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Occupational Therapy Tips for Working with Children

Occupational therapy working with children

Occupational Therapy Tips for Working with Children

By Tiffany Aller

Occupational therapy benefits countless patients on a daily basis, but perhaps its most profound impact is felt by children, particularly those for whom early interventions enable a wide range of therapeutic services that lead to greatly enhanced lives. While therapy appointments introduce and encourage beneficial exercises and activities, continued practices led by the young patients' families increase the opportunities for long-term success. Use these occupational therapy tips for working with children to improve outcomes all around.

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Improving fine motor skills in children

One of the most important areas occupational therapists help pediatric patients to master is improving their fine motor skills. Heather Greutman, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and pediatric OT blogger, has developed a comprehensive compendium of fine motor skills activities that can aid in the development and mastery of everyday functions including “helping in the kitchen, taking out the trash, working on a puzzle or zipping up a coat.” Offering developmental milestone information split up by different pediatric age groups and seasonal games, the activities parents can help their children practice at home include puzzles, games, scissor skills and sensory bins. Regular and repeated practice of these activities during occupational therapy and at home lead to familiarity and skill development.

Fostering learning through repetitive behavior

Parents, teachers and occupational therapists can partner to promote learning opportunities for pediatric patients that rely on repetitive behavior to move from the introduction of new skills to the ability to complete them routinely. Occupational therapist Keltie Morrison developed a list of 10 tips to improve outcomes for children throughout therapy, school and home life. These tips include supporting proper posture, using a consistent routine, offering additional time to independently complete everyday activities, adequately describing expectations and adequate time for free play and sleep. Of the list, the most important area is maintaining consistency to allow children to take comfort in being able to count on exactly what will happen and when, swapping anxiety for empowerment to ably tackle expectations.

Embracing technology to maximize occupational therapy results

Occupational therapists commonly use technology with pediatric patients. Parents can also include technology at home using iPads and game systems like the Xbox and Wii. The Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor and Social Connections offers a list of a dozen tech suggestions curated by its occupational therapy department for families to easily embrace. For families with iPads and other tablets, apps for children like Dora ABCs, Fruit Ninja and UnBlock Me help in the development of fine motor skills, following directions with multiple steps, problem solving and visual tracking. Using video game systems, children can play games that engage their entire bodies, advance gross motor skills, build strength and endurance and further hand-eye coordination. Some games families can try include Wii Fit, Kinect Sports and Dance Dance Revolution.

From play to sensory integration and motor skills to tech-based practices, pediatric occupational therapy patients benefit most when surrounded by therapists, families and teachers who integrate repetitive and beneficial practices into daily routines. Those partnerships, plus employing the widest possible collection of skill-building habits, lead to the best possible outcomes for young patients.

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