Pediatric Anxiety & Occupational Therapy

Can Occupational Therapy Help With Anxiety?

Occupational Therapy can help children and parents identify the triggers of anxiety and then develop solutions or coping strategies.

What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human response to various situations and we all experience it to varying degrees. Anxiety actually has a beneficial value in small doses when it causes you to pause and assess a situation before proceeding, like taking a moment to identify the best path down a ski hill or exercising caution before crossing a road. When the anxiety triggers become more extreme they no longer serve value but become debilitating. High levels of anxiety can make it difficult for a child to participate everyday activities including school, play and friendships.

How can Occupational Therapy help?

OT can help children improve skills that may be at the root of causing anxiety. For example, if a child is having difficulty with printing skills to the point where they are falling well behind their peers they may feel considerable anxiety due to the perceived stigma of not being able to keep up. An OT can determine why printing is difficult for the child (pencil grip, visual-perceptual, working memory etc.), develop strategies for improving hand writing and then indirectly address the anxiety issues.

Similarly visual-perceptual issues may be affecting a child’s ability to participate in simple playground games of catch or soccer (perhaps to the ridicule of their peers). This may lead to a child’s anxiety around participating in any Phys. Ed., recess or lunch time activities. An OT can help improve visual-perceptual skills and/or develop strategies to help the child better manage these issues.

Sensory Processing Issues can be at the root of the problem that then manifests itself as anxiety. Extreme sensitivity to noise and visual stimulation may result in an anxiety response whenever the child is presented with the prospect of being in a situation with those triggers, like school assemblies, birthday parties, recess etc. An OT is able to assess for Sensory Processing issues, determine where the problem lies and then develop a toolkit of strategies that can be implemented at home, school and the community. In some cases, ongoing OT treatment is recommended.

Coping Strategies

An OT will work with the child and parents to find a number of effective calming tools that can be put into practice when anxiety feelings manifest themselves:
• Physical activities
• Breathing techniques
• Relaxation exercises designed for children
• Sensory motor processing
• Rhythm Moving Technique (RMT)
Next Steps
• Call, email or talk to an OT to discuss your situation further and determine whether OT can help
• Schedule an initial assessment to get a thorough understanding of the situation, develop a treatment plan with a set of goals and objectives
• Treatment may consist of additional sessions with an OT or an OT Assistant and follow up activities at home or school

Please contact us find out if we can help.