Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention: Helping Children Succeed

    Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention: Helping Children Succeed

    Safaa Asif

    Occupational therapy is treatment / rehabilitative procedure that is focused on aiding the improvement of physical, sensory and cognitive abilities in individuals having deficits in these aspects. The inclusion of occupational therapy plays an important role in helping children with disabilities to perform the activities of daily living and be as independent as possible with respect to these activities. Let us look into what actually goes into play here.


    The infant brain is a highly moldable and till the age of 3 years is the most important learning period. Upto the age of 3-5 years children learn the most and these activities include the activities of daily living (such as brushing teeth, toilet activities , dressing themselves , learning to hold pencil, combing their hair etc among others). These activities are influenced by the cognitive, social and physical domains.

    However, not every child is able to accomplish learning these activities or even part of it owing to some disability or impairment in either of the domains of development. There is a delay, that very often will require some therapy to help achieve these goals. This is when the occupational therapy plays an important role alongside the other therapeutic programs.


    Occupational therapy plays an important role alongside physiotherapy and speech therapy – it aids in filling the gaps and promotes the child to have greater awareness and promotes their cognitive development and also influences the communicative skills. The occupational therapist first performs a detailed evaluation and assess the deficits. Accordingly a remediation program is created to help the child meet the developmentally appropriate levels. The occupational therapist works with children having the following disabilities :


    1. Activities of daily living : for children who have difficulty in carrying out the basic activities such as brushing their teeth, occupational therapy provides them with aid to help fulfill these activities according to their age and aids them in becoming independent.
    2. Sensory processing disorders : children with sensory processing disorders will have deficits in the some of the sensory senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste). These will often be associated with greater disabilities. But working on these basic aspects will help to meet the developmental milestones as well. Additionally, the child my hyper or hypo sensitive to the said sensory system. Accordingly based on the detailed evaluation the OT will formulate the program so that they meet the goals. For example : a child with deficits in touch the child may resist certain textures of clothing and like some others / even in their environment. They find some textures highly stimulating and enjoy them. Whereas others are disliked and they may be irritated or annoyed to find it around them. Similarly coming to taste also the children will face similar difficulties. In such cases the OT will prepare activities to help overcome these deficits. This is often seen in children with sensory processing disorders. They may even have high sensitivity to sounds or even lights. The presentation of the sensory deficits varies from child to child and an individual program is often formulated.
    3. Cerebral palsy : children with cerebral palsy also will be seeing the OT often. This is because the deficits that they gave in terms of physical ability that will impede their activities of daily living and also balance and performing fine and gross motor activities. Hence the OT here works on helping them to be more independent with respect to these deficits.
    4. Autism spectrum disorder : children with autism face deficits with respect to sensory issues sometimes. They will also have difficulty with gross and fine motor activities. They may detest activities like swinging on the swing , playing slide, jumping trampoline. Hence, based on the area of deficit - the OT identifies the deficit, formulates a treatment program and highlights the goals to be achieved. Again here as well they focus on the activities of daily living, along side the gross and fine motor skills. Often we can see children with autism highly sensitive to sound - again here the OT plays an important role to
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