How Occupational Therapy can Help Children with Developmental Delays

Occupational therapists often receive numerous questions from other professionals and parents about how we can help their children. Occupational Therapy has such a wide range of treatment options, many people are not aware of the vast services I can provide and may not understand how they differ from services other healthcare professionals offer. It is so gratifying that there are a variety of services I can offer to help children and young adults develop skills and overcome obstacles. I’ve always enjoyed outpatient occupational therapy somewhat more than other practice settings because I feel there are more options in which I can help children and their families. It is so rewarding to work in areas of sensory integration, feeding dysfunction and/or neural motor limitations in order to help a child overcome their anxieties or traumatic experiences that we would consider common place or enjoyable.

In my opinion, outpatient therapy activities are extremely fun-filled and engaging for children. This is the main focus of my therapy, to make the experience as fun as possible for the kid while I challenge what they can do or tolerate. I use various Ayres sensory equipment to assist a child with tolerating different debilitating conditions such as gravitational insecurity or tactile defensiveness. I can also use this theory and other similar occupational therapy evidence to utilize proprioceptive, vestibular, or deep pressure as a means of modifying how they experience various treatment activities. I also use graded obstacle courses to help calm a child’s sensory seeking or hyperactive behavior. I can also use occupations and equipment to assist a child with improving their motor, social, emotional and/or cognitive skills so they can have a greater childhood experience with play, academic/sports and other tasks. These are only a few of many services I provide to help the child enjoy themselves as their sensory-neural systems are re-programming or they are developing the base performance skills required to successfully perform and participate in their daily lives.

Below is a list of general services an occupational therapist would work with a child in an outpatient setting.

Self Care and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living:

  • Bathing and hygiene tasks
  • Toileting and toilet hygiene
  • Dressing and manipulating clothing fasteners
  • Eating and being able to feed themselves, ex: use of eating utensils
  • Functional mobility as it pertains to occupations/tasks in their daily lives
  • Instrumental or higher level tasks include but are not limited to:
    • Management of chores and homework, light meal preparation and safety/young adulthood skills.

Sensory and Behavioral-Based Feeding:

  • Use of a variety of evidence-based sensory feeding and behavioral approaches to increase the variety of textures and foods a child can tolerate eating.

Fine Motor and Gross Motor Development for Occupations and Play:

  • Being able demonstrate improved fine motor abilities for finger isolation, bilateral integration, crossing midline, developing a dominant hand for various tool use, etc.
  • Gross motor examples include but not limited to:
    • Reaching developmental milestones through gross motor play. Being able to kick and throw a ball, ride a bicycle, use and explore playground equipment.

Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing:

  • Provide Ayres certified Sensory Integration to increase tolerance of sensory information from various tasks and the child’s environment.
  • Provide other evidence-base models of sensory treatment to further increase tolerance/processing/modulation and increase participation in various play and necessary self-help/developmental tasks.

Occupation-Based Social and Cognitive Skills Development:

  • Use of the child’s variety of roles and tasks/occupations they participate in or would like to achieve to increase social interactions, friendships and sibling bonding.
  • Through performance of necessary and favorable occupations, occupational therapy can work on a child’s attention, executive functioning, organization, emotional regulation and other cognitive processes.

Services Provided:

  • Individual direct occupational therapy as well as consultation.
  • Development of a family and client-tailored home program to carry over success of skills and goals at home.
  • Screenings and assessments.