When Should I Seek Out a Referral For An Occupational Therapist For My Preschooler?

Does your child struggle with daily tasks at home or at school? It can be difficult to know if your child is developing skills in an age appropriate manner or if their struggles are causing them to fall behind in some areas. When a child has difficulty with everyday tasks it can affect their overall mood and behavior. An occupational therapist can look at your child’s strengths and areas of opportunity and create a plan specific to your child’s needs.

As a parent/caregiver what should I look for?

Fine Motor Skills: Have you observed any of the following in regards to the child’s fine motor skills?

  • Difficulty copying simple shapes (square, circle, cross)
  • Uses a fisted grasp of a pencil
  • By age 4, the child does not use a dominant hand
  • Unable to use both hands together (beading beads onto a string, opening jars)
  • Unable to independently place fingers into scissor loops
  • Unable to snip with scissors
  • Loses skills they once had
  • Ignores one side of their body/ uses one hand exclusively

Self-care: Have you observed difficulty with your child’s toileting, bathing, or dressing skills?

  • Unable/ has difficulty feeding self with utensils, often chooses to use fingers instead
  • Unable to dress self independently (not including zippers and buttons)
  • Cannot toilet independently

Play Skills: Have you observed non-typical behavior during play?

  • Not engaging in pretend or imitative play, not engaging in play with others
  • Not appearing to understand the concept of sharing or taking turns
  • Repetitive play with one object or a group of objects
  • Doesn’t engage in purposeful play

Sensory processing: Does your child seek out or avoid sensory experiences?

  • Extremely clumsy
  • Difficulty being toilet trained
  • Overly sensitive to stimulation – overreacts to noise, touch, smells, etc.
  • Prefers certain textures for clothing, or will only wear certain items
  • Child has difficulty learning new motor tasks
  • Child is in constant motion
  • Often seeking out deep pressure such as bear hugs, jumping up and down, hitting, crashing and bumping into things
  • Continuously touching everything around him/her
  • Child is overly aggressive or child is passive or withdrawn
  • Difficulty with change and/or transitioning from one activity or location to another
  • Child has sudden mood changes or temper tantrums that are unexpected
  • Child is unable to calm himself/herself
  • Child appears weak, slumps when sitting or standing; prefers sedentary activities, is always laying head on table or continuously rests head on hand when seated for meal times
  • Child puts non-edible items in their mouth (e.g. chews on sleeves or neck of shirt, chews on hair)

All children are unique and develop skills at different times. If you feel your preschooler is having difficulty with their day to day activities or struggling with gaining skills, contact us to speak with an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can provide assessments, advice, and create effective programs to provide support for your child.