Children with conditions that affect their physical, cognitive, and motor skills often have issues performing daily activities. Pediatric occupational therapists (OTs) work on developing these basic activities of daily living (ADLs) to help them achieve their full potential and participate in daily life to the best of their abilities. Activities such as dressing, eating, and bathing are examples of basic ADLs, while leisure activities such as cooking, writing, or painting are examples of other skills that help a person engage in independent and meaningful “occupations” in their lives. However, new activities based on the specific interests of the child can be the most effective way to direct motor learning and promote functional abilities.
“The fun and challenging parts of our job is to figure out what’s going to be exciting for each child, because we want them to feel like they're coming to play, rather than coming to do work,” said Marci Kreiner, an Occupational Therapist for JCFS Chicago’s Integrated Pediatric Therapies (IPT). “I work with one child who is obsessed with tools, and he is working on fine motor and hand strength. And so, I've done a couple of different projects involving tools with him, and you’ve never seen a child more excited.”
The occupational therapists at JCFS incorporate individual interests into therapy sessions, to engage children in meaningful motor tasks and improve their functional abilities. To measure progress, they use clinical observation and parent reports to assess progress, as well as standardized assessment tools if they need a more comprehensive evaluation. It doesn’t stop at the clinic, however; collaboration with teachers, parents, and other healthcare professionals is key to ensuring the therapy is effective in all settings.
“Depending on the needs of the child, collaboration is critical. I like to talk to teachers to find out what is proving challenging in class, or to talk to parents to find out how to integrate all types of ADLs into their home life,” said Marci. “Since our clinic is a controlled environment, I want to make sure that whatever I'm working on is going to be useful in all environments, because there are many unexpected things that happen in the classroom or at home.”
Our occupational therapists encourage doing leisure activities at home, so parents may conduct occupational therapy in a fun, informal setting. Cooking is a good example because it incorporates several skills. Children can develop their hand strength by kneading dough or stirring, and their fine motor skills by crumbling cheese with their hands. And when the children are finished, they get to eat the meal they prepared as a reward for their efforts.
JCFS’s occupational therapists focus on the child’s interests to create effective therapy both in the clinic and at home, based on continued research and innovation in the field, and help children reach their goals to participate fully in daily life.
For additional information or to make an appointment, email IPI@JCFS.org or call 847.412.4379.