When most people hear the word “occupation” they think of jobs or other activities that adults engage in, but actually occupation is defined as what a person needs or wants to do that is appropriate for his or her age or life stage. Occupational therapy (OT) can help people reach their maximum independence level for all of their daily activities by changing something about their skill set, the actual activity, or the environment in which an activity is performed (Fun fact: society first became aware of the benefits of occupational therapy when it was used with injured soldiers during World War I.)
How does OT apply to babies?
From birth, we engage in daily activities (our “occupation”) – eating, playing, sleeping, crawling, and walking – which build the skill sets for more complex daily activities that we will engage in when we are older. How do we know if our baby may need occupational therapy to develop those skills? Following are ten quick questions you can ask yourself to see if your baby is developing healthy foundations for the skill sets he needs for his current occupations and future daily activities:
- Does your baby have more difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep than other babies her age?
- Does your child tend to use one side of his body more than the other? Does one side of the body appear significantly stronger than the other?
- Does your baby become so upset in new settings that it’s hard to calm down?
- Does your baby appear to over- or under-react more than other same-age children when given a new texture, temperature, taste, touch (including being held), noise, or sight (bright colors, changes in light, etc)?
- Is your baby able to play with hands at midline (4 months) and/or transfer objects from hand to hand (7 months+)?
- Does your baby seem to be weaker or have less endurance than other same-age babies?
- Is your baby able to grasp/hold small objects or toys for several seconds (3-5 months)? If 9 months or older, is she able to voluntarily release objects (including pressing down on a surface to release)?
- Does your baby bump into things, failing to notice objects or people in their way?
- Does your baby visually track moving objects or people in their way? Does he attend and reach for items of interest?
- Has your child met gross motor developmental milestones: 1-3 months weight shifting in prone, 3-5 months rolls to sit, 5-7 months weight shifting while sitting and rolling over, 7-9 months crawling, 9-12 months pull to stand?
If your baby has any deficits in these areas, consider talking to a licensed Occupational Therapist. Kid’s Creek Therapy offers free consultations.
Carolyn Miller, MSOT, OTR/L
Image Courtesy Pixabay/Title Added