Occupational therapy treatment focuses on helping children to achieve independence in all areas of their lives. Occupational Therapy involves the therapeutic use of purposeful activities to assist with development, learning, social, motor skills, self-care and play. Activities focus on improving the child’s occupational roles, sensory, physical, academic, social and emotional abilities. This typically includes muscle strengthening and range of motion of the hands and body, work on bilateral coordination (using two hands together), motor planning, visual perception skills, visual motor skills and cognitive-perceptual skills. It also includes adaptations or modifications of the fine motor and self care tasks (cutting, writing, tying shoes) that are difficult for the individual child.
Children might need Occupational Therapy if:
- They seem to have problem in using hands and/or get tired easily while doing fine motor tasks.
- They have difficulty with learning gross motor tasks such as riding a bike, skipping, or hopping.
- They are overly sensitive or emotional to sensory stimulation including touch, textures, tastes, sound, and movement.
- They are under responsive with decreased reactions to movement, touch, sound, or have unusually low emotional responses.
- They have trouble with writing including pushing too hard or not hard enough, not being able to develop and maintain a good grasp on the pencil, and having trouble with size and spacing of their letters.
- They have trouble learning how to dress themselves.
- They have difficulty with coordinating the muscles that control their eyes for good vision.
The Occupational Therapy utilizes the following research based therapeutic approaches to meet the needs of the children:
- Sensory Integration
- Neurodevelopment Treatment Techniques (NDT)
- Motor Learning
Sensory Integration (SI) Therapy
Sensory integration is a specialty area of occupational therapy that is based on over 40 years of theory and research. The term “sensory integration” refers to:
- The way the brain organizes sensations for engagement in occupation
- A theory based on neuroscience that provides perspective for appreciating the sensory dimensions of human behavior
- A model for understanding the way in which sensation affects development
- Assessments including standardized testing, systematic observation, and parent or teacher interviews that identify patterns of sensory integration dysfunction
- Intervention strategies that enhance information processing, praxis, and engagement in daily life for individuals, populations and organizations
Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are just as intelligent as their peers. Many are intellectually gifted. Their brains are simply wired differently. They need to be taught in ways that are adapted to how they process information, and they need leisure activities that suit their own sensory processing needs.
Occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach typically takes place in a sensory-rich environment sometimes called the “OT gym.” During OT sessions, the therapist guides the child through fun activities that are subtly structured so the child is constantly challenged but always successful.