How Occupational Therapy Helps Children with Special Needs

A 2019 Ministry of Education report shows that Singapore had approximately 32,000 students with special needs. 80% of these students had mild learning needs, some of whom were diagnosed with dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and mild Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Singapore appreciates the challenges parents and teachers face when it comes to teaching and caring for children with special needs. This is why it has developed different programs to make learning easier and the care of these children easier for caregivers. 

For example, in 2013, the government established the Developmental Support Programme (DSP) to assist preschoolers with developmental delays or different learning needs. So far, DSP is available in 300 preschools and has catered to more than 2000 children.

DSP has various programs that support occupation therapy for children. Preschoolers under this program have become more competent. They also find everyday activities therapeutic. 

Additionally, Singapore has been flexible when it comes to the curriculum used in preschool. Children respond to different styles of teaching, including those with special needs. The Ministry of Education has approved six major curriculums taught using different styles.

This allows parents to pick the best preschool for their child based on his personality trait and learning capability. 

Helps children cope in new learning environments.

Children with special needs find it hard to learn in the same way as other children. Others even have a harder time learning and playing in the same environment. Occupation therapy for children helps them learn uniquely. 

Occupation therapists help to assess the challenges the children have with either the school system or learning programs. They then find ways in which teachers can still communicate with the children such that they can still learn, but in a unique way.

Identifies disorders that make learning difficult.

While some children with special needs are easy to identify, others are not. Some children with sensory processing disorders, mild autism, and ADHD take a little longer to get a definite diagnosis because their behaviours are often considered normal for children. 

Sadly, unless occupation therapy for children is sought early, these children experience unique challenges that are often seen as carelessness, inattentiveness, too much play, and overall bad behaviour by others. The assumption is they intentionally take too long to complete a task or get easily distracted. 

Some of these children spend years being reprimanded for their playfulness and disinterest in their academic work. Occupational therapy helps to distinguish normal children behaviour from disorders. 

Helps to control erratic reactions

Occupational therapy also helps control erratic behavioural patterns, such as hyperactivity, emotional outbursts, impulsivity and poor attention. Sometimes, teachers and parents struggle to identify triggers for reactions in children with special needs. 

Occupational therapy for children studies their needs, the environment they live in, and the triggers to their reactions. Some children prefer solitude, so when they are forced to play with others, they act up. 

Some, like those in the autism spectrum, have no control of their emotional outbursts. They may be having a good time, and they are in tears the next minute. Occupational therapy strives to help these children identify their emotions and ways to handle sudden changes in their emotions. 

Occupational therapy for children is critical for those with special needs because it helps them have a semblance of normal life. Therapists help them overcome developmental issues that keep them from performing daily activities, such as writing, playing, and reading. 

AuthorYvonne Hernandez

Yvonne Hernandez is a 35-year-old CEO who enjoys recycling, podcasting and tennis. She is kind and creative, but can also be very lazy and a bit impatient.