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Occupational therapy is fun

 
Occupational therapy is something your child may need and can benefit from.
By Andreas Späth

Pic: Getty Images

Article originally in Parent24
I used to think that occupational therapy, or OT for short, was for the likes of construction workers who had thrown their backs out while pushing a heavy wheelbarrow and perhaps even for the odd office-bound employee suffering from keyboard-induced pains in the wrists. So it came as a bit of a shock when, a couple of years ago, my son Josef’s pre-school teacher suggested that he might benefit from OT.

“What? But he’s only a kid”, I replied. “And besides, he doesn’t have an ‘occupation’”. I think I was most worried about the idea that his teacher thought that he had some sort of disability. Yes, Joey was a little “gangly” and “floppy” and not particularly coordinated as far as his limbs were concerned relative to the rest of his body, but was that enough of a reason to make him go for treatment? Send him to “therapy”?

I subsequently found out much more about what OT really is and exactly who needs it. It turns out that OT is very successfully used with children who suffer from chronic conditions or are recovering from illnesses and accidents, as well as others who’re simply lagging behind a little in various developmental areas. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, their ‘occupation’ involves mostly playing, learning and developing skills to live their lives independently.

Josef’s issues revolved around his gross motor skills, which are needed in activities as mundane as running and climbing stairs. Kids learn these skills from very early on in their lives and fine-tune them throughout childhood. Josef just needed a couple of friendly pointers and nudges to get with the programme. It turned out that six months of OT were just the thing.

Occupational therapists use a range of techniques which often look like games, but are targeted to address very specific problem areas.

The fact that most of them involve playful physical activities makes going to OT really fun for many children. Once a week, Josef got to work with an assortment of ginormous balls, stretchy full-body suits, swings and more, all in a safe environment and under the watchful eye of his therapist. He enjoyed the experience so much, it was hard to get him to stop once his stint was over.

So when OT was recently recommended for Josef’s younger brother Benjamin, my wife Sam and I were very comfortable with the idea. Benjamin himself was thrilled at the prospect, having watched his brother have so much fun with it a couple of years earlier.

In contrast to Josef, Benjamin is going to OT to improve his fine motor skills. These refer to precise small muscle movements, mostly of the fingers, hands, wrists and arms which are involved in many everyday activities from writing, tying shoe laces, cutting with scissors and using cutlery. Like Josef before him, he’s greatly enjoying his weekly sessions and making steady progress.

More information about occupational therapy:
 
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