Occupational Therapy (OT) is a health profession concerned with how people function in their roles and how they perform activities. OTs are trained in assisting people to develop skills to gain independence.
OTs in preschools focus on the occupations that the child engages in at preschool. OTs support children to learn to become independently involved in preschool roles, activities and routines. These include the roles of “student”, “player” and “self carer”.
Skills the OT focuses on are: Fine motor/bilateral skills, handwriting/pre-writing skills, learning to learn e.g. learning to sit at a desk, waiting, attention and arousal, gross motor skills, activities of daily living – those related to a student, play and social occupations.
To meet the needs of children across the preschool one of the roles of the OT is to design, implement and facilitate the gym group program which all children participate in once per fortnight.
The aim of gym group is to provide activities to develop and improve skills for all children across the preschool. Gym group is a fun and engaging activity which the children look forward to. Gym group is made up of both fine and gross motor activities focusing on the following skill areas:
The trunk is the midsection of the body encompassing both the stomach and the back. A strong and steady trunk is required to provide the base of support needed for delicate fine motor tasks.
The muscles surrounding the shoulder work together to hold the shoulder stable. When performing fine motor tasks such as writing, you use slow, controlled shoulder movements to assist in pencil control and fluency of writing.
Bilateral coordination is the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time. This is very important for skills such as stabilising a paper with one hand while writing with the other.
Crossing the midline
Crossing the midline, means using part of one side of the body in the space of the other part. If you draw an imaginary line down the middle of your body, that’s called the midline. Every time you cross over that line, you are helping connect the hemispheres in your brain. Examples of crossing the midline include sitting cross-legged on the floor or drawing a horizontal line from one side of the paper to the other without switching the pencil to the other hand.
Motor planning refers to the child’s ability to organise, plan and then carry out new or unfamiliar tasks. It is the ability by which we figure out how we use our hands and body in skilled tasks like playing with toys, using a pencil, building a structure, using a fork etc.
Eye hand coordination
Eye-hand co-ordination is the ability to precisely use the hands and fingers in skilled activity.
The pincer grasp is one in which small items are held between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index finger. This is crucial for writing, dressing and playing.
Muscle strength of the hand and fingers increases as children grow and participate in every day activities. Activities such as climbing, playing with toys or scribbling with crayons all help to develop and strengthen the muscles of the hands and fingers.
Heavy work activities (i.e., proprioceptive input) are used for children with sensory processing difficulties to help increase attention, decrease defensiveness, and modulate arousal. Proprioceptive input is the performance of tasks that involves heavy resistance and input to the muscles and joints, and is essential in helping our bodies assimilate and process both movement (vestibular) and touch (tactile) information.
Written by: Lauren Mills, Occupational Therapist, Learning Links Preschool.