Occupational therapists work with many different kinds of patients, including geriatric and pediatric. If you prefer working with children, working as a pediatric OTA allows you to engage with children ranging from a couple of months old all the way up to 17 years old.
As you earn your online occupational therapy assistant degree, you will learn how various techniques can improve a patient’s life, whether you’re working with a toddler with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or one who has Sensory Processing Disorder. While every patient will have a different OT intervention plan, many different techniques can be based on the same theories. However, that doesn’t mean a new technique in occupational therapy will go amiss. Here are a number of alternative therapies for myriad pediatric OTA patients.
The overall goal of occupational therapy is to help a patient live as normal a life as possible. With patients who fall on the autism spectrum, some may require minimal skill development, while others may require longer and more intensive therapy. Every patient will have different needs and will react differently to each therapy treatment.
4 Examples of Pediatric Occupational Therapy Interventions
1. Using Video Games
Video games offer many different benefits for children or teens with autism. Games that use traditional controllers can help children develop their fine motor skills. For younger children, a simple touch game on an iPad or other tablet is a quick and fun way to help learn how to develop hand-eye coordination and muscle strength. Because some controllers for games have different covers, such as the rubber sleeve for Wii controllers, handling controllers may help older children or toddlers with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Interactive games also promote social growth. Children or teens who play group Wii games, such as tennis, can learn how to interact with others, as well as problem solve and develop self-awareness of movements.
2. Animal-Assisted Therapy
Autism affects both physical and emotional development. Some patients may require help with developing gross or fine motor skills and others may need help developing social skills. Animal-assisted therapy is a great tool for both.
The responsibilities of raising a pet include feeding and walking, which can help develop both fine and gross motor skills. But the emotional benefits of pets or animals are just as pronounced. Children with ASD develop relationships with pets and are able to relate to them, perhaps better than they can relate with other children or adults. Pets love their owners, and this unconditional love can help children thrive. Various therapy programs across the country are available, or you can adopt a pet of your own. There are even specially trained dogs that are perfectly suited for a happy life with families with autistic children.
3. Sign Language for Communication
Some children with autism have difficulty speaking. However, this shouldn’t stop them from communication. Whether speech skills are delayed, poor or nonexistent, children with ASD can still learn how to communicate. Children as young as three months can take classes. Learning how to share feelings can help alleviate frustration and potentially halt damaging behavior.
4. Exercise through Play
When adults think of exercise, most of them consider it work. However, kids consider it play. Integrating exercise into a child’s routine doesn’t mean he or she should be on a treadmill or lifting weights with other adults at the gym. Playing tag, jumping rope and climbing jungle gyms keeps kids entertained and healthy.
Children, teens, and adults with autism are more likely to be overweight than those without. Not only will incorporating an exercise/play routine into an ASD patient’s life help develop healthy habits, but exercise also helps patients with concentration, spatial awareness, sensory processing and gross motor skills. Exercise should be formatted around the child’s needs and limitations. Some children who struggle with concentration and gross motor skills could thrive with exercises such as hopscotch or jumping rope. Patients with Sensory Processing Disorder may hate climbing on jungle gyms but could love playing foursquare.
Are you interested in learning about other treatments pediatric occupational therapy patients can receive? Take a look at the St. Catherine’s Online OTA program and learn how to start working as an OTA in 16 months. If you're ready to get started on your OTA education now, contact us to speak with an admissions counselor.