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“Play, Learn, Thrive: Occupational Therapy for Child Behavior”

January 17, 2024

Difficulties with sensory processing and self regulation can manifest in various ways, including difficulties with conduct/behavior, attention, self-regulation, and social emotional responses. Occupational therapy (OT) can play a crucial role in addressing these concerns by focusing on enhancing a child’s ability to participate in meaningful activities and promoting overall development. Here are some common behavioral concerns in children and ways in which occupational therapy can help:

Sensory Processing Issues

What might it look like: a child either doesn’t seem to notice or has a bigger than expected reaction to loud noises, light, tight shoes, or clothing textures 

Occupational Therapy Intervention: Occupational therapists can work on sensory integration, helping children process and respond appropriately to sensory input. This can include activities to address hypersensitivity (over reaction)  or hyposensitivity (under reaction)  to sensory input, improving sensory modulation and self-regulation.

Attention and Concentration Challenges

What might it look like: a child might have trouble tracking what someone is saying or doing or becomes easily distracted

Occupational Therapy Intervention: OT can provide strategies to improve attention and concentration through activities that enhance sensory regulation, organization, and focus. Visual and auditory processing activities may also be incorporated to support attention.

Fine and Gross Motor Skill Deficits

What might it look like: a child might have trouble writing or using scissors; movements might be stiff or shaky; a child might have poor coordination, poor balance, or difficulty with hand-eye coordination

Occupational Therapy Intervention: Occupational therapists can design activities to improve fine motor skills (e.g., handwriting, cutting) and gross motor skills (e.g., coordination, balance). Developing these skills can positively impact a child’s self-esteem and overall functioning.

Social Skills Difficulties

What it might look like: a child might struggle with making eye contact, taking turns while having a conversation, or with appropriate body language by standing too close or too far away from the person they are talking to; they might also struggle to make friends or fit in

Occupational Therapy Intervention: OT can address social skills through play-based interventions, group activities, and social stories. Therapists may use role-playing and other methods to help children learn and practice appropriate social behaviors.

Self-Care Challenges

What it might look like: a child might struggle with knowing how or remembering to brush their teeth or hair, getting dressed, bathing, or feeding themselves

Occupational Therapy Intervention: Occupational therapists can assist children in developing independence in activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, grooming, and feeding. This promotes self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Emotional Regulation Issues

What it might look like: a child struggles to understand and regulate their emotions and feelings which can lead to frequent or sudden outbursts, a low tolerance for frustration, and the inability to calm down

Occupational Therapy Intervention: OT can provide strategies to help children recognize and regulate their emotions. Techniques like deep pressure activities, sensory breaks, and mindfulness exercises may be incorporated to promote emotional self-regulation.

Executive Functioning Deficits

What it might look like: a child might struggle with starting and finishing tasks, following multi-step instructions, self-monitoring, staying on track, organization, and adapting to change

Occupational Therapy Intervention: Occupational therapists can work on improving executive functions such as planning, organization, time management, and problem-solving. This can contribute to better academic performance and overall success in daily activities.

Behavioral Interventions

OTs collaborate with other professionals, such as psychologists and educators, to develop and implement behavior management plans. They may use sensory strategies and environmental modifications to support positive behavior.

 

It’s important to note that occupational therapy is individualized to meet the unique needs of each child. Additionally, family involvement and collaboration with other professionals, such as educators and speech therapists, are integral parts of a comprehensive approach to address behavioral concerns in children.

If you are concerned with your child’s behavior and think occupational therapy could help, reach out to schedule a FREE consultation call with one of our occupational therapists at 402-413-1356.

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