Occupational therapy is a part of life for many special needs families. Some children begin working with these therapists before they ever head to school while others do not get help until the elementary years or beyond. As a parent, your approach to occupational therapy and the level of importance you place on these sessions can impact the way that your child responds to therapy. Use these tips to make sure that these scheduled times are helpful and fulfilling for all.
Know When Therapy May Be Needed
Occupational therapy is not just for those children who have major issues with gross motor movements. Instead, it can help numerous children, including those with ADHD, autism, sensory issues, and organizational struggles. Seeing your child struggle with the following tasks could mean that a consultation with an occupational therapist may be in order.
- Activities of daily living, such as brushing teeth
- Hand-eye coordination, such as in class
- Holding small objects, such as utensils or pencils
- Jumping, running, sitting or other gross motor movements
- Organizing a backpack, school schedule or locker
Understand When Free Therapy Is Provided
If your child has an IEP, he or she should be able to receive occupational therapy free through the school district as required by law. However, this therapy will need to be noted in the IEP. If your child does not yet have an IEP, but you believe occupational therapy may be helpful, you can request a free evaluation through the school district. The school district may agree to one of the following types of services.
- Direct services given to your child individually or in a group setting
- Consultation services in which a therapist makes recommendations to the teacher rather than working directly with the child
Follow up with Home Exercises
No matter how high quality the therapy is that your child is receiving, it simply will not compare to the assistance that he can also receive at home. Ask the occupational therapist what you can be doing to cement these practices in your child’s mind. Constant practice at home can especially help children who have problems with fine or gross motor skills. As usual, be sure to keep practice times fun and playful.