When should I take my child to occupational therapy?

5 Jun 2020

Occupational Therapy is a great intervention when a child is not reaching their developmental milestones.

Head of Department for Occupation Therapy in the School of Therapeutic Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Fasloen Adams, says a parent or a carer should only be concerned when a child is not reaching these developmental milestones. 

  • Struggling with activities of daily living such as eating, playing, dressing and writing 
  • Difficulty in completing activities 
  • A struggle with gross motor skills  (for example rolling, crawling, walking, running, skipping, jumping, etc.) and fine motor skills.
  • If a child can’t sit still and focus 
  • Difficulties in adapting to new environments or routine 

While a child’s main occupation is to play and learn through exploration, children should be given every opportunity to engage in these activities to ensure that they develop as they should, says Dr Adams.  

It is important to note that children develop differently. That is why it is important to not compare your children’s developmental milestones.

“Do not panic if your second child does not reach their milestone at the exact time your first child did. Before you panic, rather consult an occupational therapist,” says Dr Adams. 

How does occupational therapy benefit children, especially if they have learning challenges? 

An Occupational Therapist (OT)would be able to do an assessment on your child and will be able to recommend the appropriate intervention. This recommendation might include referral to other members of the multidisciplinary team. Or they might recommend an ongoing Occupational Therapy programme to address the identified problems. 

Dr Adams explains that in order to have a successful intervention, parents and teachers should be actively involved and should be working together to ensure therapy objectives are achieved. 

“Parents should always ensure that the OT consults with them to identify what the parent sees as the most important problem and what parents think should be prioritised,”Dr Adams says. 

Are the free resources for parents that they can use if they can’t afford to take a child to occupational therapy?

Occupational therapists can be found at community health centres in the Joburg  Metro and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities. For example, the occupational therapists at Hillbrow, Alexandria or Chiawelo Community Health Centres will assess and treat children if needed. It is important to note that for learning problems children are seen at clinics up to the age of six. If your child has a learning problem and they are older than six years the education department will do an assessment and treatment. For physical problems children can be seen at the clinics irrespective of their age.

Some resources the parents could use: 

Toy Library where parents can access educational toys in Ormonde (http://tlasa.org/)

Cotlands provides services for vulnerable children in especially low socio-economic environments. (https://www.cotlands.org/about-us/)