How are things going at preschool? Do you have a 3, 4 or 5 year old at home? Occupational Therapists help preschoolers achieve their developmental milestones and get ready for kindergarten! Occupational therapy can help children build important fine motor, sensory processing and social skills. Many parents worry about their child “appearing different” or “standing out”, however if the foundational kindergarten readiness skills are not addressed early on, kids may struggle more later on, and their problems will become even more noticeable.
The best pediatric practitioners know how to make OT sessions fun, because all of the “work” happens through play. The primary goal of Occupational Therapy is to find ways to help your child be more successful, so if you think there’s a problem, my advice to you is…
Don’t wait! Early intervention is essential to give your child the tools he or she needs for school readiness, to learn and to play with confidence. Check out the most important developmental areas for your child’s development. The checklist below is a general, yet well-rounded checklist that represents the most common issues that arise in preschool aged children.
OT looks at the whole child, therefore you’ll notice several areas to be on the look out for such as… gross motor skills (running, jumping, navigating play equipment), fine motor skills (coloring, cutting, writing and drawing), emotional control and self-regulation, and sensory processing challenges such as being overly sensitive or unaware of certain sensory inputs.
If you find that your child is experiencing a few of the challenges outlined below, at home or preschool, then it’s important to have your child assessed and bring up your concerns with your child’s primary care provider or pediatrician. This is especially important to prevent further delays in development and if your child tends to avoid certain activities or lacks confidence. Keep in mind, that doctors are typically screening for whether your child is medically healthy when they do their medical check ups. Developmental skills such as attention, behavior, motor coordination, sensory processing and play skills are sometimes overlooked, so be sure to bring up your concerns with the doctor.
Children can be perfectly healthy, yet not be on track developmentally. If someone tells you to wait or that kids will grow out of it, this is not always the case. The infant through preschool years are considered a “sensitive period” or “critical period” in a child’s early development. The neurological foundations for learning are being set up during this time, so when in doubt check it out and pursue further evaluation if needed.
And remember, follow your gut! Even if other’s don’t agree with you, you know your child best. It’s important to be your child’s best advocate if your child needs a developmental boost!
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY PRESCHOOLER NEEDS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY?
- Says “I can’t” or “I won’t” to age appropriate activities
- Needs more practice than other children to learn new skills
- Clumsy, falls frequently
- Low muscle tone; seems weak or floppy
- Bumps into furniture or people, has trouble judging body in relation to space around him/her
- Dislikes coloring in lines, doing puzzles or cutting with scissors
- Overly active, unable to slow down
- Short attention span. Moves quickly from one toy to another.
- Delayed language development
- Difficulty self-calming
- Doesn’t notice or over-reacts to touch, taste, sounds, or smells
- Dislikes bathing, cuddling, or haircuts
- Very picky eater. Eliminates eating whole food groups.
- Has difficulty handling unexpected changes and transitions
- Difficulty following 1 to 2 step directions
- Avoids playground activities. Prefers sedentary play.
- Does not enjoy jumping, swings or having feet off the ground
- Finds it difficult to make friends with children of the same age.
- Prefers to play with adults or younger children rather than peers
- Easily frustrated or lacks of confidence to try new things
I hope that you will find this checklist helpful for bringing up any areas of concern. Whether you use it for discussion with your pediatrician, teacher or therapist, you’ll find it to be a helpful resource to get the conversation started.
If you’re a parent and ready for this next step, I encourage you to contact your home school, ask your pediatrician for local referrals or come visit us at Stepping Stones Therapy Network in Bellevue, WA!