Role of Occupational therapy in managing dyslexia

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Editorial Team


What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupation therapy is a therapeutic approach that plays a vital role in helping people overcome the effects of disability caused by illness or accident, to carry out everyday tasks or occupations to their full potential. It focuses on daily activities and tasks that matter the most to the patient and pushes them to be as independent as possible to enhance their health and well-being.

Occupational therapists work with adults and children of all ages with a wide range of conditions; most commonly those who have difficulties due to a mental health illness, or physical or learning disabilities.

Occupational Therapy role in dyslexia

The occupational Therapy approach can be very effective in dealing with dyslexia as it addresses key components of skills such as oculomotor function or visual efficiency, executive functioning, and motor coordination. An occupational therapist, after proper evaluation of the dyslexic student and his/her ailment, will prepare a customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to help them continue with life skills, work, and leisure activities as independently as possible.

This information helps identify the individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and list of priorities regarding the person’s various activities. Final outcome evaluation is done to ensure the goals are met and if changes are required in the intervention. Intervention, in this case, will cater to all of the student’s needs – physical, psychological, social, and environmental.

Such an approach imparts optimism and gives the child a sense of new paths opening up in the future. An Occupational Therapy specialist, however, must be fully aware of the characteristics of dyslexia beforehand. Strategies will work out the best if prepared while considering the special needs of a dyslexic child.

Occupational Therapy interventions for dyslexia

occupational therapy role for dyslexia

4. Handwriting Skills Development

In general cases of dyslexia and other learning disabilities, An occupational therapist will most likely work on improving the handwriting skills of the child. The exercises involved will be focused on helping the child attain a mature pencil grip. Hand strength, movement, and other related motor control functions involved in writing are addressed.

The therapist may introduce activities for stronger and steadier shoulder and arm muscles; a requirement for good control over pencil for writing. The exercises also involve teaching how to maintain a good sitting posture for effective results. An occupational therapist will address the visual perceptional skills of the child to evaluate his/her ability to form letters and shapes. A specialist may collaborate with teachers to develop a special handwriting curriculum for the child.

3. Organisational Skills Developmen

Apart from the general idea of dyslexia being a learning and reading disorder, there are several other areas where its effects can be observed. Lack of proper organization skills is one of them. A plan needs to be worked out by an occupational therapist for building this skill set. The general exercises involved are :

  • Teaching how to think in reverse to find a solution to a task.
  • Breaking a large task into smaller ones. Not only it become more manageable, but it also reduces anxiety.
  • Teaching how to prepare physically and mentally for a task in advance. A visual timetable for the week is perfect for planning ahead. Planning early reduces anxiety and last-moment time pressure and helps in achieving better results in the task.
  • Using visual cues for recalling work to be done. ‘To-Do’ lists are helpful in keeping track.

2. Visual Perception Skills Development

Visual perceptual skill refers to the brain’s ability to extract, process, and organize information of what we see and make sense out of it. It lays the foundation for how a child learns to interact with the environment. It helps in recognizing numbers, letters, shapes, and symbols and is required in performing several classroom tasks, such as reading, copying information, and matching shapes.

An occupational therapist will do an individual assessment of the dyslexic child lacking visual perceptual skills to prepare an effective strategy. The specialist will address the following components of visual perception

  • Visual discrimination improves a child’s ability to classify objects based on color, forms, shapes, and other attributes.
  • Visual memory improves the ability to recall information, such as shapes, patterns, and the sequence of events once it has been removed from sight.
  • Spatial awareness teaches how an object is placed in relation to oneself in space. Dyslexic students with poor visual perceptional skills are often observed making clumsy movements and often bumping into things.
  • Eye-hand coordination is a vital skill required for reading and handwriting. The eyes need to guide the hand in drawing straight and curved lines precisely within a visual boundary. Without proper eye-hand coordination, students struggle to keep track of where were they reading, writing, or copying from the board.

1. Self Regulation 

There are high chances that learning disability, such as dyslexia tends to convert a child into a passive learner. They have to rely on the assistance of others to successfully complete a task. The subject fails to evaluate and monitor his/her own learning. This ultimately affects a child’s ability to understand one’s knowledge and thought process, and monitor a task, error, or failure detection.

This is where the concept of self-regulation becomes important in the life of a child with a learning disorder. An occupational therapist will take a cognitive behavioral approach to address this issue. The goal is to teach how to keep their body feeling “just right” so that they are able to attend and focus during learning tasks.

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