What is Occupational Therapy? Does Your Child Need It?

by | 12 Jul 2023 | Blog

Occupational therapy (OT) is a therapeutic approach designed to help people of all ages to live as independently as possible. When it comes to children, occupational therapy assumes a unique and essential role. In a child’s life, “occupation” refers to playing, learning, socialising, and becoming increasingly self-sufficient.

 

 

What is Occupational Therapy for Children?

Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on enhancing a child’s ability to participate fully in these everyday tasks, improving their quality of life.

In Singapore, where societal expectations and educational pressures can be intense, occupational therapy is a vital support system for many children. These children, whether dealing with a physical disability, learning difficulty, or a sensory integration disorder, can learn skills to navigate their world effectively. Occupational therapy helps children maximise their potential in a demanding environment.

What are the 3 types of OT?

Occupational therapy addresses various needs and can be categorised into Physical, Pediatric, and Geriatric. We’ve written a few lines to help our users understand all of them, but this article focuses on pediatric occupational therapy only.

Physical Occupational Therapy

This form of occupational therapy primarily focuses on improving the physical skills of individuals affected by injury, surgery, or illness. Therapists design programs to help people regain their skills, strength, and independence in daily activities.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy

As the name suggests, this occupational therapy is specifically tailored to children and adolescents. The primary aim is to assist in developing cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills. Therapists work closely with children to help them participate fully in school and social situations.

Geriatric Occupational Therapy

Geriatric occupational therapy is designed to help older adults maintain their independence as much as possible. Therapists focus on skills related to daily living activities, ranging from mobility to cognitive health, aiming to improve the quality of life in their later years.

 

When does my child need occupational therapy?

Take, for example, a child struggling with handwriting because of weak fine motor skills and poor hand-eye coordination.

The occupational therapist would thoroughly assess the child’s needs and abilities. Based on this assessment, they would devise a tailored plan to work on these issues. Activities may include threading beads onto a string or manipulating playdough, which can help strengthen the child’s hand muscles and improve their fine motor skills.

Another example could be a child with sensory integration issues, overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s crowded spaces. The occupational therapist would use specialised techniques to help the child manage these sensory challenges, allowing them to feel more comfortable in their environment.

 

What do Occupational Therapists in Singapore Do?

Occupational therapists are professionals trained in human growth and development science, explicitly emphasising the social, emotional, and physiological effects of illness and injury.
They utilise a range of activities, both therapeutic and everyday ones, to enhance a child’s abilities. Paediatric occupational therapy (OT) often focuses on improving gross and fine motor skills.

These are the core skills required for more prominent activities like jumping and running (gross motor skills) or smaller tasks like writing or buttoning a shirt (fine motor skills). Therapists use various methods such as obstacle courses, ball games, puzzles, and crafts to engage children while developing these crucial skills.

In Singapore, where academic performance is highly valued, occupational therapists also support children with school-related tasks. They help children with reading, writing, and organisational skills, ensuring they can keep pace with their peers.


Does my child need Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy enables children to gain independence while enhancing their development. It is achieved by implementing a personalised plan after thoroughly evaluating the child’s needs and abilities.

If your child needs help in refining their fine-motor skills, or support with regulating their senses and external stimuli, it may be good to consider occupational therapy for your child.

Kaleidoscope offers occupational therapy to support your child through their developmental years. You may check out our range of services for more information.


Process of Getting an Occupational Therapist in Singapore

1.Getting an assessment for your child

An occupational therapist begins by conducting a detailed assessment to understand the child’s problems and what skills they need to work on. This evaluation may include observation, parent interviews, and standard clinical reviews.

2. Get a customised therapy plan

Once the assessment is complete, the therapist designs a customised therapy plan.

Often playful and engaging, this plan meets the child’s unique needs, enabling them to work on their weaknesses while boosting their strengths. 

3. Determine how the session will be conducted

The therapy sessions can be one-on-one or group, depending on what suits the child best. The therapist monitors the child’s progress, adjusting the therapy plan as needed. They also work closely with parents, teachers, and other caregivers, equipping them with strategies to support the child’s development.

4. Attend therapy session

A child’s life is filled with learning new skills. From holding a spoon to tying shoelaces, from riding a bike to writing an essay – these are all skills that children gradually master. Children’s struggle with such tasks can hamper their confidence and independence. It is where an occupational therapist steps in.

Occupational therapists are skilled in pinpointing the root cause of a child’s struggle with specific tasks. Whether it’s an issue with gross motor skills like coordination and balance or fine motor skills such as agility and precision, therapists can identify and work on these problems.


Can Occupational Therapy Help My Child with Sensory Issues?


Children with sensory integration issues can benefit immensely from occupational therapy (OT).

Sensory integration is the brain’s ability to interpret sensory information correctly. A child with difficulties in sensory integration may be hypersensitive to sounds, touch, or movement or, conversely, seek more intense sensory experiences.

Occupational therapy can help such children learn to manage their sensory needs better.

In a demanding society like Singapore’s, children face unique pressures. These pressures can lead to problems such as anxiety and difficulty managing schoolwork. Occupational therapists can equip children with coping mechanisms  and stress management techniques to handle such pressures effectively.

In an increasingly complex and challenging world, children need all the support they can get to navigate their journey confidently. Occupational therapy (OT) is significant in helping children overcome difficulties and thrive in their environments. From improving motor skills to managing sensory needs, from bolstering academic abilities to enhancing life skills – occupational therapy can make a profound difference in a child’s life. In a country like Singapore, where the demands on children can be high, occupational treatment becomes even more crucial. Occupational therapists here continually work to ensure that every child – regardless of their challenges – gets the chance to shine, learn, and grow.

The essence of occupational therapy lies in its customised approach – it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The therapists understand the child’s needs, work on their skills, and help them overcome their problems. Doing so, they pave the way for these children to lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What kind of things does an occupational therapist do?

The occupational therapist performs many tasks in their day-to-day practice, all aimed at helping children achieve their best. Their work involves evaluating children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development.

They assess kids’ motor skills, ability to perform age-appropriate tasks, and interaction capabilities. Once the assessment is complete, they design a customised program to address the identified needs.

For instance, an occupational therapist would create a program for kids struggling with motor skills, including activities to improve their coordination, strength, and agility.

The aim is to help children hold a pencil or kick a ball and empower them to participate actively in school and family life. Furthermore, occupational therapists work closely with parents, providing them with strategies and techniques to support their child’s development.

This collaborative approach ensures that the benefits of therapy extend beyond the therapist’s office and into the child’s everyday life.


What is an example of occupational therapy for children?

In the context of school, an occupational therapist might help a child learn to grip a pencil correctly, enhancing their writing skills. These practical, real-world improvements significantly impact a child’s academic performance and self-esteem.

Such an example encapsulates the role of occupational therapy in helping children reach their full potential while fostering a sense of independence. The collaboration between the occupational therapist, the child, and the people in the child’s life, such as parents and teachers, ensures a well-rounded approach to the child’s development.

What makes occupational therapy unique?

What sets occupational therapy (OT) apart is its comprehensive and tailored approach to children’s development. It’s not a therapy focused solely on a single aspect, such as motor skills; it provides a holistic consideration of a child’s needs.

Occupational therapy helps children read, write, interact with peers, play, and perform age-appropriate tasks, all crucial in their development. Another unique aspect is that occupational therapy considers the child’s environment. It helps kids to adapt to their surroundings, whether at school or home, ensuring that the skills they learn are transferable and practical.

It’s not just about developing skills; it’s about empowering kids to apply them effectively in their daily lives. This focus on real-life application makes occupational therapy an essential part of many children’s developmental journeys.


Is occupational therapy suitable for kids with autism?

Yes, occupational therapy is a key component in the treatment plan for kids with autism. Occupational therapists work closely with children on the autism spectrum to improve their motor skills and coordination, which can directly impact their ability to perform daily activities.

These professionals help kids learn, develop, and improve skills necessary for dressing, eating, and interacting with others. They use various techniques and strategies tailored to each child’s needs.


What is the difference between physiotherapy and occupational therapy?

The difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy is that a PT focuses on improving the patient’s ability to move their body whereas an OT focuses on improving the patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living.

In the context of children, physiotherapy primarily focuses on improving physical function and motor skills. It often deals with muscle strength, joint mobility, and coordination, helping children overcome physical limitations or recover from injuries. On the other hand, occupational therapy focuses more on enabling children to perform daily activities, or “occupations,” effectively. It addresses various skills, including motor, cognitive, and social skills.

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