Those first introduced to the world of early intervention therapy are often confused as to why children would need occupational therapy. After all, kids don’t have “occupations,” right?
Actually, they do!
As our Brecksville occupational therapy practitioners can explain, children’s “occupations” involve the business of growing and developing. That means picking up fine and gross motor skills, learning to communicate and socialize, grasping self-care, feeding, and emotional regulation, and overall navigating the world around them. Play is the means through which kids master their neurological and biological development. Engaging in activities that are both fun and creative helps kids to ultimately become independent adults.
That is why play-based occupational therapy is so effective. As noted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), it is often through play that kids learn to make sense of and engage with the world around them. Occupational therapists help children who are struggling in certain areas – most frequently with neurological, muscular, and social/communication skills due to a developmental delay, disability or injury/illness. We do this through sensory-rich play that offers opportunities for them to develop/master those skills while also having fun. We never want sessions to feel like work, even if that’s ultimately what they are.
How Brecksville Occupational Therapy Practitioners Use Play-Based Therapy
As occupational therapists, we use play not only to address the child’s goals, but also to help motivate them to challenge themselves.
Some of the ways we work with children during play-based occupational therapy include:
- Helping to modify toys or the environment so that the child can get just the right of sensory input without being overwhelmed.
- Recommending to parents activities for play and toys that can offer just the right amount of challenge for a child so that they are learning/working on a skill set, but also still having fun. We can also incorporate play into a variety of exercises that are geared toward helping build on the child’s abilities and strengths.
- Crafting our sessions around play opportunities that encourage social skills like turn-taking and neurological skills like problem-solving. We’ll take in the unique priorities and routines of your family when formulating strategies you can use to incorporate this kind of play in your everyday life.
Some examples of toys and activities that we frequently use to work on certain skills:
- Manipulative play with toys like board games, play dough and LEGOs. What we’re looking for here is boosting the child’s dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
- Sensory-rich play with things like finger paints, magnets, kinetic sand, water toys, balls and beads. Lots of kids we work with struggle with sensory dysregulation. Playing with toys that incorporate sight, sound, tough, smell, and movement helps them work on sensory integration and regulation.
- Imaginative play with things like dolls, puppets, phones, stuffed animals, etc. Pretend play is an excellent way for kids to practice key social skills.
It’s important that whatever toy or activity we use is appropriate to both the child’s age and maturity level. Toys and activities need not be expensive to be effective. Although our occupational therapists can conduct sessions in the home, at school, or in other settings, one benefit of in-clinic sessions is that we have a wealth of tools and toys within arm’s reach.
Our occupational therapy team works with kids with a broad range of disabilities, delays and challenges. If you’re interested in our play-based occupational therapy services in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, our team would be happy to connect with you!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA/behavior therapy to children in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.
Learning Through Play, American Occupational Therapy Association
More Blog Entries:
Fun Fall Activities From Our Akron Occupational Therapists, Oct. 8, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog
A new study found that difficulty sleeping – a common problem for children on the autism spectrum – is associated with behavioral regulation difficulties later in childhood. This longitudinal study drives home the importance of helping families address the sleep problems kids with autism have as early as possible.
Of course, this isn’t entirely shocking news to our Brecksville ABA therapy and occupational therapy team. It’s been well-established that getting high-quality sleep is key for everyone’s general health. A child who isn’t well-rested (just like any adult) is going to be cranky and more tantrum-prone. Still, the research sheds additional light on how vital it is for doctors and therapists to provide the support and tools to help children with autism struggling with sleep issues. In turn, this may help foster improved behavioral regulation as they get older.
The analysis, published in the journal Sleep and reported Spectrum News, is one of the first studies to look closely at the long-suspected connection between executive function (mental skills that include the ability to manage one’s own behavior to achieve certain goals) and poor sleep quality among children with autism.
Of course, many kids have sleep troubles the first few years of life. These too are associated with lower executive function, but these typically resolve after a few years. Children with autism are known to be more likely to suffer from long-term sleeping problems, which many researchers had previously opined were connected to poor executive function.
This study, which began in 2005, followed 217 children with autism, starting between the ages of 2 and 4 and then again several years later. The children’s executive function, as reported in surveys by parents and teachers, were evaluated four times when they were between the ages of 7 and 12.
What they found was severe sleep troubles were linked with reduced ability to regulate behavior. Interestingly, other types of executive function (ability to order their own thoughts, reflect on them, etc.) didn’t appear to be tied to sleep trouble.
Further, researchers concluded the age at which sleep disturbances occur can make a difference. For instance, kids who struggled to fall asleep between the ages of 2 and 4 didn’t have any behavior regulation issues a handful of years later. But when kids were taking a long time to fall asleep when at the ages of 6 and 7, they showed noticeable behavior regulation issues the following year. As for why this is, study authors opine it may have something to do with the fact that many kids between the ages of 2 and 4 wake up frequently, whereas older kids typically don’t.
It’s important to note the study doesn’t clearly indicate a causal relationship between poor sleep and reduced executive function, though that is what many researchers suspect. It’s probable, though, that executive function is impacted by a variety of factors, sleep patterns included.
Our Brecksville pediatric occupational therapists have several strategies we can share to help your child with autism get a better night’s sleep. These include addressing sensory seeking or avoiding behavior (weighted blankets, looser pajamas, developing bedtime routines and social stories, etc.), managing the child’s physical environment and helping families adjust their schedules to make for smoother transitions.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Autistic children’s sleep problems linked to behavioral regulation issues, July 5, 2021, Spectrum News
More Blog Entries:
How Occupational Therapy Can Help Treat Children With Sleep Problems, Feb. 15, 2020, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog
Both occupational therapy and physical therapy practitioners are committed to improving lives. But often when parents come to us for services, in some cases recommended for both types of therapy, they aren’t all that clear on the unique role each plays. Physical therapy is generally better understood than occupational therapy, but both are equally vital in helping children with injuries, disabilities and delays reach their full potential.
The fields are quite similar, but they’re also unique in both scope and focus.
What is Occupational Therapy?
It’s probably worth first explaining occupational therapy. The name throws a lot of people off, as if it might have something to do with one’s job. The reality is that our Brecksville occupational therapists assist kids and young adults with a wide range of tasks that “occupy” their life. Many of the kids we work with are far too young for jobs, but offering assistance in finding and maintaining work could be goals for some of our teen or young adult patients.
Occupational therapists can help individuals focus on one major thing or just a few things, but are also dedicated to treating the “whole person.” That means we can help with everything from handwriting to self-care to social interactions to play. Occupational therapists in Ohio must have a master’s degree and be licensed through the state to practice.
What is Physical Therapy?
These are our movement experts! Physical therapists are committed to helping children with conditions that impede their ability to move and can often offer ways to prevent injury, provide surgery and minimize pain.
Physical therapists in Ohio are required to earn a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) to practice. In addition to studying anatomy, kinesiology and neuroscience, these practitioners also study things like communication, child development and ethics. They too must be licensed through the state.
In What Ways Are Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists the Same?
As previously mentioned, both types of practitioners (OTs and PTs) are committed to wellness. Beyond that, both evaluate patients and offer customized plans of care. Treatment plans are monitored routinely for progress and also whether changes are needed.
They also treat many of the same conditions, such as brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, autism, down syndrome, torticollis, reflex integrations, proprioceptive awareness and neurological conditions. Further, both work with caregivers and family members to ensure patients have the support they need to thrive. Although OT and PT practitioners can both work in clinics, hospitals and nursing homes, ours practice in our Brecksville clinic as well as in patient homes and schools.
Both can become certified in specialties like pediatrics.
So What’s the Difference?
The primary difference between physical and occupational therapy practitioners is the scope of what they do. While physical therapists want to help people move better, occupational therapists are more focused on a holistic function that can include social, emotional and work-related scenarios. Whereas the physical therapist would be focused primarily on facilitating movement, the occupational therapist would also be concerned with developing/restoring the ability to complete certain functions.
If your child needs physical therapy, occupational therapy or both, our Brecksville pediatric therapy clinic is a one-stop-shop for both.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA therapy to children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.
Occupational Therapy Versus Physical Therapy, June 22, 2021, Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev, MD, WebMD
More Blog Entries:
When Your Child Can’t Write His Name Yet: Tips From an Akron Occupational Therapist, June 18, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog