How can occupational therapy help a child with learning disabilities?
Communication and social interaction are often challenging for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other learning disabilities. Through Occupational Therapy (OT), these challenges can be addressed.
What is a learning disability?
It is important to understand that there are many types of learning disabilities. Learning disabilities can affect people of all academic achievement levels. Neither the ability to learn or the amount of intelligence they possess is a factor in learning disabilities. In most cases, however, there will be a noticeable gap between expectations and actual achievement. A child with a learning disability will likely suffer from difficulties academically, socially, and emotionally in the classroom, but at first glance, these students appear to be completely normal. As a result, learning disabilities are often referred to as “hidden disabilities”.
How would I know if my child has a learning disability?
The difficulty of recognizing when a seemingly “normal” child may be suffering from an underlying issue can be challenging for parents. To be the best and loudest advocate for your child, it is important to pay attention to a few clues that can help you take the next steps.
- Difficulty organizing his/her belongings both at school and at home.
- Difficulty remembering things, especially things that are talked about, reviewed, or done daily.
- Struggling to produce work in a timely manner and prioritizing.
- Difficulty translating and transferring what they see into their own work or on their own paper.
- Difficulty with reading and writing, as well as difficulty with comprehension (who, what, when, where, why of what they just read)
- Difficulty recalling what they have learned in all subjects.
This list is just a snapshot of what your child may be having difficulty with, but it’s definitely a good place to start if you’re unsure of where to start.
How can Occupational Therapy help a child with learning disabilities?
While learning disabilities cannot be cured, there are supportive resources and interventions available in and outside of the classroom. An example of a service that is available is occupational therapy. Physical and mental health are promoted through occupational therapy, as well as the prevention of future difficulties, through individualized services.
Occupational Therapy aims to help children gain independence and develop new skills to enable participation in daily activities. This is incredibly important because Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states that all children with disabilities have the right to an education in the least restrictive environment. This means that a child with a learning disability should be in the regular classroom as much as possible based on what is best for them.
During therapy, underlying gross motor and fine motor difficulties and/or visual perceptual deficits will be identified and addressed. It is important to identify the root of the problem, whether that be one or more than one difficulty. This identification provides a roadmap for individualized service.
Another important goal of therapy is to establish effective routines and break down information into smaller, more manageable, steps that your child can hear, understand, follow, and accomplish. The establishment of routines and the breakdown of information is a key to your child’s management of their learning disability. As they grow and mature, the goal is for them to eventually be able to communicate their need for this type of accommodation both in school and in the workplace.
The goal of Occupational Therapy for children with learning disabilities is to teach them lifelong skills to manage and communicate their specific and unique needs. These strategies will help them overcome their difficulties and help them learn to realize and demonstrate their full potential.
Medically Reviewed by: Leah Gross OTR/L
Types of learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/
Inclusion of children with disabilities – aota. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/Practice/Children/Inclusion-of-Children-With-Disabilities-20150128.PDF