How Can a Therapeutic Preschool Program Help with Self-Care Skills

There are many pivotal developmental skills that a therapeutic preschool can teach, including self-care skills. If a child is experiencing developmental delays, a therapeutic preschool program that incorporates occupational therapy and other therapeutic modalities can be extremely beneficial.

Self-care skills become more complex as children mature, but it is also important for young children to acquire basic self-care skills at an early age. Some examples for young children include brushing teeth, washing hands, or independently eating. When completing any self-care tasks, there are multiple developmental skills involved (e.g. sequencing and motor planning), so children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delays may struggle with acquiring self-care skills at an early age.

A pediatrician can help parents determine whether there are developmental concerns for a child. If so, they may refer the parents and child to an occupational therapist or therapeutic preschool program that incorporates occupational therapy modalities. A pediatric occupational therapist works with child to develop skills needed to complete daily activities (or ‘occupations’) in the home, school, or community setting. Some therapeutic preschool programs will have an occupational therapist directly involved in the classroom setting to provide additional support for children who are experiencing issues with self-care, sensory processing, motor skills, motor planning, sequencing, or other related skills.

If a child needs additional support with self-care, there are some great ways to practice throughout the day in a therapeutic preschool program.

Hand washing: Most programs include snack time in the daily routines, so teachers can practice hand washing with the kiddos before they eat their snack. A helpful way to do this is by having a visual support for hand washing posted above the sink. For some children with autism, it can be more effective to provide a step-by-step visual, rather than verbal instructions. The goal of this would be for the child to generalize this skill to other settings, so that they are able to independently identify when it is appropriate to wash their hands.

Drinking from a glass: During snack time, an occupational therapist might work with a child to drink from a glass independently (transition from a sippy cup) with or without a straw.

Eating independently: Occupational therapists or speech-language pathologists might incorporate feeding therapy techniques into snack time in a therapeutic preschool program.

Putting on/tying shoes: If a child has developmental delays, they may struggle with the motor skills and sequencing needed to put on or tie their own shoes. A therapeutic preschool program can incorporate shoe tying lessons into the daily routine to meet the needs of kiddos in the class who are still developing this skill.

There are many other self-care skills that children develop from an early age, and a therapeutic preschool program can be a great solution for children who have delays in meeting these milestones.

Contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 if you think your child could benefit from a therapeutic preschool program in Chicago!