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Getting started with occupational therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

Learning through Play

Children learn and develop through play. A child's job is to have fun and develop basic self care, motor and developmental skills.
Therapeutic play for special kids

Occupational therapy is a fun, family-oriented way to treat kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. Regardless of the severity and specifics of a child's sensory issues, OT helps kids learn to function better at school and at home.

Try not to be too worried when you take your child to his first occupational therapy appointment. Pediatric occupational therapy is structured to be a pleasant experience for kids, most of whom eagerly look forward to each appointment. At OT, kids get to play on swings, throw balls and use special gym equipment. Trust that your child's therapist will give you and your child tools to get through each day with fewer meltdowns and frustrations. Research and experience based, occupational therapy has shown to be the most effective treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder.

Don't sweat the evaluation

It's difficult not to panic when you find out your child needs an evaluation of any kind. During an occupational therapy evaluation for Sensory Processing Disorder, your child may never notice he's being studied at all. Tests include fun activities like spinning on swings, playing with toys and hopping up and down. While it may look like a bunch of random activities, your child's occupational therapist will be carefully noting your child's performance on various functional tests. An evaluation helps the Occupational Therapist identify the specifics of your child's sensory issues, the best therapies and individual goals for your child. While your child's OT may have input for you at the end of the evaluation, it's common to wait a few weeks for a full report.

Share what you know

While your child's Occupational Therapist has researched and studied at length, you're the expert when it comes to your child. You are the number one resource for your child's therapist to get the overall picture of your child's behavior at school and at home. During your child's evaluation, the therapist will ask you lots of questions. Come with notes if you think you need help remembering your child's behaviors and sensitivities. You'll also fill out an extensive questionnaire that helps the Occupational Therapist identify your child's needs. If you have questions about the paperwork, don't hesitate to ask. The results of this questionnaire may also be used to communicate with your health insurance provider regarding services.

Learn 6 ways to advocate for your special needs child >>

Develop a game plan

Example goals might include learning to fasten buttons, initiating messy play, developing appropriate pencil grip and catching a ball

Once your child has a diagnosis, the Occupational Therapist will work with you to identify specific goals. These goals may not be very complicated. Example goals might include learning to fasten buttons, initiating messy play, developing appropriate pencil grip and catching a ball. In addition to coming up with a routine for your child's therapy appointments, the OT will give you instructions and information for working with your child at home. Many Occupational Therapists recommend a sensory diet, which isn't a nutritional plan, but a regular series of activities that give your child the sensory input she needs. For example, a child who regularly crashes into furniture might be given the chance to jump on a mini trampoline or carry heavy toys around.

Discover 5 ways to prepare for a child's IEP meeting >>

More on Sensory Processing Disorder

How to talk to your pediatrician about Sensory Processing Disorder
Gift ideas for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder
Learn to recognize Sensory Processing Disorder symptoms

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