Speech Therapy

Occupational Therapy For Kids That Don’t Want OT

If you are observant, some children would frequently say “no” to what their parents (or other adults in their surroundings) ask of them. Sentences like “No, I don’t want to do it” or “No, I find it too hard to do” are a staple in their conversations. In science, this condition is called Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), and one way to help address it is through occupational therapy for kids

What Is Pathological Demand Avoidance

Professionals who specialize in pediatric occupational therapy in NJ often have kids with PDA as their patients. 

PDA is a profile of autism, and it’s a condition where a person has a high level of anxiety that causes them to avoid situations that they perceive as threatening, overwhelming, or frightening. 

Children express PDA through various behaviors — from shouting, crying, hiding or running away to remaining silent. In worse cases, PDA can cause them to have panic attacks, agoraphobia, social phobia, and other mental health issues. In the long run, kids who suffer from PDA are often unable to function properly at home or school. 

What Is Occupational Therapy For Children And How It Can Help

Pediatric Occupational Therapy (POT) is a field that focuses on helping children develop their physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills through a carefully planned set of exercises, activities, and techniques. 

POT is a kind of professional intervention that addresses an array of conditions, including PDA. But apart from that, it can also fix problems surrounding sensory receptions, failing to quickly learn new concepts, developmental disorders, and birth-related injuries obtained after birth or while growing up. 

An occupational therapist for kids offers lots of benefits:

They help children handle everyday routines (e.g., brushing their teeth, going to the bathroom, wearing their clothes)

They resolve sensory perception and process-related problems

Therapists guide kids on how to communicate better and engage with other people around them

They facilitate exercises that can stabilize children with motor skill problems

They help kids relearn previously known activities

Ways to Address PDA In Kids

Professionals offering pediatric occupational therapy follow a certain framework when resolving PDA in children. This is called PANDA, which stands for 

  • Pick battles, 
  • Anxiety management, 
  • Negotiation and collaboration, 
  • Disguise and manage demands, and 
  • Adaptation. 

Occupational therapists find the most suitable “challenge” and help their patients accomplish it through activities that follow this framework. 

For instance, if a child needs sensory support, the therapist can recommend activities that will help the child exercise their senses (e.g., carrying a bag, jumping on a trampoline). If a youngster has trouble communicating their thoughts, the use of a puppet (or toy or a pet) has proven to be beneficial. Such an aide can be used to demonstrate a particular task or be used by an adult to help the child accomplish a task. 

Addressing PDA in kids also requires flexibility. Occupational therapists generally advise parents to offer a choice when asking a child to do something. For example, instead of simply asking, “Shall we brush our teeth?” You could instead say, “Would you like to brush our teeth before or after breakfast?” This way, you can engage with your kid while exploring their preferences and interests. 

When a kid completes a task, occupational therapists also recommend giving praise and rewards — and explaining to the child the benefits of accomplishing that task so that they can be motivated to do it again.

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