There’s a phrase I often use: All children develop in their own time and space.
Ah, I hear you say, “but Jamie, doesn’t that mean that my child is fine and we don’t need to seek out support, or OT services”?
But no, that’s not what it means.
Our children are all on their own developmental timetable, and certainly sometimes they do just need a bit more time. It doesn’t help us to clump all children of the same age in a category and expect the same abilities (physical, emotional regulation or communication wise).
But there are also times when an area that isn’t developed yet is not going to “come naturally”. And waiting, giving time and space and ‘crossing our fingers’ is less helpful than going to a professional who can see what is causing the challenge and how to remove those obstacles and support the child to achieve in this area. Parental instincts often tell us which scenario we are dealing with, and a qualified OT can confirm for us.
As OTs, we are thoroughly trained to see what is stopping a child from participating in an everyday activity. Sometimes it is clear it is something physical like undeveloped muscles, other times it is something ‘invisible’ like anxiety or sensory sensitivities. It is not always as obvious to the 'untrained eye' so a professional aids both the child's development and the parent's understanding.
When children struggle with a ‘childhood occupation’, it impacts on not just their ability to do that task, but how they feel about themselves. Waiting and hoping can be detrimental to their wellbeing, when working with a kind therapist who can help them develop skills and coping strategies would help them move forward, achieve success and boost their feeling of competence.
Even if the challenge is in a very specific area, the impact flows out into other areas of the child's life. Not managing school work can make it hard for the child to 'feel up' to socialising, for example. Or not being able to ride a bike c
an make them doubt their ability to learn other new skills so they stop taking risks. These things don't just affect the child, but the whole family. This means that parents may be 'too close' to the situation to know how to help. Knowing that a qualified professional can step in and support the child and family is really empowering.
An Occupational Therapist coming in alongside your child and family does not take away from “All children develop in their own time and space”. Your child’s development is still their own. We work on exactly where they are and where we’re aiming for. Our sessions or any strategies for families are gentle yet effective, and certainly don’t feel we’re pushing them beyond their limits or into something unnatural. What we are doing is supporting the child’s potential we know is there, but being blocked by an obstacle. We shift that, and the child keeps blooming.