Occupational therapy for children is a client -centered health profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement.
Visual-perceptual motor skills are another area of emphasis in occupational therapy. These skills refer to children’s physical responses to visual stimulation. Such skills are later used for activities such as reading from left to right or copying from the blackboard. During occupational therapy treatment, the OTR introduces activities that begin to challenge a child’s visual-perceptual performance skills. Activities such as finding hidden pictures (figure/ground), bingo and lotto (visual scanning), concentration or memory card games (visual memory and matching), and block design replication (visual-spatial relations) address different aspects within the area of visual-perceptual motor skills.
Another area of occupational therapy intervention is self-care skills, such as eating, getting dressed, using the toilet, and bathing. Occupational therapy deals with self-feeding, the hand-to-mouth action of eating. It also deals with eating, including chewing and swallowing, which involves functions and dysfunctions of the oral musculature (muscles). OTRs also focus on the relationship of the swallowing mechanisms to the various textures of food.
Although OTRs often provide treatment in the areas of feeding, in many educational programs or clinics oral motor functioning is an area of specialization for speech and language pathologists. In this case, the OTR and speech and language pathologist address feeding dysfunctions as a team because self-feeding is an area of adaptation rather than remediation. The OTR often plays an active role in obtaining any adaptive equipment that is needed. For example, assistive equipment may include “built-up” utensils (thicker than normal) and spill-proof cups. The OTR focuses on proper positions that help children to function well while sitting. Appropriate positioning is crucial for promoting eating skills and helping to prevent choking. The OTR also provides recommendations about the types of foods that are safe for children to eat without choking.
If a child is experiencing feeding difficulties, the OTR working with the child offers suggestions regarding the mealtime experience based on the individual needs of the child. These recommendations are based on tests that have been completed, as well as clinical observations. The child’s OTR often provides a program of therapeutic techniques for the parents or caregivers to use at home.
An OTR works with parents and staff to help a child develop other self-care skills. Children with disabilities like autism frequently take longer to dress and undress. A therapist may suggest routines and help to establish a time to work on developing self-care skills. Dressing requires a great deal of muscle coordination. It also requires balance and control of muscle tension. The OTR frequently provides guidance on how to help a child relax and best position a child before dressing the child or helping the child get dressed. The OTR might also provide suggestions about the type of clothing best suited for self-care.
Eating Difficulties that May Be Helped by Occupational Therapy
1. Diminished head and trunk control;
2. Oral hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to stimulation.
3. Jaw thrusta strong protrusion of the lower jaw;
4. Tongue thrustforceful protrusion of the tongue when sucking, spoon- feeding, chewing, or drinking from a cup;
5. Tonic bite reflexa forceful closing of the jaw on stimulation to the teeth and gums (hypersensitivity);
6. Lip retraction (called purse string)extension of the lips into a tight horizontal line;
7. Tongue retractiona strong pulling back of the tongue into the throat (the pharynx), where it is held against the palate;
8. Jaw retractionthe jaw is pulled back, preventing the alignment of the upper and lower teeth during feeding;
9. Weak or inefficient sucking patterns.
10. Poor lip closureneeded to remove food from a spoon;
11. Poor tongue lateralizationthe inability to move food adequately inside the mouth from side to side;
12. Poor chewing technique;
13. Excessive mucus or saliva secretions.
Occupational therapy aims to assist the patient to solve the above aliments and an important key is to always go for for check ups early and start therapy early.