Child Occupational Therapy: What Is It And What Are Its Goals

A summary of how child occupational therapy works and how it works.

Child occupational therapy

Some children may have some difficulties in their daily life. These limitations may be due to simple individual differences, since there are children who are better at some aspects while others are more difficult.

But sometimes problems can be really worrisome, especially if a disorder explains them. That is why intervention focused on improving the weaknesses that a child may present is essential to achieve optimal intellectual and motor development.

Child occupational therapy is responsible for detecting the limitations that a child may manifest, analyzing how to correct them and starting a program focused on this improvement, with the intention of achieving that he can fully function both at home, at school and socially.

In this article we are going to talk about this type of therapy, explaining more fully how it is performed and what are the characteristics to be expected in those professionals who perform it.

What is child occupational therapy?

Child occupational therapy is a type of intervention that is specialized in finding out what are the problems that a child may manifest that make it difficult for them to have a rhythm of development and vital fulfillment expected in other children of the same age. This type of therapy aims, once the infant’s limitations have been detected, to initiate a process of overcoming them and to promote greater autonomy in the child.

Although it usually focuses on those problems related to motor skills, such as problems when walking or picking up objects, the truth is that trying to go a little further than this, and see if there could be problems in the sphere of the cognitive or even perception. It is intended to improve fine motor skills, gross motor skills and motor planning, in addition to self-regulation and sensory processing problems.

There are several reasons that can be behind a child suffering some type of problem that affects their behavior and interaction with the world around them, development disorders and medical diseases being especially significant.

One of the disorders in which this type of intervention is most required is dyspraxia, in which there are coordination problems, although it can also be applied in people who suffer from an autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and other developmental problems.

With the word “occupational” it is indicated that this type of therapy focuses on providing the child with the necessary tools to be able to fulfill daily activities such as, for example, lacing shoes, correctly using a pencil or scissors or prepare the backpack.

All these daily actions are within several spheres of fundamental importance for the mental and physical health of the infant, such as self- care, leisure, social interaction and participation in activities together with other children.

Thus, child occupational therapy is a type of intervention whose objective is to achieve that the child is the independent and autonomous that is expected at their age and, thus, achieve that the rest of the learning that can occur naturally occurs with greater ease. This therapy focused on childhood can be done at school, the child’s own home, the hospital and in specialized health centers.

How it is performed?

Learning, during the first years of life, occurs mainly through interaction with the environment. Children interact with and become familiar with the world around them. This child-world interaction is what allows the infant to develop, especially with regard to motor skills and intelligence.

Each child is a world and if we add to this that each behavioral and intellectual facet can develop differently, it is possible that there are more advanced children in some aspects while in others they are quite backward.

The environment in which he has grown up and the stimuli he has received from the people who make up his close environment can be key factors in explaining why the child has some limitation.

It is for this reason that, to give an example, it is recommended from the moment of birth, to speak to the child, even if he does not have the ability to even pronounce “mama” or “papa”. Having received this type of stimulation from the moment they entered the world helps the child learn to speak sooner and more fluently and quickly.

The therapy is adapted to the specific needs of the child, for this reason, before it begins, the child occupational therapist must analyze the child, see what their skills are and what challenges are present in their day to day, in addition to understand which daily tasks, whether at school or at home, are problematic for you.

Based on all this information, the professional will develop an intervention program with activities focused on improving the child’s weak points.

Some examples of activities that are usually done in child occupational therapy are the following:

  • Learn to dress
  • Write and draw
  • Throwing and catching balls
  • Organize the table, the desk …
  • React to sensory stimuli
  • Running obstacle courses

The earlier this therapy is done, the more benefits will be achieved. Working on what is a problem and improving it can have the effect of better satisfaction in the child, seeing that there are problems that apparently had no solution, how they are being fixed, in addition to improving their self-esteem. This can have another positive effect, such as increased confidence when interacting with other children.

Detecting children’s limitations early is something fundamental, since children with problems, especially in the field of motor skills, are not usually very well accepted by other children, who can make fun of their difficulties, depress them, negatively affect them in their school performance and isolating themselves.

What should child occupational therapists be like?

Childhood is a critical period. That is why the professional who carries out any type of therapy focused on children must be a specialist in the field.

In the case of child occupational therapists, it is necessary that, in addition to having extensive knowledge of psychology and pedagogy, they must know motor skills that allow them to improve both fine and gross motor skills as well as aspects more related to the mind such as planning and sensory stimulation.

They must have sufficient skills to enable them to face the difficulties that children may suffer, either by intervening individually or in groups of varying sizes. In addition, you must know what the interactions between these children are like and if there is some type of social hierarchy in the group that depends on the difficulties of its members.

The occupational therapist has, as already mentioned, the main task of detecting to what extent the child’s difficulties prevent him from relating to the world, having a satisfactory level of physical and psychological maturation and to what degree he is further behind with respect to other children of the same age.

Child occupational intervention must meet the following phases :

  1. Assessment: define the child’s occupational profile and carry out an analysis of their occupational performance.
  2. First intervention to define objectives to be met.
  3. Fully defined intervention.
  4. Evaluation of the results obtained.
  5. Analysis of weak aspects of therapy and improvement of them.

Bibliographic references:

  • Rojo-Mota, G. (2008). Occupational Therapy in the treatment of addictions. Addictive Disorders, 10, 88-97.
  • Viana-Moles, I. And Pellegrini-Spangeber, M. (2008). Contextual considerations in childhood. Introduction to child development. Occupational therapy in childhood.

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