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  • Is It Hard For Your Child To Learn Colors Or Hold A Pencil? What Your Pedia May Advise

    Occupational therapy focuses on tasks that help a person function efficiently in his everyday life.
    by Balot Amechachura-Del Rosario .
Is It Hard For Your Child To Learn Colors Or Hold A Pencil? What Your Pedia May Advise
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  • There is an increasing number of Filipino kids being diagnosed with developmental delay, as well as social and behavioral delays. There are numerous factors that possibly include too early and too much exposure to screens. Smartphones and tablets, or TV, do eat up the time for screen-free play.

    If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delay, your developmental pediatrician may prescribe occupational therapy. What do occupational therapists (OTs) do and how do they help your child perform better at home or in school?

    SmartParenting.com.ph reached out to Charmaine Balitor, or Teacher Charm, a pediatric OT for six years and counting, to lay down the basics of occupational therapy. She is an OT consultant in several clinics, such as Little Big Steps Pediatric Therapy Clinic and The Learning Center in the South.

    What is occupational therapy

    “Occupation” is defined as any activity that is goal-directed and meaningful to a person. “As an OT, we strive to help an individual to function efficiently in his everyday life,” Teacher Charm said. It includes taking care of himself every day (e.g., eating or taking a bath), taking care of others and his environment (e.g., doing household chores or taking care of a pet), working or studying, enjoying his hobbies, and even sleeping.

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    When does a child need occupational therapy

    Many parents are hesitant to admit their children has special needs, but it is crucial to provide early intervention when you see signs of delay in your children. It can be any difficulty your child may be having when performing everyday tasks. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • difficulty with gross motor skills such as balance or coordination problems
    • difficulty with fine motor skills such as unbuttoning a shirt or holding and using a pencil
    • difficulty with social and communication skills such as fleeting eye contact, limited social regard, or limited verbal and non-verbal expressions
    • behavioral issues such as difficulty in sustaining attention or waiting for and complying to instructions
    • cognitive skills issues such as difficulty learning concepts of colors, shapes, letters, numbers, etc.
    • signs of sensory processing difficulties such as over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to sounds, lights, touch, smell or movements

    Your child’s pediatrician is the best person to ask if your child is not hitting his milestones. If there are red flags, the pediatrician will refer your child to a developmental pediatrician for assessment. The developmental pediatrician would then refer you to an OT to help your child address any developmental delays.

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    What an occupational therapy session looks like

    OTs use “occupations” or activities as both means and ends to therapy, according to Chrysalyka Perez, or Teacher Lyka, an OT from Little Big Steps Pediatric Therapy Clinic. They use play activities, sensory integration, behavioral modification, and language facilitation to help a child develop the occupational skills needed for everyday life.

    “These are a lot of other techniques or strategies that we can incorporate in our sessions. It all depends on what the child needs,” stressed Teacher Lyka.

    Here are just a few examples of the activities during therapy sessions:

    Play activities

    • Pushing pegs in clay and making a car figure help improve hand’s tripod grasp that’s necessary for properly holding a crayon or pencil for school.
    • Scooping out fish toys from a bucket of water and pretending to cook them in a pot helps the child practice holding and using a spoon when feeding.

    Sensory integration techniques

    • Swinging, jumping on a trampoline
    • Bouncing on a vestibular ball
    • Deep pressure massages
    • Carrying a weighted backpack to help the child regulate his sensory needs and prepare him better for the activities

    Behavior modification techniques

    Behavior modification can help strengthen desired behaviors, correct or eliminate undesirable ones, or teach a new behavior.

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    “For example, we may give rewards like stamps, stickers, smiley faces, high fives, or maybe a favorite food or toy to motivate the child to comply and finish his activities,” Teacher Lyka explained.

    “But we may also give consequences, such as removing a preferred toy or giving sad faces, when the child shows behaviors we want to correct like throwing objects or trying to escape a task,” she added.

    Language facilitation techniques

    Language facilitation are used to promote and encourage the child’s verbal and non-verbal expression. “This could be teaching the child to do palms up gesture saying, 'Give,' or simply being able to point to express what he needs or wants,” Teacher Lyka explained.

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    Parents play a role in occupational therapy

    Occupational therapy can truly be transformative for your child. It is especially beneficial if the activities done during the therapy sessions are replicated at home. Your child needs a strong support system, both in school and at home. The activities that he is exposed to can make a difference in his development.

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    “I know that seeking a therapist’s help still has a negative connotation even now. But please do not lose hope. Ask and work together with your child’s OTs on how we can all help your child,” Teacher Charm said. “Gaining a diagnosis doesn’t mean your child is being labeled for life. His diagnosis doesn’t define him as a person; he is more than his diagnosis.”

    It’s amazing how just spending more time with your kids —  playing and talking with them — can do wonders. Let kids be kids, let them have fun, and learn through play.

    Balot Del Rosario, a member of the Smart Parenting Mom Network 2020, is a NAHA-registered, Certified Level 2 professional aromatherapist. She is also the author of the book, Lost but Found, and the mom-of-two behind the blog Chronicles of The Happy APAS Mama (www.callmebalot.com.)

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