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Mornings are tough for Joe. He has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects the brain’s control over the muscles in his body. That means Joe has difficulty with balance. Getting out of bed, brushing his teeth, and getting dressed are hard work. 
But Joe wants to do things for himself. And he hates it when other people have to help. Fortunately, Joe is receiving occupational therapy.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Everyone has an occupation or job. A child’s occupation is to grow, learn, do schoolwork, and play. Occupational therapy (or OT) helps kids who have a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability carry out everyday activities like brushing their teeth or putting on shoes and socks. Some occupational therapists help kids create alternate ways to play popular games they might miss out on because of their illness or injury. Or they can help develop learning strategies to remain focused in class and get homework done. Occupational therapy helps children with disabilities be as independent as possible.

Who Needs It?

All sorts of kids see an occupational therapist. Most have difficulty performing everyday activities like dressing, tying shoes, feeding themselves, paying attention, writing, drawing, or coloring in the lines.
Some children may need to use a wheelchair. An occupational therapist can help students in wheelchairs come up with a plan to go through the lunch line, get stuff out of their school locker, and make it to class on time. Occupational therapists also may help children with autism learn how to interact with others.

How Long Will Treatment Last?

Because occupational therapy is unique to each person and every child learns at his or her own speed, treatment may last a short time or a long time. Some children find their needs change as they get older or change schools. They return to the occupational therapist to figure out new ways of coping with problems or to master a new skill.
Children can help speed up treatment by following the instructions of their occupational therapist. It is important to work hard and practice on your own. Some activities or exercises may look weird but they all have a purpose. With time and lots of practice, you will see all that hard work pay off.
Excerpt © 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Reprinted with permission. Full article available here.
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