Occupational Therapy: What Does It Involve, Who Is It For?

What does occupational therapy involve?

Occupational therapy supports people that may have physical, mental or cognitive disabilities and challenges and focuses on developing their everyday skills through development, recovery and maintenance of their daily living.

It is an occupational therapist’s job to deliver effective and appropriate occupational therapy for people of all ages to help them overcome the loss of mental or physical awareness and movement skills.  

Occupational therapists work with such a range of people of different ages and abilities that it is always evolving and new methods are being tried, tested and proven to improve the lives of both children and adults.

When is occupational therapy used?

Occupational therapy can be used to help manage and improve a range of conditions and needs that are either present from birth, develop with age, or are the result of injury or an accident.

Occupational therapy is most widely known for being used to support and help the development of children that live with different illnesses. The effectiveness of the therapy varies with each illness and children, of course, are all individuals, so each child will also respond to the treatment differently. These disabilities or health conditions include:

  • Down’s syndrome
  • Cerebal palsy
  • Dyspraxia
  • Learning disabilities
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Spina Bifida

In adults, occupational therapy and its associated techniques can be used to treat various conditions, including arthritis, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.

Occupational therapy can be carried out in both a dedicated occupational therapy sensory integration room, or occupational therapists may perform their services ‘on the go’ and bring along with them key equipment to suit their particular clients’ needs. This means people can be seen in their homes or hospitals that do not have a dedicated sensory room.

Occupational therapy techniques and equipment

For children requiring occupational therapy treatment, they may struggle to perform day-to-day tasks that most of us will take for granted. This could include:

  • Throwing and catching
  • Getting themselves dressed or cleaning their own teeth
  • Holding a pencil or controlling scissors
  • Writing and copying text

Therefore, a child who requires, or could benefit from, occupational therapy could need to improve their:

  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Proprioception
  • Balance and general coordination
  • Self-regulation skills

Identifying a need for occupational therapy, or understanding how it could be beneficial to children early, can be key to how beneficial it is. The earlier a child begins receiving occupational therapy, the more effective the outcomes it produces. Therefore, increasing the awareness in teachers and parents of behavioural traits to look out for in children can help them get a head start in improving key everyday skills.

Occupational therapy and sensory integration

The term ‘sensory integration’ is used to explain the process we go through when, as humans, we are presented with information through one (or more) of our five senses, organise it, and respond appropriately. We also have vestibular sense – which tells us how to position our bodies in response to our environment – and proprioceptive sense – which is our awareness of our body in space (commonly referred to as ‘spacial awareness’).

Sensory integration therapy can help children who have difficulties processing sensory input, and therefore cannot respond to their surroundings and environment in the right way. Sessions tend to be play oriented, and will likely use specialist sensory equipment like swings, climbing kit, and music accessories.

Sensory integration therapy aims to connect children with sensory processing disorders, or other physical or mental disabilities like those mentioned above, more closely with their surroundings, and help them understand how they should respond to their environment.

How Southpaw supports occupational therapists and parents of children who need support

Here at Southpaw, we’re one of the leading UK suppliers of sensory integration equipment. We work closely with key names in the industry, and use their expertise, as well as our own knowledge, to continue to refine and develop sensory integration equipment that can benefit occupational therapists, teachers, children, and their parents.

We are dedicated to bettering the lives of those with additional needs, and are committed to encouraging the wider community to develop a greater understanding of sensory integration and how it can help people of all ages.

If you’re a teacher, occupational therapist, NHS staff, or the parents of a child who you think may benefit from sensory integration therapy, check out our website to see our full suite of products.

If you’re looking to transform space into a sensory integration room, book a free design visit here.

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