People are often surprised that I work with babies. They wonder whether it’s too early, do all babies just develop at their own pace, or how does one work with a baby.
Fortunately we now know a lot about early intervention and milestones tell us about a child’s development. Early detection and early intervention can minimize or in some cases, eliminate issues that arise. I know this both professionally and personally as a mum to a 15-month old who has thrived due to having early intervention support from his very early days.
As they say, babies mostly sleep, eat, poop and I add, move. 🙂 If any of these baby ‘occupations’ are a challenge, occupational therapy may help.
Generally for infants, this is what I look at in an assessment:
- Sensory processing skills – alertness, activity level, response to touch and movement, internal body and spatial awareness for motor skills, visual and auditory processing, motor planning and problem-solving skills
- Gross motor skills – head control, shoulder and pelvic stability, core strength, respiratory muscles activation, arm and leg movements, and transitional movements (how the baby moves in and out of positions)
- Fine motor skills – reach, grasp, release, object manipulation, two-handed play, eye-hand coordination, how the child moves and plays with their hands at the same time
- Social-emotional skills – how the baby calms, self-soothes, copes with multi-sensory input and either everyday or novel experiences, relates to and interacts with familiar or new people
- Neuromuscular development – muscle tone, strength and coordination, body alignment and movement patterns, are there any asymmetries, positioning and posture in seats and equipment at home and whether modifications are required
- Oral sensory and motor skills particularly related to feeding and daily hygiene skills
Based on the assessment findings, we do different exercises to address areas of need. I show parents various carrying techniques, positioning and therapeutic handling strategies to develop sensory and motor skills, as well as ideas of how to address sensory, emotional, motor and play skills for the baby’s age. Parents are given a home program of exercises to complete with their baby and we address skills during therapy sessions.
Prior to the assessment, I ask parents to send me information regarding the child’s birth and medical history, services to date, general concerns, any medical reports, and a completed questionnaire. I also love to see photos of the baby in various positions to help me get to know the baby and plan for the session accordingly.
If parents are concerned about their babies’ development, I suggest do not wait and see, early intervention is critical, and better to address areas of need now versus waiting till the child is older and struggling in school.