Hearing that your child might benefit from occupational therapy is not easy. However, it might help them to reach their full potential.

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists defines occupational therapy as “a profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life.”

The Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa (OTASA) says occupational therapy deals with fine-motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills and sensory-processing deficits. Occupational therapists use scientifically chosen, meaningful activities to assist clients with a range of problems to maximise their functioning. This empowers them to be as independent as possible and to experience quality of life.

Trusting in the process

It took one meeting with an occupational therapist (OT) to change the way Jane* viewed occupational therapy. “My husband and I discussed what the teacher had said about our son’s struggles in the classroom. We decided it would be worse not to do anything. We owed it to Callum* to at least investigate it,” she says. “Once I got over myself, I was surprisingly impressed.”

Holistic approach

Jane was impressed by the occupational therapist’s approach. “She viewed Callum as a total entity. She looked at the way he played, what he liked to do and how he functioned at school,” Jane says. “The OT also looked at how he went about his daily activities and tasks, taking issues of posture, balance, motor skills and visual perception into account.

Jane says that occupational therapy is the best thing that could have happened to Callum. “I was so concerned about the stigma and worried about him being singled out. But, he loves it. He’s a different little boy. His confidence has increased. He has blossomed in every conceivable way.”

*Names have been changed.

Who benefits from occupational therapy?

  • children injured at birth or born with birth defects
  • those with sensory processing/integrative disorders
  • children who have suffered traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
  • those with learning problems
  • children who have autism
  • those who suffer from pervasive developmental disorders
  • sufferers of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • those who suffer from mental health or behavioural problems
  • children who have broken bones or other orthopaedic injuries
  • those experiencing developmental delays
  • children with post-surgical conditions
  • burn victims
  • sufferers of spina bifida (split spine)
  • children who have had traumatic amputations
  • cancer sufferers
  • those who have suffered severe hand injuries
  • sufferers of multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses.

Adapted from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)

OT should be considered if a child exhibits any of the following:

  • does not use their both their hands simultaneously and for different actions
  •  cannot cut along a line at age four
  •  is unable to cut out a circle at age five
  •  ends up full of glue or paint but doesn’t know how it happened
  •  has difficulty moving to music
  • experiences difficulty writing letters when they learn to write in Grade R.

For further information, contact OTASA.  Tel: 012 362 5457; email otasa@otasa.org.za; otasa.org.za