Occupational therapy (OT) in early intervention (EI) can help families with children (birth to three years) with developmental delays (or at risk for developmental delays) improve motor, social, sensory processing, play, and cognitive skills. Occupational therapists, specifically, are trained in activity analysis (the way in which we take apart activities and routines and simplify them down to their most basic skill) which allows us to pinpoint the specific skillsets needed of the child and individualize our treatment plans for each child and family. Because no child is exactly the same and no family is the same, what works for one family will not work for another.
Key Asset of OTs in EI
An OT's ability to individualize treatment plans is a key asset in what we do. Routines we can help with include (but are not limited to):
- Play time
- Potty time
- Bath time
It is important to note that in early intervention, OTs (as all other services) work with the family using a coaching model. This model is highly successful due to the teaching nature of the coaching model. The OT will work with both the parent/caregiver and the child, as you are the child’s best teacher at that young age. We help to give the skills children and families need for successful routines.
Let's Talk About Function
In early intervention, OTs work with children with a variety of needs and abilities. We help to improve oral motor, visual motor, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, cognitive skills, sensory processing skills, and much more. Think about these skills in the context of FUNCTIONAL. When we work on these skills, we are looking at how functional the child is in specific daily routines.
For example, when looking at a child who is having eating difficulties, we look at all these skills within the context of mealtime:
- Does the child have the hand coordination to bring their food to their mouth?
- Does the child have a hard time venturing out from only a few food choices?
- Does the child seem nervous to touch certain textures?
- Is the child choking or gagging frequently while eating?
- What is going on around the child while he/she is engaged in mealtime?
These are just a few of the many questions we will seek to answer when working with families. We do this with every activity and routine we work on, as this provides us with the most comprehensive data we will need to create a plan of action.
Author: Paige Wensel, OTR/L
When I became an occupational therapist, I was over the moon excited to be a part of the healthcare team! Finally, all my long nights and hard work had paid off. I was so proud to add the “OTR/L” at the end of my name when applying for jobs. I always knew I wanted to work with kids, and my first job out of school was in early intervention. To be short and sweet, I haven’t looked back since. And since recently becoming a first-time mom to twins, (yes, my life is crazy at the moment) I can now fully appreciate early intervention and all of what it offers to families with little ones.