How is Occupational Therapy Used in a Therapeutic Preschool Program?

If a kiddo requires additional support before moving onto kindergarten, a therapeutic preschool program might be an excellent option. While a typical preschool program is designed with a typically developing child in mind, a therapeutic preschool program is designed to provide additional support with ABA therapy, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and more. When you see this list, you might wonder why a young child would require occupational therapy (OT). You may think that’s just for adults, however, OT services can be helpful for individuals across the span of their life.

Why do children need occupational therapy?
Pediatric occupational therapy targets pivotal skills that children need to have in order to complete daily occupations (or activities, in the case of young children). Pediatric OT can look different for every child, depending on their unique abilities and needs. For example, one child may require additional support from an occupational therapist to work on sensory integration, while another child may require extensive intervention for both their fine and gross motor skills. These developmental delays may be targeted throughout the course of a therapeutic preschool program, once a child has received an initial assessment.

Who can benefit from pediatric OT?
Some children who might benefit from occupational therapy in a therapeutic preschool program may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Cerebral Palsy (CP), or other developmental delays.

Pediatric occupational therapy for sensory issues
Children with autism or related disorders often experience challenges with sensory processing skills. This might present in the form of hypersensitivity (heightened) or hyposensitivity (decreased) to sensory information. Every child experiences sensory issues a bit differently, as some children may have issues with all senses, while other may experience issues with one or just a few senses. To work on sensory issues, a pediatric OT may recommend a sensory diet for a child, which exposes them to sensory information across different areas. They may also use sensory toys or a sensory gym, have children play with Play Doh (to work on different textures), use weighted vests (to offer additional pressure for a calming effect), or many other strategies. These techniques can all be incorporated in a therapeutic preschool program.

Pediatric occupational therapy for motor skills
A pediatric occupational therapist can help children with delayed motor skills through many different types of activities and exercises. Fine motor skills are used in small daily tasks, such as reaching for or grasping objects. A therapeutic preschool program might work on these skills by incorporating activities, such as finger painting or playing with Lego blocks. Gross motor skills are needed to complete bigger tasks, such as walking or sitting up in a chair. A pediatric OT in a therapeutic preschool program might work on these skills with children through fun balancing or hopping exercises.

Other skills targeted in pediatric OT
A pediatric occupational therapist may also work with children in a therapeutic preschool program to improve the functioning of other daily activities, such as handwriting (which requires fine motor skills), executive function skills, or self-care skills (basic skills, such as handwashing, in the case of a young child).

Do you think your child would benefit from pediatric occupational therapy in a therapeutic preschool program? Click the purple button below or call 773-620-7800 to contact CST Academy to learn more about our Chicago therapeutic preschool program. We offer OT services for children in our program, which are guided by a fully certified pediatric occupational therapist.