Occupational therapy (OT) helps with the strengthening of fine motor skills Girl sliding like, writing, using utensils, learning to tie shoe laces, cutting and writing.
For children, who's only "occupation" is going to school and playing, therapy will focus on the skills required on the playground and in class.
The techniques and routines may seem like play to you, but they are specifically designed to target areas of delay and difficulty.

Occupational therapy can help children achieve independence in many areas of their lives.
Children with various needs are offered positive, fun activities to improve their cognitive, physical and motor skills.
Most importantly it enhances their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

All OT practioners must complete an in-service training as part of their studies and have a national certified degree or diploma. They have to be licensed to practice in your particular country, and are required to continue educational classes throughout their career, to stay updated with the latest developments and to maintain their licence.
Make sure your therapist has the above credentials, before committing to treatment for your child.


So who might use an occupational therapist? If your child has any of the following medical conditions, they will benefit from having OT:

  • Birth injuries or defects
  • Sensory or integrative disorders
  • Traumatic injuries (Brain or spinal cord)
  • Behavioural problems or mental illness
  • developmental delays
  • Post surgical conditions
  • Severe hand injuries
  • Spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

During occupational therapy, your child's fine motor skills will be addressed, to teach them to grasp and release toys and develop good hand writing skills. Hand-eye co-ordination is also important, as this will improve skills such as hitting a target, batting a ball or coping work from a blackboard at school.

An occupational therapist can also teach your child the following:

  • If your child has severe developmental delays she can teach them the following basic tasks; taking a bath, getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, and feeding themselves. Skills needed for them to gain independence.
  • Positive ways to learn anger management and control behavioural-disorders.
  • Teach children with physical disabilities, co-ordination skills to feed themselves, use a computer and increase speed and legibility of their handwriting.
  • Evaluate your childÂ’s need for special equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing aids or communication devices.
  • Work on improving sensory and attention issues to help improve focus and social skills.


Girl on a tyre swing
Both of these therapies will improve your child's quality of life, but there are some differences between them:

Physical therapy (Physio) deals with pain control, strengthening, range of joint motion, endurance and (gross motor) functions.

Occupational therapy on the other hand, concentrates more on (fine motor) skills, visual perception, cognitive skills and sensory-processing.


If your child is in a special needs school, they will more than likely receive therapy as part of their curriculum. But what happens during school holidays or if your child has prolonged periods away from school due to illness or treatment of their disability?
All those skills they have learnt may begin to lag, so to keep your child moving forward, try these "at-home ideas":

  • Arts-and -crafts time
  • - many skills are learnt through art, and your child can learn without even realising it.

  • Hand writing skills
  • - Writing is allot of work for a child struggling with fine motor skills. Try shaving cream on a table and have your child write letter in the cream, or finger painting letters on a large piece of paper taped to a wall.

  • Therapist
  • - Ask your therapist what she has been working on with your child, and let her give you some activities to do at home. This will allow your child to pick up where they left off with the therapist without regressing.

  • Get some professional equipment
  • - You can either order some equipment through the therapist or your school. The equipment is not cheap, but they can give you a starting point for some fun sessions and you can then see how you can improvise along the same lines.

  • Just play
  • - Having fun is always the best therapy...Throwing a ball, improves hand eye co-ordination, patience and balance. Any playground activities will give your child an OT workout without them even knowing it.

If you're looking for something specific, here's your chance to go searching... The Web The special needs child

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