What Pediatric Occupational Therapists Want You to Know

Our culture pushes children to be their "best," but at what cost?More and more, sensory issues in children are rearing their heads, and parents are turning to occupational therapists (OTs) for advice and treatment. Here’s what OTs want you to know.

Children are missing out on activities that in years past were a given of childhood. From less stress from physicians about the importance of tummy time (and pay close attention: tummy time is SO important!) to the lack of unstructured recess in elementary schools, OTs are concerned that our children simply are not able to be children anymore.

Our culture wants to push children to be their best, and in doing so, often sacrifices are made in the name of basic activities once thought to be facets of childhood.

Related: Does Your Child Have Avoidant/Resistant Food Intake Disorder?

When we sacrifice tummy time, we take our children’s ability to build strength and coordination they need to roll over, crawl, reach and play. Did you know the American Occupational Therapy Association recommends 60 minutes a day of tummy time?

And more, the Association advocates the use of play to learn and grow. OTs know that children develop physical coordination and emotional maturity through play, and at the same time, they are experts at evaluating how these growths occur from a neurological and muscular advantage.

Ask just about any occupational therapist what they think is the biggest travesty of childhood today is and they’ll tell you it is the reduction of unstructured recess time in schools, and even worse, the removal of structured exercise opportunity as more and more schools take Physical Education out of schools. Children are no longer given the same opportunities they used to be to engage in outdoor activities that work on midline crossing or brachiation.

Think about it, when was the last time you saw monkey bars on the playground?

While these activities are fewer and fewer, we find more and more children being diagnosed with conditions like ADD, ADHD, Dyspraxia, sensory and visual processing disorders and more. OTs know that this is no coincidence.

So what do OTs think is important for your child to develop her best?

Don’t sacrifice tummy time! We know, we know, your baby may not love it, but it can be broken into small sessions throughout the day to encourage the proper neural connections and growth. As well, don’t sacrifice unstructured play, particularly that involves movement and crossing midline activities in the name of ‘getting your child ready for school.’

Researchers continually find the connection between difficulty with crossing midline and learning disorders, and it’s important to ensure your children have midline crossing opportunities as they are often lacking in school.

Related: What Is Dyspraxia And Could It Be Affecting Your Child?

Believe it or not, posture is not just something we want to work on for good manners. Too often, children sit in seats where their feet are dangling. It’s important for them to have support when they are seated because poor posture leads to poor core strength and balance.

And though it sounds cliche, ensuring your child gets good sleep is one of the first things an OT will recommend to you. Sleep is important for the restoration of our brain cells, and especially in littles with such plastic brains, sleep supports that plasticity, as well as helps regulate neural connections and rests muscles and joints.


2 thoughts on “What Pediatric Occupational Therapists Want You to Know”

  1. I did lots of tummy time for my son (mostly tummytunities because we were both miserable if I tried to schedule in a giant block of time), and he was ahead for rolling over (but pretty average for crawling,walking, and while he was a strong baby he seems to be behind at the gym now that he’s a play age child). But after reading more LAM nursing articles I felt guilty, shouldn’t I have spent that time nursing more–is that why my period came back at 12 months? And then E.C.–oh my goodness I was constantly picking him up and rushing to the toilet any time he looked uncomfortable down there. If I had to change him it would be on his tummy because I was trying to fit in tummy time somewhere. LLL seems to think that reclined carrier time can substitute for tummy time–I wonder if that’s true–was it seriously safe to do tummy time in the old days? Did it just cut into LAM? I’m considering really cutting back on tummytunities for the next baby and just focus on being close and bonding, but I don’t want to make a big mistake. Did anybody try that and run into trouble, or did it not affect development at all because I wonder if I really got him ahead anyway.

  2. This is a useful article, however, the language used is jargon-ish for the non-health professional. Being an RN, Clinical Midwife and IBCLC I understand it, but as this info is aimed at the average mother, ‘m sure most would probably have to google many of the terms used in it and perhaps misinterpret the underlying message.

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