There are a range of self-help tasks that we all do each day of our lives in order for us to participate in life activities. The learning of these skills enable us to develop the ability to plan and sequence actions within task performance. Self-help skills are often referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s).

Children with physical or developmental difficulties, delays, or disabilities may struggle with the skills needed to be able to carry out self-help or self-care activities; for example, they may not have developed the appropriate grip, coordination, and bilateral integration to use both a knife and fork to eat a meal.

Below are some of the self-help skills we focus on:

  • Eat with a knife, fork, and spoon
  • Drink from a cup
  • Go to the toilet
  • Get dressed and undressed
  • Managing fastenings on clothes
  • Brush and wash our hair
  • Clean our teeth
  • Bathe or shower
  • Following routines

Some of these everyday tasks can be challenging for children, adolescents, or young adults to complete independently and may require additional support to manage them or require teaching in order to be successful in these areas.

The foundation skills needed to develop independence with self-help activities include:

  • Sensory processing
  • Planning and sequencing
  • Cooperation
  • Hand and finger strength
  • Hand control
  • Object manipulation
  • Coordination

An indication that your child is experiencing difficulty with their self-care skills may include:

  • Struggles to use cutlery
  • Refuses to eat certain foods
  • Unable to feed themselves independently
  • Messy eater or spills their drink
  • Not showing an interest in using the toilet
  • Is not alerting an adult when they have wet or soiled their nappy
  • Requires more help than other children the same age to get dressed or undressed
  • Finds it difficult to tolerate wearing certain clothes
  • Unable to manage fastenings or take a long time when doing this task
  • Poor grip
  • Poor hand or finger dexterity
  • Unable to grip the tooth brush or coordinate movements to brush their teeth
  • Unable to tolerate self-care activities
  • Difficulty following routines, for example: unable to dress themselves in a timely manner without becoming distracted

Seirrah OT can help babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents to develop the required foundation skills to be able to learn and develop their self-help skills as a step towards independence. The Occupational Therapist will first carry out an assessment to identify what skills they need to develop, any skills they are missing, or areas of the task they are having difficulty with. Part of the assessment may include observations, the administering of standardised assessment tools, taking a history profile from parents, or completing a skills based curriculum assessment.

Following an assessment, the Occupational Therapist will work with you and your child to establish treatment goals, and create an individualised programme which may will include: specific exercises, targeted activities to be completed on a regular basis, repetitive practise of the skill being learnt, and recommendation of aids to assist. The Occupational Therapist will ensure various approaches to intervention are explored to enable them to work with the individual and their individual needs. A skills based curriculum will be used to ensure progress is being monitored, activity is being recorded, and to help identify areas that need addressing.

Some of the approaches or strategies that we may include within therapy include:

  • Exercises
  • Games
  • Role play
  • Reading books
  • Desensitisation
  • Sensory diet
  • Use of task analysis to break the activity down into smaller teachable steps
  • Use of aids to support
  • Chaining
  • Visual schedule
  • Reward system
  • Routines
  • Consistency
  • Timers
  • Following set programmes

If you feel that your child is experiencing difficulties with their self-help skills, please contact our team for more information on how Seirrah OT can support, either by email: or call: 02920 023314.

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The MAT Centre,
Walnut Tree Farm Park,
St.Brides, NP10 8SQ

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