Care that focuses on helping you perform daily tasks more easily.
April is Occupational Therapy month, and the perfect time to raise awareness for when OT services are needed and how they can improve the quality of life for people of all ages.
Occupational therapy has three primary goals:
- Teach patients how to safely perform daily tasks and activities.
- Promote and improve patient independence.
- Educate on how to incorporate and use assistive devices.
Recognizing the signs of when OT services may be beneficial is the key first step, and these vary based on if the patient is a child or adult.
Common Signs – Children
As with the signs Speech Therapy is warranted, parents and caregivers should trust their instincts when it comes to childhood development. For a child, play is their job. Play is how children interact with the world around them, explore, learn, then develop independence and basic life skills.
Primary signs a child may be struggling with development and benefit from Occupational Therapy include:
- Delayed Developmental Milestones: Difficulty sitting (6 months), crawling (1 year), or walking (2 years).
- Lack of Eye Contact and Social Interaction: Not playing with others, refusal to accept new environments, poor communication or language skills.
- Inadequate or Inappropriate Play: Not sharing, repetitive play (same thing over and over) or short attention span (moves quickly between toys), requires adult guidance to initiate play, appears aimless without purpose.
- Gross Motor Skills: Difficulty rolling, throwing or catching a ball, poor balance, cannot climb stairs, does not differentiate between right and left.
- Fine Motor Skills: Poor pencil grip and poor writing/drawing/tracing skills, trouble with buttons, zippers, shoelaces or scissors, avoids play and toys with small pieces, uncomfortable with silverware or straws.
- Sensory Processing: Overly sensitive to light, touch or movement, under responsive to pain or injury, unnatural emotional reactions, easily distracted by sound or visual stimuli.
- Visual and Oral Processing: Unable to copy letters or shapes, cannot identify objects surrounded by other objects, excessive drool and food falling from the mouth, overly picky to food textures.
OT is designed to help and support a child struggling with these challenges, and provide tools and treatment plans to overcome the obstacles. The result is a positive impact to their social and emotional interactions and improved independence across all areas of their life.
Common Signs – Adults
When it comes to adults, do not rely solely on a doctor to initiate conversations and recommend OT services. Oftentimes, caregivers and family are the first to notice the signs. It’s the daily interactions and regular time spent together, where the small changes are noticed. And these small changes are what should prompt the discussions with a medical provider.
Occupational Therapy services for an adult are designed to help ease routine movements and activities. These are common areas that would warrant an OT evaluation:
- Change in Health Condition: Recent surgeries or illnesses can impact mobility and strength. Activities that used to be “easy” – such as transitioning between sitting and standing, picking up or carrying objects, reaching – may now prove difficult and painful.
- Falls or Balance Issues: Once a fall happens, even if minor and without injury, steps to improve balance and safe mobility is important.
- Independent Living: If concerns about an individual living independently are growing, OT services can help extend the time someone can remain on their own. This includes training on and incorporating assistive devices (grab bars, bathing chairs, walkers.)
- Basic Hygiene: Lack of regular bathing and hygiene (like hair combing) or decreasing grooming practices such as changing clothes frequently enough, can be addressed and made more manageable with OT services.
- Memory and Cognition: Growing confusion and forgetfulness. OT treatments can improve a patient’s mental health and well-being, as much as their physical.
Successful OT services can provide adults with skills and techniques that improve daily life. From walking between rooms and preventing falls, getting in and out of bed, keeping themselves clean and dressed, and avoiding safety hazards from memory challenges (like forgetting to turn off a stove), OT helps adults continue to live independent and healthy lives.
If any of these signs are triggering bells, it may be time to consult your doctor and request an occupational therapy evaluation. SPGCT is here to help. Reach out with questions on how our evaluation process works, what to expect, and how to schedule an appointment. OT may be the right next step for your loved one, and if so, we are ready to walk with you on the road through treatment.