Understanding Pediatric Speech and Occupational Therapy
Therapy seeks to enhance the lives of people and professionals focus on offering their services so people can attain their potentials. As more people are becoming aware of and understanding autism and developmental disabilities. For this reason therapies have found their way into early childhood development programs.
One of the popular therapies that offer a lot of benefits to special needs children is speech and occupational therapy. Pediatric speech and occupational therapists help their patients to become better in movement, speech, and daily activities that make life meaningful. With access to professional help, children can gain independence as they grow.
An Overview of Speech and Occupational Therapy
We need to understand how the therapy works and who will likely benefit from it, so we can better understand the necessity of the services. Although there are different experimental versions and variants of the program, they all amount to improving the quality of a patient’s life.
What is Occupational Therapy?
This is a program that involves developing and strengthening fine motor skills as well as ADL (Activities for Daily Living). It does not necessarily mean developing work skills since its name has a connotation of paid employment. Occupational therapists manage a vast range of issues, varying patient lists, and several working venues. In this regard, an occupation is an activity that humans involve in to make life meaningful.
For adults, motor skills may be more related to skill or work, but for children, their occupation centers around school work and play. Therefore, professionals in this field help to sharpen the skills children use in those occupations. They also strengthen their developments during the formative stage.
Furthermore, pediatric occupational therapists are creative people, problem solvers who adapt ideas to improve the skills of children. They incorporate empathy, science, and compassion so everyone can benefit. The therapists may customize programs for kids with autism, incorporating sensory activities to enhance motor skills during play.
What is Speech Therapy?
Contextually, this is quite easier to understand than OT, but the therapy may be quite complex. It specifically concerns itself with issues of communication disorder such as language disorder or speech disorder. In the case of language disorder, the patient may be unable to put words together in a sentence and communicate and they may not understand words.
In speech disorder, the patient finds it difficult to produce sounds and words. A speech therapist may also assist in the area of feeding conditions like dysphagia, where the child finds it difficult to swallow food.
The requirements for working as a speech therapist are similar to that of an OT as both professions call for empathy and patience. They both need to discover creative methods of helping their patients develop skills. An OT simulates activities that involve motor skills whereas the speech therapist replicates communication scenarios that will help the patients grow.
For kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), speech therapy is critical as it can greatly improve their communication skills. Despite the slight differences in OT and speech therapy, both of them require special people who possess creative aptitudes to apply empirical practices to develop unique programs. For the patients, struggling with skill development is frustrating, but the impact of therapy helps them to understand how to manage the situation.
The Benefits of Therapy
Therapy programs, especially pediatric speech and occupational therapy, help in the development, nurturing, and maintenance of normalcy in the lives of children. It enables them to grow and thrive.
Furthermore, OT professionals can assist children with autism in the expansion of their social skills and motor functions. Speech therapy, on the other hand, assists the same set of patients in the expansion of communication skills, so they can form and understand different sentences.
The focus of both therapists is the patients they are handling. And since they always tailor the solutions towards managing improvement in their patients, the results are usually highly personalized. One thing that is certain about occupational and speech therapy is early intervention, especially for kids with specific conditions and developmental disorders.
The programs aim at enhancing their development so that their growth won’t be retarded. Working on developing the skills of these children early enough will yield optimum results as they become adults. Also, what these kids may learn during therapy might make a significant difference in their academic performance as well as future employment.
What Your Child Will Experience in a Speech Therapy Session
During sessions, children are either treated individually or placed in groups. The activities involve playing and talking, repeating words and sentences, and picture books to develop language skills. Another aspect of the therapy is sound exercise, where the therapist repeats words and letter sounds. Your child will learn how make those sounds and say the same words by repeating them.
Additionally, your child will learn how to move his or her tongue when pronouncing some words. There is also a session for swallow and oral feeding. Here, the therapist may massage your child’s face and do some jaw, tongue, and lip exercises. The therapist will also introduce your child to food at various textures and temperatures to increase his or her awareness of varying sensations.
What Your Child Will Experience in an Occupational Therapy Session
During sessions, your child will experience the following:
Development of Visual and Fine Motor Skills
If your child finds it difficult to move their hands and fingers when performing tasks, the therapist will work on:
- Stringing beads
- Fastening zippers
- Holding pencils properly
- Moving coins to the fingertips from the palms
- Putting on their socks by themselves
Visual-motor skills combine visual perception with fine motor skills. The activities include drawing shapes, cutting out the shapes, completing puzzles and mazes, joining dots, and writing letters.
Exploring the Senses
OT sessions help children to take cognizance of their environment. If a child shows hypersensitivity to tactile inputs, the sessions will involve helping him or her to tolerate finger painting or playing with dirt or sand. Also, if a child cannot sit still, the sessions will involve yoga poses that provide deep pressure inputs.
Improving Executive Functioning Abilities
The skills developed during this session will help the brain of your child to initiate and complete tasks. The therapist will mimic a real-life task so the child can complete it with ease. If a child finds it difficult to initiate tasks, the therapist will create a contract or homework routine that involves movement breaks or visual and/or auditory timers.
Building Coordination and Strength
Your child will undertake tasks like playing basketball, tying shoes, sitting upright during circle time. They look easy but they help to strengthen the upper body. Activities like playing catch, climbing a ladder on the playground, and jumping jacks help the child to stay coordinated while putting movements together. You can also watch this video to learn more about what to expect from OT sessions.
Children accomplish a lot during the early stage of their lives. They learn how to crawl, walk, talk and socialize. However, some children develop these skills faster than others. If you discover that your child is not meeting the developmental milestones, you need to contact a pediatric speech therapist or an occupational therapist, depending on the case.