Occupational Therapists (OTs) are health professionals who work with people of any age to help them address any physical, mental or sensory limitations they may experience in their daily lives.
OT’s are trained in neuroscience and anatomy. We know how the brain and body communicate with each other.
A lot of an OT’s work with children is:
- Supporting the brain’s ability to create new or stronger neural pathways so the body can complete a meaningful task or occupation.
- Adapting or creating the environment that supports the person’s participation in the things they want to do. This can be by changing the height of a chair for better posture and handwriting or educating parents on positive reinforcement during mealtimes.
- Helping to identify and treat any delays in development as well as stimulate skills that are needed in the future.
- Preventing further injuries or disabilities from occurring as well as preserving self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. During OT sessions, tasks are specifically set at the right level for the child and are therapeutic in nature so the child creates new positive experiences.
This results in improved abilities, participation and satisfaction in life at home and at school. YAY!
When does a child need OT?
- When they are taking longer than the average to meet the developmental milestones. E.g. not talking at 2 years old or drawing shapes at 6 years old or reading
- When they have a specific diagnosis or special needs that require adaptations in everyday life and for independence
- If they avoid certain experiences like playing outside, eating certain foods or any other age-appropriate activity.
- When a child is struggling to complete a task or learn a skill that they need to do at school or at home.
How does Occupational Therapy work?
If you have been to an OT’s therapy room you would have seen lots of things suspended from the ceiling and oversized play equipment. The equipment is used to treat gross motor, fine motor or visual perceptual, thinking and sensory difficulties.
But before knowing which equipment to use, OT’s have to assess the child using observations on how they move and do certain tasks as well as tests to determine the level of skill they are performing at.
After an assessment, feedback and therapy goals are set and discussed with parents. A report is written when necessary. Once agreed on a plan, weekly therapy sessions occur until the goals have been met. Re-evaluation usually happens at the end of 3-6 months.
How does ONLINE Occupational Therapy work?
It follows a very similar process as above but a new way of doing therapy.
An OT’s observational skills are trained to be sharp and informative. With children, they know what typical development looks like and what the atypical or delays mean.
Online therapy allows for a child to be assessed in their own home as well as work on realistic therapy goals that can be practised regularly in the same place.
Your child’s OT will prepare you and help you prepare your child for the online assessment and sessions. Each session will require different materials from basic pencils and paper to more complex materials, like playdough and tweezers.
Even without materials therapy sessions can be highly effective as there are many online resources and technology solutions in this field.
Children are definitely more relaxed in their own space making for relationship building to happen much faster with the therapist. A lot of progress towards goals is made when there is a strong relationship between child and therapist.
Parents have also reported being more involved in the therapy process, thereby implementing and carrying over skills into their daily life faster.
A good online therapist is an effective communicator, creative thinker and master integrator of all the information observed and not observed.
Online therapy has been proven to be as effective as in-person therapy for certain children and challenges. The effectiveness is also dependent on the training and skill set of the therapist. Read more about the differences with in-person therapy here.