Many of us have heard about occupational therapy, but do you actually know what occupational therapists do? Some of the few answers I have come across are “you give massages right?” “You help people find jobs?” “You play with differently abled kids?” and many more. Being an occupational therapist and answering such questions have been one of the most important things I have been doing lately.
My role as an occupational therapist is vast and it can benefit people across their lifespan. Occupational therapy is the perfect blend of art and science. It helps people overcome barriers, reclaim a sense of self and engage in meaningful life roles.
So talking about pediatric population, the role of an occupational therapist can start at the NICU level for infants and further progress to early intervention in toddlers to preschoolers and school going kids. It is often seen that the lack of awareness of the services offered by occupational therapist and hence children and parents have a tough time handling different aspects of their lives.
Talking about few conditions that are pretty commonly misdiagnosed or neglected these days are ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive disorder), Autism, Specific Learning disorders, Behavioral issues, Intellectual disabilities etc. It is most commonly seen that a child with ADHD is often referred to as naughty or disobedient. A child with a learning disorder is categorized as a weak student or probably called dumb most of the time. A child with Behavioral issues are often blamed on the parents as a result of pampering. These are the few examples that can be seen around us.
Parents, caregivers and teachers play a primary role in a child’s life as they are the first to note changes or find areas of difficulty in the child’s life. We work along with the family members and teachers to help the child gain maximum independence in his required environment. Parents and teachers should look for characteristic features or behaviors that are not normal or different from typically developing children. Then the child can be then referred for further assessments and treatment if required.
Some most common difficulties seen from infancy to school going kids are difficulty in feeding, delayed developmental milestones (crawling, sitting, standing, walking,speech) , not able to respond to name call, doesn’t maintain eye contact, difficulty in socializing, abnormal or different grip and grasp patterns, inattentiveness, in ability to sit at one place, not able to follow commands by parents and teachers, difficulty is reading, writing and calculations, handwriting difficulties. These can be few examples of issues commonly seen and the child requires Occupational therapy intervention for the same.