What is an Occupational Therapist?
An Occupational Therapist (OT) is a trained health professional who helps “individuals of any age to promote and enable effective participation in the occupations of everyday life.” (Occupational Therapy Australia)
These “occupations” include tasks related to daily living and as such, Occupational Therapy offers very wide ranging and holistic interventions.
While OTs are commonly linked to rehabilitation, people with disabilities or the elderly, they also work extensively with children.
What issues can an OT help a child with?
Obviously the main occupations of a child are growing, learning and playing. Your child may benefit from seeing an OT if they have:
- Sensory and/or attention issues
- Developmental delays
- Learning difficulties (such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia)
- Physical disabilities
- Neurological conditions
- Medical conditions
Occupational Therapist Deb Bone specialises in working with children. She says the most common issue she sees are sensory processing disorder/conditions. “They underpin all other disorders such as ASD, ADHD/HD, learning difficulties and motor coordination delays (Praxis conditions),” she explains.
“Through their specialised assessments, OTs can diagnose conditions such as Developmental Coordination Disorder (like Praxis), Praxis Conditions, sensory processing conditions, low muscle tone and hypermobility disorder,” says Deb.
Once they have completed a thorough assessment, OTs work with children to help them in a number of ways including:
- daily living tasks like dressing, eating and toileting (including bedwetting)
- play and social skills
- attention and concentration skills
- organisational skills
- emotional self regulation and behaviour
- fine and gross motor skills
- childcare/school preparation and participation, including handwriting
OTs also work closely with family, other health professionals and teachers to help support your child and ensure their environment is conducive to overcoming any barriers to their success.
For example, my son, who has ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Sensory Processing Disorder, sees Deb Bone fortnightly. As well as helping him directly during sessions, she shows me ways to support him at home. She has also made recommendations to the school on accommodations and environmental adjustments to help facilitate his learning. In certain cases, an OT may conduct a home or school assessment to identify barriers for your child and make recommendations.
Do you need a referral to see an OT?
No referral is necessary to see an Occupational Therapist. However where relevant, a GP can refer to an OT through a treatment plan that may entitle you to Medicare rebates (Occupational Therapy is only covered by Medicare under certain circumstances). Occupational Therapy may also be covered by private health insurance, depending on your extras cover.