By Sandra Ramirez, OTR, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
April is Occupational Therapy Month! And though the term “occupational” may throw you a bit in regards to children, occupational therapy is a vital part of many children’s therapy regimens. A pediatric occupational therapist focuses on helping children develop the skills they need to grow into functional and independent adults. There are many different areas that occupational therapy focuses on such as:
- cognitive skills (problem solving, using judgment, completing higher level tasks)
- fine motor skills (using smaller muscle groups such as hands and fingers)
- gross motor skills (using larger muscle groups such as those necessary for sitting up, crawling, walking)
- sensory integration (exposing stimulation in a structured repetitive way so the brain will adapt and allow kids to process and react to sensations more efficiently whether that be noise, tactile, taste, or visual sensations)
- self-care tasks (dressing oneself, buttoning shirts, brushing teeth, self-feeding)
- social skills
When working with children, pediatric occupational therapists often incorporate play as a way to motivate and reduce anxiety and fears children may have. Each session is made to target a new goal, build self-esteem, and build confidence when it comes to their capabilities.
Being a part of the occupational therapy profession has been so rewarding and has brought such joy to my life. I knew that being an occupational therapist would be rewarding when I first came into this field. Helping medically fragile children become strong, independent people during their stay and be discharged from the hospital knowing they can do anything they put their mind to is the greatest gift. Being a part of this field has allowed me the opportunity to be a part of these kids and their families’ stories and it has helped me grow as a clinician and as a person. My greatest joy is when children and their families return to the hospital and they want to find me to show me how well they are doing! What can be better than that?
Being an occupational therapist is not just a job; it is a lifestyle and who we are. People who want to help, people who want to advocate, and people who want to do whatever is best for their patients and families. Growing into a self-sufficient adult may be easy for some. Others, though, need a hand. Whether that hand teaches them to write better, to gain specific motor control, to perform their self-care with increased independence, it helps them reach maturity with strength and confidence. These qualities are vital to making it on their own.
For more information about occupational therapy, visit https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/occupational-therapy.html.