Occupational therapy (OT) is a type of therapy that many people do not know a lot about, especially occupational therapy for children. If you have a loved one that has had a stroke, brain injury or broken hand, you may have heard a little bit about this type of therapy. But it also can benefit many children, as well, including children who suffer from Sensory Integration Disorder.
Most of the children that pediatric occupational therapists work with have some type of developmental or genetic disorder. These may include Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Autism, development delay and other disorders.
The majority of these children often will have sensory issues that go along with their disorder, called a Sensory Integration or Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory Integration Disorder is basically the brain’s inability to process information from the environment, coming from all five senses.
A child with a sensory disorder will either become overwhelmed and over-stimulated very easily, or they may crave extra stimulation.
Behaviors of the child then will change depending on what senses are being affected. A child with sensory problems may begin to overreact to the sound of a hand-dryer in a bathroom, because the sound is too loud.
Another issue might be that they begin to gag because they do not want to touch glue or messy food. In addition, a child may need extra pressure from a weighted vest or backpack to help him or her “feel normal.”
The actual stimulus is too much or too little to meet his or her sensory needs. If this is a problem that interferes with a child living a normal life, then occupational therapy may be needed to help learn coping strategies.
Most sensory treatment can be done at home; however, children usually come to an outpatient clinic for a few months to learn different techniques to try. Some treatments that are used include: a tub of beans and rice that have a calming effect on most children, a ball pit to provide pressure on the skin, rolling a child up in a sheet or “squishing” them with a blanket, or the child might play with shaving cream or pudding to help regulate their senses.
These are just a few types of therapy that are used to help a child get the sensory processing that they need.
Many children suffer from some type of sensory issue, and a physician’s recommendation is needed to see if an evaluation is appropriate for a child to be seen for occupational therapy.
Remember, there is help out there if you think your child has problems dealing with the wild and crazy aspects of our “over-stimulating” world, and talk to your physician about whether or not occupational therapy could be the right tool.
If you’re looking for a new physician, visit www.blountmemorial.org and click on “Find a Physician.”
Michelle Walker is a certified occupational therapy assistant with Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation at the Pediatric Rehabilitation Center at Springbrook.