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What Are the Different Types of Occupational Therapy for Children?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated May 17, 2024
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Occupational therapy helps people regain personal care or work skills lost due to illness or injury. A child’s job is to learn, play, and perform daily hygiene chores. When these activities are hindered due to such problems such as poor fine and gross motor skills, underdeveloped hand-eye coordination, slow muscle development, or perception problems, occupational therapy for children can help. The goal of occupational therapy for children is to help them develop their muscles, social skills, and coordination to allow them to learn, play, and do things for themselves.

Children that have problems with fine and gross motor skills often have trouble with such daily chores, such as brushing teeth and hair or dressing. Occupational therapy for children will help build hand strength and work on coordinating repetitive movements using focused exercises. Kids may also be given dolls or games to help them practice the order of dressing and how to button and zip.

Kids that have problems with fine motor skills and hand eye coordination will sometimes have difficulty learning to write or read. Occupational therapy will work to develop the fine control needed to write by coloring simple pictures with large, fat crayons, playing coloring games, and practicing to write simple icons such as straight lines, intersecting lines, or circles. As the coordination and control grows, the child will begin to write letters, words, and sentences. Reading problems can sometimes stem from an eye problem which hinders the child’s ability to track the words in a sentence. Exercises to build control over the eye movement will sometimes help a child learn to read.

Muscular or developmental disease can leave children with weak muscles. These children may possess the coordination to complete tasks, but muscle weakness may prohibit success. When this is the case, occupational therapy for children will use unique gym equipment coupled with fun games to build muscles. For example, children may be asked to complete a simple obstacle course which will gradually be made longer and more challenging as muscle strength and stamina increases. Group classes, composed of kids at the same level, are sometimes employed to allow children to play muscle-building games together.

A child with an auditory or visual perception problem will often have difficulty interpreting sounds or gestures, causing frustrating social interactions. Occupational therapy for children can work with kids using pictures, computer programs, and dolls to help them learn to interpret the information around them and act on that information in a socially acceptable way. Therapy may eventually include group play sessions which allow the therapist to work with a child in a social setting to implement the tools he has learned.

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