Occupational therapy (occupational therapy in English) is an allied health profession focused on the well-being and active participation of individuals in their daily activities. The occupational therapist’s aim is to promote patients’ autonomy, improve their quality of life and facilitate their integration into society.
The WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapist) defines occupational therapy as: “a patient-centered health profession that focuses on promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of daily living. Occupational therapists achieve this by working with individuals and communities to improve their ability to engage in the occupations they want, need or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or environment to better support their engagement in these activities.” (WFOT, 2012)
For our little ones, this means support to develop, reinforce or maintain the skills needed for everyday activities.
The occupational therapist can, for example, help a child improve coordination and motor skills to facilitate tasks such as dressing, eating, writing or playing. He or she can also intervene to support a child’s sensory development, help him or her better manage emotions, develop self-confidence and foster autonomy in a given context.
Most often, occupational therapists work with children presenting with a developmental disorder affecting their daily lives to a greater or lesser extent. This may be a DYS disorder (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, etc. ), a ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity), a dysexecutive syndrome (disturbed development of executive functions), a motor or psychomotor disability, an autism spectrum disorder, etc.
✏ Note: beyond children, anyone encountering difficulties in carrying out their everyday activities, their occupations, whether due to a neurodevelopmental disorder, an accident, or age, can call on an occupational therapist.
Every child is unique, and the occupational therapist knows this well. During the occupational therapy assessment, he evaluates the child’s strengths and weaknesses, identifies obstacles and develops a tailor-made plan to meet his specific needs. In this adventure, he embarks with him parents, teachers and all the professionals who accompany the child (speech therapist, psychologist, etc.).
Source: ANFE – Association Nationale Française des Ergothérapeutes
If your child is showing some of the following signs, it may be time to consult a professional:
✏ Note: attention, no self-diagnosis! Prior consultation with a doctor is essential. The signs described above may have different causes, requiring the intervention of one or more healthcare professionals – and not necessarily or exclusively an occupational therapist.
Before making an appointment for an occupational therapy consultation, it will be necessary to seek the advice of a doctor. It is he or she who will direct you to the right remediation professional(s) (occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychomotricist, neurologist, neuropsychologist, etc.), whether to carry out a diagnosis and/or set up remediation sessions.
Talk to your child about it as a positive experience. Explain that he’ll be meeting someone he’ll be teaming up with, who will help him discover new ways of playing and learning. Every step is an opportunity to celebrate small victories!
The occupational therapist will almost certainly ask you to carry out activities with your child to complement and reinforce the work done in session, but also to establish routines and a regular framework of stimulation for your child. Here are a few examples, which in no way replace the recommendations of a healthcare professional 😉🩺
Occupational therapy helps your child develop key cognitive skills such as coordination, concentration and organization. Holding a pencil, taking notes, managing time or learning to use the IT tools available (computer, software, tablet)… The occupational therapist is there to adapt the work environment and equip the child to turn small school hassles into big victories.
The relationship is at the heart of this adventure. The occupational therapist seeks to weave a web of trust with your child and with you. At the first meeting, pay attention to the way he communicates: your child needs to feel at ease with him, confident. For your part, you need to feel reassured and supported in helping your little protégé to become more independent.
Recommendations are also a good way of finding an occupational therapist. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor, other healthcare professionals or friends for advice. Word-of-mouth can often direct you to professionals who are recognized and appreciated for their expertise and human approach.
Don’t hesitate to ask your practitioner questions about his or her experience, areas of specialization, working methods and successes with other children.
Occupational therapy sessions are only reimbursed by Social Security if they are carried out within a hospital or certain specialized establishments, such as medical-psychological centers (CMP). Sessions carried out by an occupational therapist in private practice are generally not reimbursed by the French health insurance system.
There are, however, options for obtaining financial support. Aids such as the AEEH (Allocation d’Éducation de l’Enfant Handicapé) may be available and awarded by the Maisons Départementales des Personnes Handicapées (MDPH), the Caisses Primaires d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM), and the Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA).
If in doubt, ask your doctor, and contact your Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) and your complementary mutual insurance company to find out what assistance you may be eligible for.
To become an occupational therapist, specific training is required. The path begins with obtaining the Diplôme d’Etat (DE) d’ergothérapeute, essential for practicing this profession. Training lasts three years (bachelor’s degree level) and takes place at an occupational therapy training institute (IFE).
Studies are structured to provide future occupational therapists with a solid foundation of theoretical and practical knowledge, essential for meeting the varied needs of patients.
The curriculum is designed to be rich and comprehensive, preparing future professionals to meet the diverse and varied challenges they will encounter in their daily practice, working in the field with children, adults or the elderly, and collaborating with other health and welfare professionals.
Occupational therapy is a profession dedicated to supporting the development and well-being of children with special needs. A qualified and caring occupational therapist can make a significant difference to your child’s life, helping them overcome obstacles, gain independence and thrive in their daily activities. 🌟