Extraordinary Links

Beginners guide to Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

I have been seeing lots of questions from parents on groups about Occupational Therapy, so I thought I would address the role of the occupational therapist and how they can help children with a variety of conditions.

Before having B, my own extraordinary child, I assumed Occupational Therapy was just for adults. However seeing the progress he has made, and the techniques used I now understand why they are so important. 

A little background about B so you can understand how they helped him. B is Autistic, with CVI (first picked up by an occupational therapist!) and co-ordination difficulties. 

His occupational therapist helped him with crossing the mid-line (a magical invisible line we cross when doing activities such as writing), improved his pencil grip, found ways to help him sit at a table, as well as other things which he struggled with.

Occupational therapists help children, like B, who need help with activities of daily living and functional tasks. They provide strategies, ideas and practical help their families, carers and schools. The aim is to help children and young people with physical difficulties reach their full potential.  

Ways they can help include;

  1. Fine motor skills (small-muscle movements made with the hands, fingers, and toes, such as grasping)
  2. Visual-perceptual skills
  3. Cognitive (thinking) skills
  4. Sensory-processing problems

Who can Occupational Therapists help?

Occupational therapy can help many many different people with different conditions, here is a list of the type of conditions they can help find strategies for, enabling each child to fulfil their potential. This is not an exhaustive list of conditions, so if you think your child needs the Occupation Therapist services, please contact the relative person, if you live in the Bristol area useful contacts at the bottom of this page.

  • birth injuries or birth defects
  • sensory processing disorders
  • traumatic injuries to the brain or spinal cord
  • learning problems
  • autism
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • mental health or behavioural problems
  • broken bones or other orthopaedic injuries
  • developmental delays
  • post-surgical conditions
  • burns
  • spina bifida
  • traumatic amputations
  • cancer
  • severe hand injuries
  • multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

It is very important that you have the right type of Occupational Therapist also. Some can not offer Sensory Integration, or some may work with within a department that assesses a condition or monitors a health condition. It is vital that you ensure you are referred to the correct person for your child needs. A consultation with your Paediatrician could help, or even calling the Paediatric Occupational Therapy department to discuss your child needs.

How can I access Occupational Therapy for my Child?

Different locations in the UK have different processes to access this service, for many, the best point of entry is through their GP, the child’s paediatrician, or by talking to the school SENCO. When going through our own journey to find help for B, we didn’t know where to turn. We found out we could make a self-referral, however, we didn’t hear anything for some time so sort a private practitioner. 

This was invaluable for B at school, who could understand why he behaved in certain ways, and how they could help him. We were granted several session with an NHS therapist too, which again helped to find ways to assist B in meeting his potential.If you choose to access private treatment, please make sure they are a registered practitioner, for the UK you can check here https://rcotss-ip.org.uk/find

If you are based in Bristol, the following links will refer you to the correct NHS services to get help for your child.

The site does have information about processes and who to contact for specific conditions. The team at Extraordinary Links and I hope that this information helps you, if you need more support, please contact us.

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