When you hear the word 'occupation', what do you think of? You may be thinking along the lines of 'work skills' and wondering, what does that have to do with my child? Occupational Therapists define the word ‘occupation’ as the activities and tasks that individuals perform in their everyday lives that have value and meaning for them. This can include looking after themselves (self-care), enjoying life (leisure) and contributing to their communities (productivity) (CAOT, 1997a).
For a child, their main occupation is PLAY. It is through play that they grow and learn to experience the world and how things work. Play has a huge influence on many domains of child development including:
- Gross and fine motor
- Sensory processing
Children with disabilities often face many barriers to play – these can be physical, social, cognitive, etc (Majnemer, 2010). These barriers often are associated with issues in development that cause difficulties in their ability to carry out their daily activities. This is where Occupational Therapists can help! By using a client centred, evidence-based and holistic approach, Occupational Therapists assess the child, in their occupations, within the context of their environment to determine where the difficulties may lie. Then they set goals and collaboratively determine practical solutions to enable the child’s engagement!
To help guide our practice, we use the Person Environment Occupation Model (Law et al., 1996). Here’s an example: A child is having trouble putting on their velcro shoes which in turn is leading to the frustration of not being able to go play outside with his friends as fast as he would like (their occupation). In this case, the Occupational Therapist would work with the child to provide activities to improve his hand and finger strength (the person) as well as search for environmental modifications that could help with the task i.e. providing larger velcro straps (their environment).
Occupational Therapists are always working towards helping to enable independence for children to learn the skills that will lead to increased confidence, self-esteem and overall quality of life!
written by Rachel Tavares Reg.(OT)