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Does Your Kid Need Occupational Therapy?

The other day, after witnessing my five-year-old pitch a wobbly, my mother gently said, “Have you had her evaluated? She may need help.”

I assured her that what my daughter needed was a nap, but I also checked in with the school about it at our next parent-teacher conference. They were with me: my girl is a normal, healthy five-year-old.

As a kid who doesn’t need professional help to do the work of being a child, she’s inhabiting an increasingly narrow spectrum. The number of children receiving occupational therapy has mushroomed over the past decade, and continues to rise.

Babble reports on this today, saying:

Data from the Department of Education shows that between 1991 and 2001, the number of five-year-olds receiving special services under IDEA increased 31 percent; the number of four-year-olds increased 76 percent; three-year-olds by 94 percent.

There’s no question that OT is an effective intervention for children with legitimate developmental delays. But the line between special needs child and slightly slow learner has been moving in recent years, and some experts think it’s time to push it back a bit.

A generation ago, kids were expected to come into kindergarten knowing how to listen to the teacher and share toys. Now, the pressure is on to having them doing basic math and writing in preschool.

As school days get longer and academic expectations more rigorous, more and more kids are falling behind the curve of what’s expected. The problem for some of these children may be the system, not their individual development.

Photo: John R. Hawk

Article Posted 5 years Ago
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