Occupational Therapy for Children
Skill-based training is essential for children to be able to do the activities they need to do and want to do. For example learning and practicing handwriting is required for improving poor handwriting. Learning and practicing turn taking might be practiced when playing a board game, learning how to manage emotions might be learnt by writing a story about what strategies might work in certain situations and then practicing these techniques might occur during a group horse riding session where the child feels anxious. To ride a bike a child must learn and practice bike riding. To be able to put shoes on, a child must learn and practice how to put shoes on, and so on. Practicing skills in their natural setting is also very important for learning.
Inclusion of peers and offering activity groups has also been shown to help children to learn how to participate in a range of childhood occupations, for example being an art student in an art class for children. Sports activities as therapy can be very effective for helping children learn motor skills and social skills but need to be matched to the age of the child and their diagnosis.
What has consistently been shown NOT to help children (to be able to do what they need to and want to do), is isolated sensory or sensory-motor approaches where occupational therapy sessions involve rolling around on balls, swinging in hammocks and jumping on trampolines for the majority of the session. Activities such as these, might be fun and could be used as a reward after a child practices what they need to practice, but they will not assist the child to develop a range of skills or positive social behaviours. Jumping on a trampoline is a fun childhood activity to spend time doing. Jumping on a trampoline is also a healthier way of releasing "stress and energy" compared to punching a wall. Healthy activities which require physical energy are important for all people. Jumping on a trampoline is a great past time for a child, but it is not a good way of spending money on "therapy", unless the child can't jump and wants to do so.
This information is not my idea or my opinion. This information is found in the 2020 American Association of Occupational Therapy guidelines of occupational therapy practice for children. The information is also provided in the Occupational Therapy Australia current course "helping children with autism and their families" (which I completed in 2018).
Skills developed in childhood, for example, completing school work in neat handwriting, putting on shoes without help, taking turns during games and learning to interact with peers to make a friend, can all be taught and practiced while engaging in enjoyable activities. If a young child can't climb or slide, then I prefer to meet them in a local park and practice climbing and sliding. Once they can climb and slide, they can go to the park with their family and friends to climb, slide and enjoy social interaction. I am proud to offer evidence based occupational therapy interventions to children individually and in small groups in a variety of inspiring local capricorn coast community settings.