Occupational therapy tips can be a great asset for parents looking to help their child get the most out of their appointments. You invest in your child every week by faithfully bringing them to their OT appointment. So, naturally you want to see them make the most progress they can as time goes on.
When you prepare to make the most of your child’s time in therapy, you set them up for greater success as they reach their highest potential. But, many parents ask, what should I do to help make things easier and to be a vital source of success for my little one?
These occupational therapy tips are easy things every parent can do to make sure their child gets the most out of every session their little one attends.
Occupational Therapy Tips for Parents
Occupational therapy helps children develop the skills and abilities they need to perform everyday tasks. Through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, occupational therapists help make it possible for children to participate in the things they need and want to do by strengthening the skills needed to do so. Children with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities can be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives through occupational therapy.
Although often referred to as the therapy needed to help people carry out their everyday “occupations,” it is not only adults who benefit from occupational therapy. Children have jobs of their own in everyday life. Your child’s main job is to play and learn. For children to successfully perform their jobs, they need skills for playing, appropriate development, school performance, self-care routines, and social interaction. That’s where occupational therapy steps in and can transform your child’s everyday struggles into strengths.
As a parent, you are a major piece of your child’s puzzle when it comes to their occupational therapy success. Whether they receive therapy in school, at home, or in a private setting, here are some great occupational therapy tips to help you be the best piece of your child’s puzzle you can be.
Make Sure Your Child is Dressed for Success
Occupational therapy sessions are often focused on a great deal of active movement. You can better prepare your child for their session by paying attention to how you dress them. Dress your child in casual, comfortable clothing. On therapy days, be sure your child wears loose fitting clothes. Comfy t-shirts, sneakers, and sweatpants are great options to allow them to move freely and get the most out of their activities.
For children with sensory issues, be sure you avoid stiff or scratchy fabric. Remove any irritating tags from shirts and pants. All of these can distract your child during their session and cause their therapist to have to stop and adjust, which takes time away from their activity.
It is also important to note that therapy can be messy! But, messy is good when it means your child is learning. Don’t be surprised if they come home with paint, play dough, or shaving cream on their clothes. If you are worried about their clothes getting ruined, make sure you send them with clothes you aren’t worried about. Remember, messy clothes are actually an indication of productivity. Celebrate the mess!
Provide a Complete and Thorough History
This is one of the most important occupational therapy tips. When your child starts with therapy, provide a summary of your child’s history. Although it will be just a “summary” be sure it is complete with everything their therapist needs to know to help them succeed. Details related to your pregnancy, child birth, and your medical history can be helpful as well.
If you are start with a new service provider, give details about your previous therapy evaluations, services, goals, accomplishments, and setbacks. This can help your therapist learn about your child’s strengths and weaknesses and their likes and dislikes.
At Kidsense, we’ve learned that putting together an “All About Me” notebook or binder can help provide your therapists with the helpful information they need. It also helps parents avoid the worry of forgetting to mention something. You can even make this a fun activity with your child by adding pictures and providing details they think are important.
The rule of thumb when it comes to quality occupational therapy is that the better the therapist comes to know your child, the more likely they will bond. And that is the key to meaningful and productive therapy sessions.
Keep Open Lines of Communication
This next occupational therapy tip compliments the last one we touched on. If your child is going to therapy on a regular basis, it is important to keep open lines of communication with your therapist. Providing history and information doesn’t stop with your first visit. There are lots of milestones, life changes, medical changes, and even setbacks that happen throughout the course of our lives. So, it’s important to keep your child’s therapist up-to-date on things that have happened since they saw you last.
When it comes to information sharing, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Important things your therapist should know are:
- Has your child been sick?
- Has something recently stressed them out?
- Have there been changes in the home?
- Have they faced challenges or changes at school?
- Have they recently had a big accomplishment?
- Have they started new treatments, medications, or undergone new tests?
It’s important to keep your therapists informed as the weeks pass by, but you should also realize that your child’s therapist has a very busy schedule. So, a great occupational therapy tip for information sharing is to jot down more detailed notes to hand over to the therapist. Before or after your child’s session, give their therapist a quick overview and leave the bigger details to the note you pass along.
Collaborate on Goals
Your child’s progress relies on the input of all involved. Your therapist will set large, medium, and even small goals to track your child’s progress. You should always be involved in the collaboration of setting goals for therapy. Another important occupational therapy tip involves the everyday involvement in your child’s life. While your therapist is a major part of their lives and their success, they are only with them a short period of time each week.
You know the activities and everyday tasks your child struggles with, and you know where their strengths lie. Their therapist may spend time focusing on something you feel is generally a strength. Let your therapist know what you think is most important for their sessions.
For example, if you think your child struggles with pencil grasp, ask their therapist to spend more time improving their fine motor skills with their grasp. It will also be helpful to let the therapist know things that your child loves or ways they can help create treatment activities that will appeal to your child in their session.
As your child grows and goes to school, it is also important for you to be the glue that brings all aspects of their life together. Create a connection between the goals they set in therapy with the goals they set in school. Talk to both their teacher and their therapist about skill deficits they observe may create barriers to your child’s learning. When everyone comes together as a team, your child will benefit from clear goals and objectives and be able to find greater success.
Be a Constant Observer and Participant
Even if you are not advised to participate or observe your child’s therapy session, your child’s therapist will meet with you after each session to tell you what they worked on and how they did that day. Use this as an opportunity to carefully observe what’s going on with your child’s progress.
Talk to your therapist about ways you can compliment your child’s therapy with at-home activities. This will give you the opportunity to see and understand your child’s therapy and how they respond to it. You are an active role in your child’s progress. Get involved and be hands-on!
As a parent, you are committed to your child’s success. Actively participate in their success through these occupational therapy tips. They can help you better prepare your child for their sessions. Everyone who works with your child on a regular basis is an active part of their team. Be the coach that encourages team work and your child is sure to be a winner!