occupational therapy Fort Myers

How Fort Myers Occupational Therapy Helps Kids

Occupational therapy is a broad discipline. Some parents are confused when they’re referred to “OT” by their child’s pediatrician. After all, the first thing that comes to mind when we think “occupation” is “job.” And kids don’t have jobs… Right?

In fact, children are tasked with a dizzying number of important jobs, spanning far beyond just learning to talk and walk (which in themselves can be pretty daunting milestones, especially for children with certain delays, disorders, and different abilities).

Occupational therapists – particularly those who work in pediatrics (with kids) – are responsible to:

  • Identify the developmental/functional deficits with which a child struggles.
  • Develop an evidence-based plan of care that specifically outlines the goals for each individual child on a personalized timeline.
  • Use each OT session to creatively to help kids “play their way” to achieving those goals.

A pediatric OT session may look a lot like goofing off (another reason the field – and its necessity – are met with confusion). But the play-based approach is deliberate. You know the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun”? Play is what keeps kids engaged and interested, motivated and willing to push themselves just a bit harder every time. The most effective occupational therapy sessions are those that don’t feel like work at all for the child. This is rooted in mountains of evidence showing that it works.

bilateral coordination

Bilateral Coordination, Explained by Fort Myers Pediatric Occupational Therapists

Bilateral coordination, sometimes referred to as bilateral integration, is a critical developmental skill with which some kids struggle. It involves using both sides of the body together, and can impact both fine and gross motor skills Children who have difficulty with bilateral coordination may be diagnosed solely with developmental coordination disorder, but it’s also closely associated with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental delays and disorders.

As Fort Myers pediatric occupational therapists, we recognize there’s been an increasing awareness about what bilateral coordination is as well as what deficits might look like. A reported uptick in bilateral coordination deficits could also be partially attributed to COVID closures, as lots of kids lacked regular exposure to certain activities (PE class, playground time, etc.) that can help build these skills.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Poor Bilateral Coordination? 

Some indicators of poor bilateral coordination include:

  • Trouble cutting with scissors.
  • Struggles with handwriting.
  • Difficulty tying shoes.
  • Having a hard time dressing themselves (pulling on socks, pants, and shoes).
  • Trouble with fasteners, like buttons, zips, or snaps.
  • Clumsy movements.
  • Trouble catching a ball.
  • Awkward clapping.
  • Troubling using a bicycle pedal.

Parents should note there are actually three different types of bilateral coordination: Symmetrical, reciprocal and leading/supporting.

Fort Myers occupational therapy

Zip It! Occupational Therapy Tips on Learning to Button & Zip

Learning to get dressed is an essential function of independence. But none of us is born learning to tie, button, or zip. For kids with developmental delays and disabilities, these skills can take longer. Our FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapy team can help.

Developmental Progression of Buttoning and Zipping

Every child develops at a different pace, so there are no hard-and-fast rules for when a child should be able to master buttoning and zipping. That said, some general milestone guidelines are:

1.5-2 years: 

  • Can unzip zippers with large tabs.
  • Can pull a large zipper tab up if an adult holds the bottom of it tight.

2 years: 

  • Can unbutton large buttons (1 inch or more).

2.5-3 years:

  • Can button 3 large buttons, though they may not do so in the right order.

2.5-3.5 years:

  • Can unzip and unsnap clothing while wearing it.

3-4.5 years:

  • Is able to close the front snap on clothing.
  • Can button and unbutton while wearing front-opening clothing.

4.5-5 years:

  • Opens all the fasteners on any piece of clothing.

5-6 years:

  • Can hook and zip up on their own.

5 to 6 years: 

  • Can hook and zip up on their own while wearing the clothing.