Does your toddler cry easily or have frequent tantrums? You may wonder if some of the emotional stress you observe in your young child is related to an underlying developmental or sensory disorder.
The goal of pediatric occupational therapy is to help a child develop the skills he or she needs to understand and accomplish age appropriate activities. Certainly if a child is overwhelmed or feels inadequate in the face of day to day expectations this can contribute to emotional distress. So it is important to determine if there are underlying sensory or developmental differences.
It is always wise for parents to trust their gut instinct if they suspect causal factors beyond those typical in childhood development. For instance, we have all heard of the “terrible twos”, when a toddler is striving for independence but still needs a great deal of help – leading sometimes to tantrums and “misbehavior”. That being said, if Mom or Dad senses there could be something more going on, or that their child’s reactions are much greater than others in the same age group, then it would be a good idea to talk to your child’s pediatrician or contact an occupational therapist or child psychologist for a full evaluation.
An occupational therapy evaluation determines the child’s level of performance in critical developmental areas. This process includes observation and interaction with the child, discussion and review of case history and a Sensory Profile completed with the family, as well as standardized assessments. The standardized assessments address fine motor, visual-spatial, balance, and coordination skills as well as sensory functioning. These skills are evaluated to determine how a child’s skill level in these foundational abilities impact day to day functioning with self-help, play, and social interactions.
Occupational therapists (also referred to as OT’s) must identify treatment needs based on evaluation. Obviously if a child has difficulty with sensory processing, balance, coordination and/or fine motor skills, this can lead to frustration and additional delays so treatment would be warranted. However, if a child exhibits no disorder that is within an OT’s scope of practice, then treatment would not be recommended. If, as a result of evaluation, occupational therapy is not deemed appropriate, an occupational therapist may recommend a different kind of assessment based on their professional opinion. For instance the OT may think a child’s frustration may be the result of difficulty with speech production or comprehension and recommend a speech/language evaluation. Or if there seems to be a more emotional base to the frustration, the occupational therapist may recommend an evaluation with a child psychologist or developmental pediatrician.
Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas provides pediatric OT and speech therapy in Frisco, Plano and McKinney. Please call us at 972-424-0148 if we can assist you in any way.
For additional information about how sensory challenges can impact behavior, visit: