When Ethan was a little over a year old, someone commented that he played “funny.” At that time, I thought the he would perhaps overcome it quickly. He would whack toys and objects instead of picking them up. He couldn’t quite hold or grab or hold anything in his hand. When faced with a big firehouse, the one that “Little People” makes, he would just repeatedly press the button. His play range was very limited. He couldn’t take things out of small containers, not put things in them. He didn’t clap until he was nearly two. When we first enrolled him in Little Gym classes in Torrance, it was very apparent that he was developing at a later pace than his peers. Everybody was walking; he was crawling. Most, if not all of the toddlers could put the rattles away in the bin, my son did not seem to comprehend the task. While the other young children were in a circle, my son would wander of to a corner on his own. When we mentioned it to his pediatrician, we were introduced to Occupational Therapy. I didn’t really even know anything about this field before Ethan started. I’ve seen occupational therapy in action before I actually looked up the definition.
Definition of Occupational Therapy
In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
From my experience, OT helps with my son’s fine and gross motor skills. These are some of the concrete ways it has made a difference in my son’s development:
- Teaches him the appropriate use of toys and objects.
- Helps him deal with activity transitions more smoothly.
- Provides him sensory experiences and new things to help him step out of his comfort zone and routine.
- Encourages him to engage in “pretend-play.”
- Teaches him to sit in a chair and complete tasks without jumping from one thing to another.
- Assists in teaching him to follow directions, ask for assistance when needed.
- Teaches signing for appropriate expressions, like “more,” “all done,” “open,” and “I want.”
- Helps with joint attention and eye contact. Helps with ambidexterity, and not just his preferred hand.
- Encourages him to explore and be curious at play.
- Helps him become more autonomous with self-care tasks such as putting his shoes and socks on and taking them off, putting a chew toy in his mouth (leading to better feeding), take off and put his jacket on by himself, etcetera.
I may be missing some things but these are what I have seen that were worked on in Ethan’s occupational therapy sessions. He really had so many gains and so much progress.
Video: Ethan’s Occupational Therapy progress
Check out this video of Ethan playing with a toy that I discovered through his speech therapy sessions. He wasn’t even close to doing this before all the therapy!