October 12, 2022

How Can Occupational Therapy Help If My Child Has a Developmental Delay?

If your child has a developmental delay, they can benefit from occupational therapy. Here’s how it can help. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Occupational therapy addresses balance, coordination, and motor skills.
  • Its goal is to help children become more independent and improve daily functioning.
  • Parents should monitor their children for signs of developmental delays because early intervention leads to better outcomes.
  • Developmental delays have many causes that may not always be identifiable.
  • An occupational therapist can work with children and their families to develop a customized treatment plan.

Pediatric occupational therapy (OT)  helps children with developmental delays become more independent and functional in their daily lives. It also helps with physical, cognitive, or behavioral conditions. Occupational therapy aids kids with activities of daily living (ADLs). Overall, it addresses balance, coordination, and motor skills.

It may look like helping children with toileting or feeding or dressing themselves. It may also look like helping with educational needs, such as handwriting. The goal of attending OT is for children to become more independent and develop the life skills needed to take care of themselves one day.

Parents are usually the first people to notice when their children may have a potential delay. While it’s true that all children have their own developmental timelines, there are general guidelines describing age-appropriate milestones. It’s vital that parents speak to their pediatricians about any concerns they have as soon as possible. The pediatrician can then refer the child to OT if deemed necessary. When it comes to treating developmental delays, early intervention is crucial.

Developmental delays and their signs

A child that is struggling to meet age-appropriate milestones may have a developmental delay. Children can experience delays in one or more areas, like motor function, speech and language, or social and cognitive skills. Here are some signs that your child may be experiencing a delay:

  • Slower learning and development than other kids in their age range
  • Delayed rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking
  • Difficulty communicating, talking, or mutism
  • Difficulty understanding cause and effect, such as actions and consequences
  • Trouble remembering things or following directions
  • IQ test scores that are below average
  • Issues with socialization or school
  • Inability to problem-solve
  • Unable to perform activities like toileting or feeding on their own by an appropriate age

Some delays present signs in infancy. Delays can go unnoticed until a child is school-aged. If you have concerns, speak to your pediatrician as soon as possible.

Potential causes of developmental delays

It is common for a delay to not have one singular cause. Contributing factors can occur before,  during, or after birth. They include:

  • Premature birth
  • Lack of oxygen during birth
  • Genetic conditions such as Down syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injuries like shaken baby syndrome
  • Severe trauma
  • Poor eyesight or hearing
  • Prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs
  • Environmental toxin exposure such as lead poisoning
  • Infections
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Metabolic disorders

Causes of developmental delays can be identified sometimes, but not always. It’s important that the delay is treated appropriately, even if the cause can’t be determined.

How OT can help

OT can help your child improve skills that may be affected by their developmental delay. Here are some of the ways it can assist in treating developmental delays:

  • Allows therapists and families to collaborate on measurable goals and evaluate progress
  • Helps children learn activities of daily living like hygiene, toileting, feeding, and chores
  • Helps children and families create family routines
  • Improves fine motor and gross motor development
  • Assists children with socialization skills
  • Assists children with skills they need to be successful in the classroom
  • Provides families with a home program for continuity of care

Children who attend OT meet milestones faster than those who go without intervention. Having familial involvement also increases its efficacy.

Get support from a qualified occupational therapist in the Chicago, IL area

Parenting a child with developmental delays can be challenging. Noticing that your child is struggling with basic skills is the first step to getting them the professional help they will greatly benefit from. It’s important to understand that the majority of things they may struggle with are skills that they can improve with practice and professional help.

If your child is struggling with delays, we can help him or her improve at Lumiere Children’s Therapy. We offer full-service pediatric OT, among other pediatric therapy and supportive services, so your child can be as independent as possible.

We help kids develop form and functionality so they can grow in the following skill areas:

  • Motor planning
  • Gross motor and fine motor delays
  • Body awareness
  • Coordination skills
  • Functional skills, such as stairs
  • Daily self-care skills
  • Handwriting
  • Visual motor integration
  • Visual perceptual skills
  • Feeding
  • Social and peer interaction skills
  • Sensory processing
  • Strength and coordination
  • Early development with infants
  • Sensory processing

We can help children with specialized diagnoses such as:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Developmental delay
  • Prematurity
  • Fine motor delay
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Down syndrome
  • Learning delays
  • Visual processing disorders
  • Motor incoordination
  • Chromosomal abnormalities

Lumiere Children’s Therapy also provides a host of other pediatric therapies to help children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions achieve traditional childhood milestones.

Our services include:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Social work
  • Early intervention
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Teletherapy
  • ABA therapy
  • Parent classes
  • Enrichment classes

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago. We focus on providing services catered to the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Be sure to learn more about how our clinicians work diligently to improve the lives of the children and families they serve.

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