While milestones should only be used as a guide as children develop at different speeds, there are times when professional help is needed to ensure a child gets the best start in life.

Occupational Therapists (OTs) help adults and children of all ages to engage in the activities they want or need to do.

NAPHL Health Hub Occupational Therapist Julie Bowthorpe (pictured) said there were many reasons that a family may consider seeking the services of an Occupational Therapist for their child.

“A child may be distressed when parents are attempting to do self-care activities with the child like toileting, eating, brushing their teeth or showering, or a child may struggle to cope when their routine changes,” she said.

“A child may not be engaging with their siblings or peers in the same way that other children are, and they could also appear uncoordinated in their movement and play skills.

“They may also express concerns with things such as their coordination or attention, or not keeping up with the rest of their class if they are school-aged.

“The parents may also be struggling to manage anxious, teary or aggressive behaviours.

A child may be referred to Occupational Therapy by their GP, Paediatrician or other involved health services if there are concerns with any aspect of a child’s physical, learning, social and emotional development. However, parents don’t have to have a referral for their child to see an OT. They can also call and book an appointment.

Ms Bowthorpe added that assessment and therapy should ideally be sought when a family is concerned about a child struggling to develop social and communication skills, play skills and self-management skills. When this delay may create stress within the family and school environments, it is best to seek professional advice.

Ms Bowthorpe and the rest of the Occupational Therapy team at the NAPHL Health Hub are experienced working with children and can help with a wide range of issues.

SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD COULD BENEFIT FROM SEEING AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

Shows distress during toileting, eating, brushing their teeth or showering

Struggles to cope when their routine changes

Has trouble interacting with siblings or peers

Appears uncoordinated

Struggles with their attention or keeping up with their class or peers

Displays anxious, teary or aggressive behaviour

They can help children who have trouble with social skills or appropriate behaviour, struggle to regulate their emotions, have sensory issues or poor motor skills such as balance or being able to hold a pen properly.

“The role of OTs is about working with families to identify goals for the child and family to achieve.

“Therapy should include both the parent and the child and is focused on finding solutions and strategies to the identified goals that are achievable for families to incorporate into their existing routines and lifestyle.”

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Ms Bowthorpe said parents should know they aren’t alone and that there is help and support available.

“Parents may be anxious sending their child to an OT because they are worried their parenting will be judged or their concerns won’t be listened to,” she said.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth; we all know parenting is an extremely hard job and we already think you’re doing a great job by taking your child to see us.

“We encourage parents to get help as early as possible, as early intervention is really important to support the child to reach their potential."

Call 4722 8750 to discuss how an Occupational Therapist might be able to support you.