child to determine where and how their body is positioned in space, how to interpret movement and how to tolerate and navigate around objects and people. Difficulties in this area can affect attention, focus and impulsivity. Difficulties in sensory processing can prevent a child from participating in different tactile based activities and manipulation of different materials. It also affects the child’s ability to organize themselves and objects in and around the environment.