Unsure what type of therapy could help your child? Brittany Saviers, clinical instructor and academic fieldwork coordinator for the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Central Arkansas, says that occupational therapy is unique.

Occupational therapy can improve quality of life for kids through helping them master skills such as getting dressed, eating or even playing. By working through small, day-to-day activities, occupational therapists can make a big impact. Here’s what Saviers had to say about the therapy option.

What makes occupational therapy special?

Occupational therapy practitioners are experts in daily activities. They evaluate and collaborate to meet the needs of the child through modifying activities and/or the environment so that families can participate in the ordinary routines of daily life. Occupational therapy is the only profession that addresses the things people want and need to do through therapeutic use of meaningful activities.

What types of issues does occupational therapy most commonly address for children and youth?

Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners help children as young as babies in the NICU through young adulthood. Common examples include helping a child with a developmental disability learn to get dressed independently, helping a child who has difficulty concentrating make adjustments to succeed in school, assisting a child who uses a wheelchair to play with peers, helping all children to play with developmentally appropriate toys and empowering an adolescent to gain employment skills or transition to life after high school.

Are there any types of special needs/developmental disabilities that occupational therapy tends to help in particular?

Brittany Saviers

Practitioners may work with a child who has autism and has difficulty making friends or an adolescent struggling with depression to maintain a routine sleep pattern. They may also provide education on the importance of recess or the severity of childhood obesity. Practitioners enable a variety of people to live life to the fullest by helping promote health and teaching how to prevent — or to live better with — their condition, disability, risk factor or injustice.

How can parents apply the concepts of occupational therapy at home with a special needs child?

My best advice is to actively play with your child! Set aside time each day to spend in child-directed play (following the child’s lead). Do not be afraid to go outside, get messy, and play without rules. If already benefiting from occupational therapy, ask your practitioner for fun and creative strategies to integrate into the family routine.

How does occupational therapy help a child with autism spectrum disorder?

Occupational therapy provides a wide range of intervention strategies for children with autism and their families. Occupation-based interventions are individualized in response to family goals that are identified through occupational therapy assessments. These assessments determine the child’s strengths and challenges … Specific strategies may range from behavioral approaches, to parent training, to sensory integration, among others.

Where can a parent find more information and resources about occupational therapy?

The American Occupational Therapy Association is continually developing evidence-based resources for families, professionals, and friends of children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and other conditions. Visit AOTA.org.

See more from the latest issue of Little Rock Special Family.