Occupational therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on helping a patient obtain basic lifestyle skills, such as learning to eat, get dressed or sit down properly. In the case of people with Down syndrome, occupational therapy can be used to treat poor muscle strength, improve motor skills and make the child more independent. At an early age, an occupational therapist may focus on playing and social skills too. Read on to learn more about how to treat Down syndrome with occupational therapy.
Start early. Occupational therapy is especially successful to treat Down syndrome children if it starts before they reach the age of three. Motor skills can be greatly improved through therapy, especially when it comes to difficult concepts such as drinking without spilling, grasping and opening or closing items.
Choose a school that offers occupational therapy. Social services and government institutions should provide free therapy to Down syndrome children attending regular schools and looking to integrate with the student population. By the time children start school, however, they should have already mastered the basics of everyday skills and will probably only need help with more difficult concepts, such as hand and body coordination.
Ask the therapist to teach you exercises you can use with your child in between sessions. This is especially important at the beginning, when your child is trying to learn the most basic motor skills, such as walking and reaching, which need regular practice and reinforcement in order to be learned properly.
Use everyday objects to improve the chances of your child learning the concepts taught in occupational therapy. Board books, plastic cups and building blocks are great tools to teach your child to manage her hands and improve strength and coordination. Specially designed toys can be bought at specialty stores or you can simply shop around to find something appropriate.
Find a therapist that will come to your home. This is especially important for very small children, as the therapist can use familiar surroundings to help the child adapt better to everyday activities. As the child becomes more confident and improves, taking him to the therapist's office will become easier.
Tips & Warnings
- Look for a certified occupational therapist rather than a therapist assistant. A certified therapist needs a minimum of a Master's degree, although most will obtain doctorates at some point in their careers.
- The goal of occupational therapy is not to make a child do something perfectly but to help him become independent and be able to provide for himself.
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