A primer on occupational and speech therapy
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A primer on occupational and speech therapy

Please explain what occupational therapy is and its necessity.

Occupational therapy is a pediatric therapy that lays the foundation for children struggling to reach their developmental milestones. Whether it be in areas of fine motor, gross motor, self-care, social, emotional issues, or sensory processing, a therapist is trained to assist a child to learn or process the skills required for everyday tasks. This may include helping a child to catch up on areas of handwriting, self-regulation, attention, and focus, being able to color, cut, and navigate the playground. It may also involve learning self-care habits like using the toilet, getting dressed independently etc. A lot of occupational therapy is done through games and fun activities which entices and motivates children to get involved. Though most children learn skills naturally, many children require occupational therapy to achieve success in areas necessary: function at home, school, in public, or in social situations.

Speech therapy has a large range of what it can address. In addition to working on speech and articulation, Speech Therapy also works on language skills. It addresses many different areas including processing, receptive and expressive language, pragmatic skills, general communication, scripted language, feeding, and voice, among other abilities as well. In Speech Therapy, children are encouraged to play in a stimulating environment. Therapists will sit alongside the child and help facilitate speech and language stimulation while the child is playing.

At what age is it best to start occupational therapy and speech therapy?

We start developing at 0, and pediatric OT and Speech goes up until age 21. At The Therapy Place, ages 0-6 is our favorite because neural networks are being developed during these years and therefore, we are able to see such beautiful results. The younger a child starts, the better. It’s never too early to get an evaluation. If you’re worried or concerned that something is looking developmentally off, get them checked and see if it’s appropriate to start therapy.

If a child has not started by the time they begin school, what should parents/educators be on the lookout for?

We might see a child having difficulty with social-emotional issues if there are developmental milestones that the child has not met by a certain age/stage. Many preschools are trained to notify parents if they see a delay in OT, speech therapy, or behavioral issues in a child. They often will suggest getting an evaluation.

What are some things kids can do at home?

There are so many great at home activities that can help with OT. Here are a few to try, depending on what your child may struggle with:

For Sensory Input: Riding bikes: If a child does this for an extended period of time, it works bilateral coordination as well as core strengthening. Swinging: Any type of swinging motion is great. Sensory box: Create a toy box with various textures and have your child reach in and feel around to guess what they are touching. Plant seeds and gardening: This fun and interactive experience gives a full sensory experience and builds on executive functioning as well.

For Proprioceptive Input: Jumping rope, wheelbarrow walk, Exercise balls, that is roll around to help activate core muscles.

For Vestibular Input: Roller skating around the backyard, for instance, running, dancing, hopscotch where you draw with chalk outside and enjoy a fun game.

For Tactile Input: Blowing bubbles for core/motor, finger painting, Playdoh, spray bottles and water squirting, beading bracelets with cut up straws, chalk — you can use this for hand strengthening as well as fine tuning those visual and writing skills.

What are speech therapy exercises?

Speech therapy exercises are activities that can be practiced to assist with the development of speech and language skills. These activities can target a variety of skills and can be completed with materials from your child’s therapist, things found around your home, or no materials at all! For example, if your child is working on the production of specific sounds in speech therapy, these sounds can be practiced at home as well! Encourage your child to produce the target sound in isolation (say “b”) while giving your child a model of how to say the sound (pointing to your own lips while saying “b”).

Anything else you would like to add?

In addition to The Therapy Place, we founded a sister company called Circle Care Services. This is designed for children with behavioral issues that have an autism diagnosis, circlecareservices.com. 

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