How Occupational Therapy developmental screenings can put your child on the pathway to success

“What age should my child start walking?”
“Are my child’s tantrums normal?”
“Should they be playing with others by now?”
“If they’re finding it hard to write their name, should I be worried?”

Occupational Therapists often receive questions like these from educators, parents and caregivers wondering if their child’s development is on track. Developmental screening gives us an opportunity to identify and understand any concerns that a parent may have about how their child is presenting at home, and in the classroom.

The early years of a child’s life are critical, as it is an intensive period of brain development, particularly in the areas of sensory, motor, cognitive and emotional development. We know from research that the developing brain is best able to absorb and learn new skills during this booming time in a child’s life. A child’s development is influenced by many factors: their genetics, relationships with people in their life, exposure to new experiences and their environment that result in physical, cognitive and emotional changes. Observing and monitoring how your child is developing is an important tool to ensure they can meet their ‘developmental milestones’.

It is important to remember that all children are different and vary in the development of their skills. For example, some children may begin walking at 10 months whereas others haven’t mastered this skill until 15 months, or one child may start drawing early on at 2.5 years whereas another may not be interested until 4 years. There is however a natural predictable progression referred to as ‘developmental milestones’ which acts as a useful guideline to understand how a child is developing. Recognising and understanding your child’s developmental milestones is important so that you can respond to your child in ways that are most helpful and seek support from a health professional if you have concerns. This is where an Occupational Therapy developmental screening can be beneficial by identifying your child’s strengths and any areas that may require more support to overcome challenges early.

During an Occupational Therapy developmental screening, the OT will look at your child’s gross motor and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills refer to the actions that require use of the larger muscles of the body, like hopping, skipping and crawling. Fine motor skills refer to the actions of the hand for coordinated accurate movements needed for tasks like handwriting and using cutlery. The OT will also gather information about your child’s emotional responses, sensory differences and participation in everyday routines such as getting dressed and toileting. If the OT has identified any areas during the screening where your child could benefit from additional support, they can provide a referral to the right health professional. This ensures your child is able to access intervention early and reduce any potential long-term difficulties which may impact their social relationships, independence and confidence in learning activities.

If you have any concerns about your child’s development, seeing your local GP is a good place to start.

We also offer free health and developmental screenings to kids aged 3-5 living in rural and remote areas of NSW. Head over to our Healthy Kids Bus Stop page to find out where we’ll be parking up next. If we’re in your local area, you can register now!