occupational therapy

Interconnected Speech, Behavior, Physical and Occupational Therapy Leads to Best Outcomes

At FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers, we understand that when children are lagging behind developmentally, interconnected services are vital to helping them catch up. For instance, children with language delays who clearly need speech therapy many times also benefit from occupational therapy to work on things like improved social interaction or classroom skills. Children with conditions like autism, down syndrome, brain injuries or ADHD struggle with speech, but also need ABA therapy to help curb problem behaviors. Similarly, occupational therapy helps them master self-care (i.e., brushing their teeth, feeding themselves, managing their time, etc.), while physical therapy is effective in helping them accomplish those goals by strengthening key muscle groups. 

The benefit of interconnected services was recently further underscored in a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Study authors found that when a child’s fine motor skills improved, so too did their vocabulary development – to a pretty significant degree. Researchers concluded this lends credence to the “nimble hands, nimble minds” theory of child development.

The “nimble hands, nimble minds” theory is that when we focus on improving a child’s motor skills (i.e., using hands to manipulate a puzzle, grasp a pencil, cut with scissors, etc.), we will also boost cognitive learning. One reason is that kids tend to “get it” more when the cognitive skill sets we’re trying to teach are rooted in some kind of hands-on physical activity. So for example, when our FOCUS therapists are teaching a child to understand and communicate about spacial concepts (over, under, in, out, bigger, smaller, etc.), we will usually do so through some form of physical play, like building blocks or coloring or putting a puzzle together or climbing into a ball pit. Because we have rooted the cognitive lesson in a physical action, the child is more likely to retain it (and have fun doing it!).

The interconnected nature of fine motor skills and vocabulary also makes sense when you think of it this way: A child who struggles with fine motor skill activities like building blocks or grasping crayons or climbing or self-feeding will have less opportunity to explore the world around them. This in turn may stunt the vocabulary development they would otherwise be acquiring.

Our therapists are constantly weaving in ways to cross-link goals with those being targeted by therapists in other disciplines. So for instance, your child’s occupational therapist may be officially targeting handwriting skills, but also recognize the process they are using helps with improved speech and language or more effective behavior-calming strategies. A behavior therapist may be targeting independence in a social setting, but that also means working on the communication skills central to the speech therapist’s plan of care.

When each of these therapies are offered under the same roof and from a team of therapists that often collaborates to determine the best solution for each individual, it’s not only convenient for parents, it typically results in the best outcomes for the kids.

Our Fort Myers speech therapists recommend parents seek early intervention if they have any concerns about any aspect of their child’s development. The first three years of life are so critical to cognitive, social and physical growth, and mapping out a plan of interconnected services and implementing them early helps boost the success rate.

FOCUS offers pediatric occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Fine motor skills enhance lexical processing of embodied vocabulary: A test of the nimble-hands, nimble-minds hypothesis, Sept. 14, 2016, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

More Blog Entries:

Study: Behavior Therapy Can Help Address Obesity Among Children With Autism, Feb. 12, 2018, Fort Myers Occupational Therapy Blog

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