Early learning skills
As children grow they acquire all sorts of practical skills. They learn self-help skills such as feeding and dressing themselves, using the potty and the toilet. Through play, they develop early learning skills - sorting objects, solving puzzles, drawing pictures etc.
Children and young people with hemiplegia may take longer to acquire these skills, and this is where the occupational therapist (often shortened to OT) comes in. The OT looks at the child's everyday life and devises ways of minimising the effects of their hemiplegia, both at home and at school.
This might mean changing their environment in some way. A special chair, cup or spoon can mean greater independence at mealtimes. Velcro fastenings might make dressing easier. And other bits of specialised equipment such as scissors and pens can also increase your child's independence and self-confidence (this is particularly important for left-handers).
The OT will advise you on toys and activities that will aid your child's development, both physically and cognitively. They might help hand eye co-ordination, for example, or encourage two-handed activities. Particular activities and toys might help your child develop the matching and sorting skills that will be important at school.
The OT is ideally placed to recognise early signs of difficulties that might later affect your child's school career.
For example, some children and young people with hemiplegia have problems with visual perception, i.e. how the brain organises the information coming in through the eyes. This might show as difficulty in, say, putting a puzzle together. Other children have visual field defects, which means they cannot see what happens on one or both edges of their field of vision. Children's drawings are often a good way of discovering whether they have visual field defects.
Although most children have their eyesight tested (visual acuity), most do not have their visual perception assessed. This is one of the roles of the paediatric OT, and of course the earlier problems like these are identified, the better.
The occupational therapist can come along to pre-school or nursery to advise staff how they can best help your child develop their potential.