What Is Occupational Therapy?
Hello Smart Moves Family, welcome to our website’s blog posts! Within our blog, we plan to post about various topics ranging from fun activity ideas, therapist recommendations, information pertaining to Sensory Integration, and much more! In this initial post, we figured we would address the most popular question we get asked upon meeting our clients, “So what exactly is Occupational Therapy?”
There are a lot of different ways to go about answering this question. Some of you may be familiar with Occupational Therapists’ roles in adult settings, as you may have seen us in outpatient orthopedic or hospital settings. Occupational Therapists treat patients throughout their lifespans, ranging from newborns to geriatrics. Regardless of age, Occupational Therapists treat clients with the same defining purpose:
We promote individuals’ abilities to do what they need and want to do throughout their days as independently and functionally as possible.
These things in which individuals need/ want to do are also referred to as their occupations. Hence, Occupational Therapy! These could literally mean occupations- for example, helping a receptionist return to keyboarding after a Carpal Tunnel Release procedure. Or it could mean returning to tasks you need to do throughout the day- like helping a patient who experienced a stroke return to their prior ability to bathe and dress independently. When it comes to pediatrics, the biggest occupations they have pertain to school and play skills. We focus on the subsequent skills necessary to thrive in both of these settings to make children as independent and successful as possible. These skills may include: attention, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, gross motor skills, peer interaction, etc. As Occupational Therapists, we are highly skilled in analyzing and determining the underlying factors in which individuals need to perform certain tasks.
Now the most popular follow up question we are usually asked is, “What is sensory integration?” Sensory integration can most easily be defined as the way in which your nervous system takes in, interprets and reacts to incoming sensory input via your sensory system. Remember your five senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste? These five senses along with two others (proprioceptive and vestibular) make up your sensory system. We will get into these additional sensory systems in future posts. If one’s sensory integration is impaired, he or she may have difficulty performing day-to-day tasks (their occupations)…that is where Occupational Therapists come in. A child may have difficulty in school because their auditory system (hearing) is more sensitive than others, therefore the humming of the radiator might be too distracting to attend to the lesson at hand. Or there might be another child whose vestibular system (movement system) is under responsive so they are constantly craving movement, in which they appear hyperactive throughout the day and cannot stay still long enough to maintain attention.
There can be a multitude of examples as multiple sensory systems can be impacted, or be over/ under reactive. Occupational Therapists are trained professionals in treating individuals with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Here at Smart Moves Pediatrics, our philosophy is rooted within a Sensory Integration approach- meaning that the services in which we provide are based within a Sensory Integration framework. We utilize this approach to tailor treatments to regulate your child’s unique sensory system.
This in turn will make your child more comfortable, calm, and independent. With that independence they are then able to perform what they need and want at their fullest potential!