Everything You Want to Know About Occupational Therapists


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Has your child been referred to an occupational therapist by your family physician or a professional at their school? Getting physical therapy for your child might be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about occupational therapists:

FAQs on Occupational Therapists

  1. What exactly is occupational therapy?

    You might assume that an occupational therapist focuses on helping people do their jobs, since the word “occupation” refers to doing a job. In some ways, this is true. Occupational therapists are focused on helping their patients succeed in the job of living life. This includes addressing a wide range of disabilities that impair a child from living productive lives. Children with delayed fine motor skills, speech skills, life skills (such as eating or socializing), strategic thinking development, and so on.

    Occupational therapy is a broad term that addresses any developmental delays that impair a child from being successful in life.
  2. How does an occupational therapist provide treatment?

    Just as a surgeon provides specific area of expertise with the nature of surgical procedures he performs, occupational therapy is a general area of medical therapy, and therapists tend to specialize in particular areas of occupational therapy. The area of occupational therapy that a therapist specializes in tends to determine the methods they use in therapy. For example, if your child struggles to eat food, the therapist might focus on the reasons the child won’t eat (maybe texture aversion, or physical issues with the jaw development) or they might actually just eat with the child. Other therapists might focus on helping a child with physical impairments that make it difficult for them to walk with an actual jungle gym in their “office.”

    One thing that every branch of occupational therapy has in common is that they are extremely “hands on” forms of therapy. Your occupational therapist will be in the trenches with you, helping your child gain the tools to lead a successful life.

  3. How does a parent identify the best form of occupational therapy for their child?

    Since occupational therapy has a broad range of specialties, your first step in getting your child involved with the therapy that they need will be to have them undergo an assessment. This occupational therapy assessment will analyze your child’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, visual motor skills, perceptional skills, sensory coordination, and self care skills. They might also discuss your child’s current condition with you and observe your child to identify your child’s strengths and challenges, and then create a plan for occupational therapy that gives them the best treatment available. This might involve a team of a few occupational therapists with different specialties, if your child needs it.

  4. What are the skills that are addressed by an occupational therapist?

    The skills that your occupational therapist will work with your child on include:

    • Gross Motor Skills If your child has developmental challenges with walking or utilizing their arms as they should, this is a subject your occupational therapist will work with them on.
    • Fine Motor Skills If your child struggles to use their hands and fingers as considered typical for their age, your occupational therapist will work with them to gain greater control.
    • Visual Motor Skills Your child might fall frequently, or bump into objects while walking because their perception is skewed. If this is the case, your occupational therapist will help them.
    • Self Care Perhaps your child struggles to follow through with tasks like using the restroom, taking a bath, and getting dressed. An occupational therapist will help them gain independence in these areas.
    • Sensory Integration Your child may be struggling to thrive in their current lifestyle because they are overwhelmed by the sounds, smells, colors, or other information their brain is trying to absorb around them. If your child struggles with sensory issues, your occupational therapist will help them develop healthy ways to process it.

    • Oral Motor Skills Your child’s ability to use his or her mouth properly has far reaching implications. Their oral motor skills effect their ability to eat and drink properly and speak appropriately for their age range. This is an issue that can be address by an occupational therapist.

Do you have any other questions or concerns about occupational therapists? Please share in the comment section below!

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