Special Needs Occupational Therapy – Fine vs. gross motor skills is the drill.

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Who would have ever thought you would be engaging special needs occupational therapy for your child but understanding the difference between fine vs. gross motor skills may be the ticket to their eventual independence.  I mean really, occupational therapy?  I thought this was for those who had suffered a stroke, but my little girl, really?  Is that how you felt too, after being told your ‘special’ person was a candidate for this service?  Well, maybe yours was a fleeting moment of surprise because the most important thing we are doing is to put every single support and service in place so that when our kids “age out” of school and embark on life as an adult, they can do well even be successful, not tolerating life, but enjoying life.  This IS what we are striving for, right?

Fine vs. Gross Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills and Building…Goes Hand in Hand

The Difference?

Go figure!  There is a difference.  Fine vs. gross motor skills are often spoken of in the same context but whereas gross motor skills are those involving a child’s abilities with their large muscle groups, which we have talked about in a previous post, fine motor skills affect the ability to motor plan and do things, for the most part, with their hands.  Like:

  • holding a pencil in a ‘pincher’ grasp
  • using scissors
  • opening and closing boxes
  • handling eating utensils
  • zipping up their pants or coat
  • buttoning their shirt
  • buckling something
  • brushing teeth

And tie their shoes, well let’s not even begin to stress over that one right now.  These are things that are terribly difficult for my little lady.  How about your loved one?  The best way to think of this will be for us to see this as two therapy disciplines addressing the fine vs. gross motor skills.  A physical therapist cares for gross motor challenges and the occupational therapist cares for the fine motor difficulties.

Life Skills vs. Life-time dependency…a no brainer, right?

Of course fine motor skills are just one of several occupational therapy supports.  Think about it this way, the therapist is working to establish the skills needed for independent living.  So what they do is designed to address a child’s coordination, strength, and control.  I’m just guessing here, but I expect when they are 14 you don’t want to be zipping up their pants, or buttoning their shirt, or helping them with eating food from their plate?  Even if it isn’t perfect, being able to do self-care on their own will be a good result for them.  Of course for some special needs assistance will always be necessary, such as when helping to eat where there is poor coordination for breathing and eating.

This also includes the very important work of helping a child become better organized like getting their backpack ready which addresses cognitive skills.  Our special needs child has a disconnect that hampers their personal ability to function; they may be bouncing off of every wall in their crazy disorganization inside of them.  In a very holistic way an occupational therapist is helping our young ones with physical, cognitive and emotional issues.  It’s a paint brush across their life to help them succeed in caring for themselves.

A Professional? Indeed!

Here’s what’s amazing.  The entry level person who is therefore licensed has completed a master’s program.  Often times many have gone on to acquire their doctoral degree.  No kidding!  Here we have a well-educated professional who comes right to us…often times right into our homes.  Working with our children in their home environment gives the therapist the best opportunities to learn from what our children’s daily environment entails.  For instance, the therapist can use their own coat from the closet, or the fork and spoon they should comfortably be able to use when eating.

Writing may not become perfect...but it can improve!

Writing may not become perfect…but it can improve!

All states require that the Occupational Therapist be licensed to practice in that state and have completed the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT).  Some states have specific criteria for scores on the exam they sit for in order to receive licensure from them. And everyone requires Level I and II Fieldwork so that there is clinical experience.  The point of all of this, WOW what allot of experience comes to you by engaging therapy for your little one.

One caution that I want to share is to make sure that you have someone who truly integrates their services with the needs and personality of you, your child, and family.  It is not possible to get a perfect match as people are people.  But as one therapist for whom I have great respect pointed out to me, unless the therapist can gain the trust of the child then progress may not be effectively realized.  Just something to keep in mind.

What’s a Good Mom and Dad Supposed To Do?

Happy Doing Things Together...More Likely with Occupational Therapy Supports

Happy Doing Things Together…More Likely with Occupational Therapy Supports

The biggest and best thing we can do is to remember the benefits that will come to our children. What could be better than our understanding what our kiddos should be able to accomplish. This will become more clear in communication with their teacher.  But these two things are priceless:

  • Improved ability to concentrate and complete their schoolwork
  • Increased independence and self-confidence

And you know all of the learning disabilities we reviewed in the menu for ‘spectrum of special needs’, these conditions are also aided by the support of the occupational therapist.  The child who is struggling with:

…And Keep in Mind!
The occupational therapist is someone who helps our children develop more independence and because of this confidence will grow.  They contribute to our children’s mental and emotional welfare, will help them develop better coping skills for attention issues, and certainly help them to accomplish more in their learning environment.  When our children’s strength, coordination, planning and organization skills all improve, life itself becomes more manageable!  This takes time, it could be months.  Even still getting there is going to be a GREAT accomplishment!

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