Occupational Therapy for Little People

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

An “occupation” is any activity that you participate in (brushing your teeth, going to work/school, playing the piano, etc.). Occupational Therapy (OT) aims to improve participation in life’s activities, despite various limitations (physical, mental, social, cultural, or institutional). “Occupational therapists (OTs) help people to:

  • learn new ways of doing things
  • regain skills and develop new ones
  • use materials or equipment that makes life easier, or
  • adapt their environment to work better for them

These solutions help people to do as much as they can – safely and effectively – at home, at school, at work or in other settings.” ~College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario~

The origins of OT are in mental health, “healing stress and soothing the mind;” today, only a minority of Occupational Therapists (OTs) work in mental health.

OT is often grouped with physiotherapy (PT) due to similarities in training, treatment processes, and treatment settings; however, the OT approach to the person is holistic and eclectic; it does not fit neatly into the medical model of health.

Currently, a Masters level of education is required to become an Occupational Therapist.

My Occupational Therapy (OT) Services for Little People:

I have been working with little people and their families for over 30 years, this includes the roles of childcare provider, autism therapist, respite care provider, occupational therapist (22 years in pediatrics), and integrative health practitioner. I have studied and taught a variety of child development, parenting, and rehabilitation courses.

The two main questions I have in mind when working with little people are: “Is this child content within him/herself, in mind, in body, and in spirit?” and “How well does this child participate in activities at home, at school, and in the community?” I am curious to discover what a child wants help with, what s/he is trying to communicate through his/her actions, how we can support a child who might feel worried, unwelcome, lonely, misunderstood, or other intense feelings, and how we can teach skills to maximize participation in life. I have special interests in mental health and wellness promotion from the very start of life (in the womb); parenting highly sensitive, gifted, spirited and exceptional children; feeding therapy for children with complex eating issues; and in recovery from stressful experiences that are stored in the mind, body and spirit. Therapy with children looks like play and is led by the child’s interests and motivations. Please visit my FAQ page for more details about how I work with children.

Treatment Modalities are chosen specific to your child’s needs, and may include:

  • therapeutic play
  • feeding therapy (see below)
  • mindfulness and/or sensory awareness activities
  • art (drawing, coloring, crafts, singing, drama)
  • guided visualizations in the form of creative storytelling
  • acupressure 
  • therapeutic use of self (providing a calm, compassionate, non-judgmental presence)

My Little Clients are Babies and Children who:

  • are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, low self-esteem, or “just not acting like themselves”
  • are struggling with attention, learning, organization, or getting things done (e.g.s., can’t sit still or focus; bright, but does not complete or forgets to hand in school work on time)
  • are struggling with anger or mood issues, having difficulty managing strong feelings
  • are having difficulty getting along with others (siblings, peers, parents, teachers)
  • may be intense, highly sensitive, spirited, gifted, or exceptionally developing and facing challenges at home, school or in the community
  • demonstrate puzzling symptoms or behaviours that seem to have no logical explanation, such as sudden changes in toileting, eating or sleeping issues (including night terrors or extreme fears at night)
  • may have had difficult prenatal or birth experiences including: stressful prenatal life, long birth, birth with medical interventions, separation from mother at time of birth and/or any other event that was perceived as stressful by the baby
  • may have had medical interventions that have left residual stress on the body, heart and mind
  • are having difficulty feeding or eating . I specialize in complex eating issues including: infant feeding, oral-motor issues, food selectivity, food aversion/phobia, and children who are partially or fully G-tube fed. See below for more details on Children’s Feeding Therapy.

Children’s Feeding Therapy

I use an eclectic approach based on the work of leading therapists such as: Dr. Toomey (SOS Approach), Fraker, Walbert & Cox (Food Chaining), Ellyn Satter (Feeding Relationship), Marsha Dunn Klein (Get Permission Approach to Sensory Based Mealtime Challenges), and Wilbarger.

Your child does not attend the first session. You will be sent some intake forms to complete prior to the session. In addition, please have ready any reports from past or current health providers with you (e.g., OT, SLP, results of swallow study, pediatric notes, etc.).

A feeding assessment includes a comprehensive investigation of physical, sensory, emotional, relational and environmental factors related to your child’s eating or drinking issues.

If I need to see your child eating (to assess physical skills for eating, for example), you will be asked to provide the following to your next session: your child’s food and drink (preferred and non-preferred, include various food textures such as puree, easy to chew, harder to chew, if appropriate for your child’s stage of development); any bottles, cups, spoons, etc. that are typically used to feed your child.