Many special needs children take part in occupational therapy. This therapy type is designed to help children achieve the level of self-care that they require to do typical daily tasks themselves, such as getting dressed, tying shoes, playing and interacting with peers. Occupational therapy is appropriate for children with mental or physical delays. The therapy often takes place in a public school setting, which is free for families, or it may be performed in a private setting at the parents’ preference. No matter where occupational therapy occurs, parents should be aware of a few basic principles that will make their child’s time there a success.
First, children should be ready long before they arrive. Parents should discuss with their children what they should expect, how long the session will last and when they will be going back. Often, special needs children do better with a new situation if they know exactly what to expect. Children should also be comfortably dressed, preferably in knitwear because they will be making lots of movements. Because some occupational therapy with sensory objects can be messy, parents should dress children in older clothes that they do not mind if they get dirty.
Second, therapists should know as much as possible about the child in order to give individualized care. The mother’s pregnancy, as well as the delivery and early neonatal period, may provide helpful details along with, of course, the medical history of the child. Parents should list all other therapies and services that the child is currently receiving as well as personal information about the child, such as dislikes, that will help the therapist connect with the child.
While occupational therapy is a service provided by a professional, this does not give parents the option of checking out of therapy. Parents should take active roles to create goals with the therapist for the child’s progress and to ensure that what happens at home builds on what the therapist has been teaching. Parents must often communicate with therapists and should participate when appropriate by using home therapy if available.