Frequently asked questions about occupational therapy:
» How long will a typical therapy session last and what will happen during a session?
A typical occupational therapy treatment session will last about an hour depending on the child’s endurance. During a typical treatment session the therapist will plan fun and play-based activities geared towards each child. A therapist will use activities such as swinging, moving their bodies, playing with shaving cream or finger paint, touching different textures or experiencing different tastes and smells to activate the senses. A child may also practice other skills such as dressing (tying shoes or buttoning shirt), brushing teeth, coloring and cutting.
» Who can benefit from occupational therapy?
Children who can benefit from occupational therapy may have been diagnosed with:
Autism spectrum disorders (Autism, Asperger’s, PDD-NOS)
Sensory integration disorders
Dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting)
Oral motor skills
Equipment needs assessment
» What is Sensory Integration?
Sensory integration teaches a child how to interpret information from the senses; taste, vision, smell, hearing and movement as well as information to the muscles and joints (proprioception). Sensory integration dysfunction is a neurological disorder in which information is sensed normally but perceived abnormally. Information from the senses is processed incorrectly resulting in confusion or distress. For example, a child might have an extreme fear of his feet leaving the ground or of movement activities. On the other hand, a child might seek out movement by excessively spinning interfering with that child’s ability to function in a classroom setting. The goal of sensory integration therapy performed by an occupational therapist is to calm and organize a child’s body so they are able to learn new skills and increase their confidence and success.
» What is Dysgraphia?
The term dysgraphia means difficulty with writing. Children with this diagnosis may have difficulties writing within an allotted time frame, trouble with spelling, letter reversals, mixed case of letters and difficulty generating thoughts and ideas during writing activities. For most children after they learn how to write the correct process becomes automatic. For children diagnosed with dysgraphia this is never the case. Writing is a difficult and laborious process. Children with dysgraphia will benefit from occupational therapy by using all of the senses to retrain the brain how to efficiently write in cursive or print.
» How long can I expect my child to need therapy?
Every child is different. Some children benefit from several sessions while some children may benefit from ongoing therapy. For instance, a child with weak hands or poor pencil grasp may need 3 to 4 sessions with a therapist. A longer duration of therapy, with incremental breaks, may be required in order to address delayed developmental milestones. Therapy is beneficial as long as the child enjoys it and is developmentally gaining or improving skills.
Some common signs that your child may benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation are:
- Delayed developmental milestones (for example a child who has not met typical developmental milestones within 2-3 months (rolling, sitting unsupported, crawling, walking and jumping).
- Poor handwriting
- Difficulty with self-care activities (dressing and hygiene)
- Expressed disinterest in seated activities such as coloring or cutting
- Does not seem to interact or play with peers
- Does not play with toys
- Demonstrates limited eye contact
- Constantly on the go or can’t seem to sit still
- Impulsive or demonstrates little regard to dangerous situations
- Limited diet (foods, textures or temperatures)
- Weak hand strength or poor pencil grasp
- Avoidance or distress over wet or messy textures on hands and face
- Extreme fear or typical play activities such as climbing, jumping, or swinging
- Avoidance or distress over activities such as hair or nail cutting or brushing teeth
- A child who’s body appears limp (they appear tired or weak)
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Frequent tripping or bumping into objects
- Difficulty chewing food or overstuffs mouth with food
- Difficulty drinking from a cup or straw
- Any of the above diagnoses