Pediatric occupational therapy is aimed to rehabilitate children who have physical issues that interfere with their quality of life. This type of therapy, instructed by a licensed pediatric occupational therapist, often involves the use of specialized equipment, toys or aids. If your child is receiving occupational therapy to help with fine motor skills involving the hands, arms and shoulders, what type of aids or devices might be used? The following is a list of essential tools, including sensory-motor activities, feeding and dressing kits and more, for enhancing your child's physical therapy sessions:
1. Fun and Colorful Eating Aids
These hand tools are designed for fun and functionality. They often help develop and strengthen a child's hands and grip, while providing a fun way to manipulate finger foods. One such device is often referred to as popcorn tongs. These are brightly colored plastic tongs that squeeze together.
In addition, your child's occupational therapist may recommend the use of curved eating utensils. Plastic spoons and forks with curved handles may assist with hand-to-mouth feeding in a child with limited finger mobility or inability to grasp objects firmly in the hand.
2. Dressing Aids for Toddlers and Preschoolers
If your toddler or preschool-aged child needs assistance in dressing, there are aids that may help. Hands-on aids such as shoe-lacing kits can help little ones learn how to tie their shoes while developing motor skills. This kit may include a sturdy wooden "shoe" with colorful, extra long laces.
A helpful dressing aid may also include a child-sized vest with three or four-way closures. The fastening system may include a zipper, buttons, Velcro and snaps. These extra large, colorful fasteners help children learn to to dress themselves and develop their motor skills.
Have you heard of a "dressing caterpillar"? This plush occupational therapy toy is designed with several segments that include zippers, Velcro and buttons, intended to help your child learn how to dress. As the child learns to manipulate the fasteners, his or her confidence will grow.
Another dressing and grooming aid designed to help with finger manipulation includes an easy-grip hairbrush. A curved toothbrush may also be used for occupational therapy. These devices are made with a wider base for easy manipulation.
3. Sensory Stimulation Tools That Strengthen and Assist
Tools that work hand and finger muscles are also used to stimulate sensory perception. For instance, "porcupine balls" have a tactile feel, and may also help strengthen fingers and hands as the child rolls the rounded "quills" in his or her palms. Most are latex free as well.
Handwriting gripping tools help improve the handwriting skills of school aged children by providing a wide rubberized grip that wraps around the pencil. A ring-writer clip helps position a pencil with the use of a ring the child places on his or her finger. The pencil then slides into another end of the ring.
4. Tools For Left-Handed Children
Children who are left-handed may benefit from aids designed to help them with daily school activities. Left-handed scissors is one helpful tool. A left-handed pencil sharpener may also be used in occupational therapy.
Did you know there are also left-handed specialty pens designed for the lefty? These are curved, so it enables the writer to view the written work with little obstruction.
Spiral notebooks for left-handed children are ergonomically designed to make work assignments more manageable. Left-handed children using the standard spiral notebook design have to place wrists on the spiraled coils, often leading to strain and soreness. Occupational therapists may recommend the use of the left-handed notebooks to help counteract this.
As a concluding thought on occupational tools, remember that some may contain small parts. Small parts are not suitable for young children, which is why age recommendations should be followed. Always follow the therapist's guidelines for best results.