5 strategies from Occupational Therapy to help children cope with challenges
- Pediatric Occupational Therapy focuses on helping children increase their overall functionality and independence.
- Sessions can also teach coping skills activities.
- We use play-based activities that help develop physical, sensory processing, and visual motor processing/skills.
All children need to learn how to cope with challenges, whether they be physical, developmental, or other. This may mean learning coping skills activities that will help them function more independently. Occupational Therapy (OT) can be essential for teaching your child these necessary skills. While pediatric OT focuses on helping children increase their overall functionality and independence, sessions can also teach coping skills activities for different types of issues.
In this article, we’ll discuss how OT can help children develop coping skills and offer suggestions for activities you can do at home. Let’s explore.
Pediatric OT focuses on helping children with physical, developmental, behavioral, and sensory challenges develop life skills. These skills include things that most of us take for granted, such as getting dressed, bathing, or using utensils. There’s a big focus on hand-eye coordination. Therapists also use specialized equipment like wheelchairs, bathing equipment, and communication devices to improve independence.
OT helps develop:
- Fine motor skills
- Visual-perceptual skills
- Cognitive skills
- Sensory-processing issues
Types of coping skills
Coping skills fall under different categories: physical, sensory, emotional, and communication. Obviously, some focus more on physical strategies while others seek to increase emotional balance or social skills.
Physical coping strategies
Physical strategies focus on helping a child become more independent and functional in their daily life. Some physical exercises and movements are designed to give the brain a “break” and restore balance. These activities help improve physical development, motor skills, balance, and coordination.
- Drawing and coloring
- Fidget toys
- Play Dough
- Tracing letters and objects with a pencil
- Following straight lines on the floor
Sensory processing strategies: Sensory play
Children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often deal with developmental or cognitive issues. Other children have physical challenges or issues with sensory processing or executive functioning. Coping skills learned in OT can help them overcome these issues so they can succeed in school and life.
OT sessions focus on sensory strategies and sensory play. Sensory play works much like it sounds. We incorporate play-based learning and activities that help children process sensory information, including touch, taste, sight, and movement. These activities improve fine motor skills, visual perception skills, sensory integration, and developmental milestones.
Visual processing and motor skills
Children need to develop visual perception (or visual motor) skills. Your child’s ability to observe and recognize forms, shapes, and figures, and then use that visual information to react and move within a space are known as visual motor skills.
Visual processing includes three main areas:
- Visual motor skills – Involves movement and acuity
- Perceptual skills – Involves processing where things are relative to other objects
- Motor coordination – Involves the coordination of limb movement based on visual information
Visual motor skills include things such as eye movement control, calculating distances, hand-eye coordination, and manipulating and moving objects in space. These skills all contribute to achieving success when completing any task that requires using visual information.
OT sessions use sensory play to develop visual motor skills, and can include:
- Color sorting
- Finger exercises
- Finger painting
- I Spy
- Line awareness using mazes
- Painting concentric circles
- Pencil control exercises
- Play Dough activities
- Sight/word matching
- Tracing letters
- Using scissors
Who can benefit from OT?
OT aims to help children and teens overcome physical, sensory, developmental, and behavioral challenges to improve or regain independence. These challenges can impact every part of a child’s life at home and school.
OT can be helpful for children with conditions like:
- Birth injuries and congenital disabilities
- Sensory processing disorders
- Traumatic brain/spinal cord injuries
- Developmental and learning delays
- Mental and behavioral health issues
- Post-surgical conditions
- Orthopedic injuries
- Spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses
- Loss of limb(s)
- Hand injuries
As children become more accomplished and independent, they can experience a boost in self-esteem. This will also help improve mental and emotional health.
What happens during OT?
What will happen during your child’s first therapy appointment? Therapy begins with a complete assessment to determine areas that need improvement. The therapist will consider things like:
- Sensory function
- Life skills (gross motor, fine motor, social interaction skills)
- Patterns that affect skills development (habits, routines, roles, etc.)
- Home and school environment
The therapist will work to improve, maintain, or restore your child’s everyday life skills using a series of exercises and specialized equipment. They may also teach modifications to remove barriers that keep them from participating in activities at home, school, and other social situations.
Activities at home
You can also do plenty of physical activities to help your child learn (or relearn) basic life skills. This helps improve your child’s mental and developmental health and overall outlook on life. Physical at-home activities include:
- Build an obstacle course
- Bake a cake or cookies together
- Blow bubbles
- Put together puzzles
- Pick up coins and put them in a piggy bank
- Write/draw/paint on vertical surfaces (whiteboard, easel, chalkboard, etc.)
- Roll out Play-Doh
- String cereal, macaroni, or popcorn on yarn
- Cut out pictures from magazines
- Use tweezers to pick up things
- Play card games
- Play with interlocking blocks or Legos
- Color and draw
- Play with finger puppets
- Practice tying shoes or buttoning a shirt
- Play with sidewalk chalk
Help at Lumiere Children’s Therapy
Our licensed professionals provide expert OT to help children with physical or developmental delays overcome obstacles and learn everyday life skills. We can also help your child learn coping skills. We specialize in sensory, psychological, social, and environmental aspects while developing cognitive, physical, and fine motor skills. We focus on achieving personalized goals for kids to become as independent as possible.
Lumiere Children’s Therapy provides other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, neurological, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones and gain more independence.
Our services include:
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- ABA therapy
- Developmental therapy
- Social work
- Augmentative alternative communication
- Early intervention
Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.