The role of the Paediatric Occupational Therapist


A little about OT Roisin

I qualified as an Occupational Therapist almost 25 years ago and I have worked in various fields from brain injury to general medicine. I have developed an interest in working with children with neurodivergence, sensory processing difficulties and coordination disorders.  As a mother of neurodivergent children, I can relate to and better understand difficulties, worries, and concerns that parents may have. My aim is to help identify difficulties, to provide parents with the tools to help their children reach their full potential and to provide some advice and support.

Toddler girl in child occupational therapy session doing playful exercises with her therapist.

The role of the Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Following assessment, activities to promote motor skills, coordination, and functional abilities are provided. Interventions may include activities to enhance muscle strength, joint stability, and sensory processing. In addition, your child may benefit from continued Occupational Therapy using a sensory integrative approach with a suitable service provider.

One key aspect of my role as a paediatric occupational therapist is to identify and address the unique needs of each child I work with. This may involve a comprehensive assessment of sensory processing skills (auditory, visual, tactile, vestibular / movement, and proprioception /body awareness), fine and gross motor skills, coordination, and visual motor skills. An assessment may help lead to a diagnosis of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD / Dyspraxia) or help to identify sensory processing, motor coordination, learning or developmental difficulties.

Understanding Hypermobility in Children

Over the years I have observed a high incidence of hypermobility in the children I have assessed.

Hypermobility refers to an increased range of motion in the joints, which can be observed in various parts of the body. For some children, hypermobility might be part of their genetic makeup, presenting itself in joints that extend beyond the typical range. This can influence motor skills, coordination, and even impact sensory processing. It's also important to recognize that hypermobility can coexist with neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD, autism, or developmental coordination disorder.

Lob bei der  Ergotherapie
Colorful clay in kids hands, preschooler has motor skills

Hypermobility in children can impact gross motor skills in children by affecting joint stability and coordination. Excessive joint flexibility means maintaining proper alignment during movements can be challenging. Children with hypermobility may also have reduced proprioception (sense of body position), they may appear clumsier, tire easily or avoid certain activities.

Children with hypermobility are commonly treated at McGowan Physio. We aim to provide a holistic approach to address the physical, sensory, and emotional aspects of hypermobility and to provide comprehensive support that acknowledges the link between hypermobility and neurodiversity. This enables us to create a more holistic and personalised therapeutic approach. It's not just about addressing joint flexibility; it's about fostering an environment where each child can thrive, embracing their unique strengths and challenges.

Cute little boy sitting on pouf and holding blue ball during ADHD therapy

Occupational Therapy for children with hypermobility

Following a comprehensive assessment, Occupational Therapy activities may include:

  • Strengthening activities: Targeting specific muscle groups to enhance joint stability.
  • Joint protection strategies: Teaching techniques to avoid overextending joints during activities.
  • Proprioceptive activities: This includes activities that provide feedback to improve body awareness and control.
  • Use of assistive devices: Handwriting tools can be beneficial for children with hypermobility by providing support and promoting better control during writing tasks. Some helpful tools include:
    • Adapted pencils or grips: Ergonomic grips or modified pencils can assist in maintaining a proper grasp, reducing strain on hypermobile joints.
    • Weighted pens or pencils: These tools can provide increased proprioceptive input, helping children with hypermobility have better control of their movements during writing.
    • Sloped writing surface: Angled writing surfaces can encourage a more optimal wrist position, reducing stress on hypermobile joints and enhancing overall control.
    • Textured surfaces /paper: Using paper with texture or incorporating textured surfaces can provide additional sensory feedback.
    • Adapted seating: This might involve providing chairs with a suitable backrest, or different seating options to help maintain a stable posture during writing activities.