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What is paediatric occupational therapy?

Paediatric occupational therapy focuses on helping children to perform various

activities independently, including learning at school, managing & organising their

belongings, playing and taking care of themselves (example: dressing/undressing,

using utensils to eat or going to the toilet without help). Performing activities

successfully during childhood is important for becoming an independent adult. 


What is a paediatric Occupational Therapist?

Paediatric occupational therapists are allied health professionals that specialise in working with children to carry out activities of daily living. They have advanced knowledge of child development and are experts in providing strategies for children to achieve success in mastering challenging skills and reaching developmental milestones. 


How do I know if my child needs occupational therapy?

A child may be referred for an occupational therapy assessment to assess the development of skills that they are observed to be finding challenging in the classroom (e.g. handwriting development). A healthcare professional may also refer a child for occupational therapy to further assess their development in certain areas (e.g. motor skill development or sensory processing). Parents may also observe their child experiencing difficulties with mastering certain age-appropriate tasks. We encourage parents to contact a therapist at Thumbs Up Therapy if you suspect that your child may benefit from occupational therapy. 

What is an occupational therapy Assessment? 

An occupational therapy assessment analyses skills that are needed for children to perform everyday activities. These skills may include fine motor, visual- motor integration, gross motor, sensory processing, visual perception and handwriting. The occupational therapist determines which skills should be assessed through discussion with parents or guardians during the initial consultation and from information gathered from the referral. Occupational therapists use standardised and non- standardised assessments to analyse challenges a child may be facing within specific skill areas). 

Which skills does an Occupational Therapist address?

Performing activities requires a child to integrate many skills. For example, handwriting involves muscular coordination, fine motor control, visual motor integration skills, knowledge of letters, numbers or sentence organisation as well as sufficient attention and ability to stay seated. Under-developed or weak skills results in poor task performance. Naturally this can be very frustrating for a child and eventually affect their self-confidence.(represent in visual) Occupational therapists address many skills required for a child to perform age appropriate activities, as well as the underlying factors that are impeding skill development. Such skills include but are not limited to:

  • Handwriting

  • Motor Coordination (fine motor, gross motor and eye-hand coordination)

  • Sensory processing

  • Muscle strength and endurance

  • Visual perception

  • Visual motor integration

  • Self- regulation and focus

  • Self-organisation

  • Executive Functioning skills such as – planning, organizing & time management 

  • Feeding Challenges

  • Self- care skills

What are sensory processing issues?

Sensory processing is a neurological process. Sensory stimuli is filtered through the body and then reorganised by the nervous system to make sense of the sensory information received from our environment and within our own body. Some children experience difficulties with processing sensory stimuli and generating an appropriate adaptive response to this stimuli. Common behaviours that are observed in children with sensory processing difficulties include but are not limited to:

  • Over-reacts/upset by loud noises

  • Dislikes/upset by wearing certain clothes or fabrics (e.g. socks or underwear)

  • Dislikes/upset by having their hair cut, washed, brushed or tied up

  • Very fussy with food textures or temperatures. Many limit food intake to preferred foods and are very reluctant or unwilling to try new food. 

  • Always ‘on the go’ and has trouble sitting still

  • Reluctant to perform motor tasks or try any new task

  • Difficulties with acquiring new motor skills (e.g. handwriting or sport skills)

  • Very strong preference for routine/order and is likely to become overly upset if routine/order is broken

  • Touches or fiddles with objects constantly, even when socially inappropriate

  • May complain that lights or sunlight to too bright

  • Difficulties with attending to tasks and becomes distracted easily by noise or visuals

  • Overly emotional or becomes frustrated very easily

Sensory processing difficulties are addressed through strategies and activities that are based upon your child’s unique sensory processing needs. 

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