Occupational Therapist (OT) led sporting groups use sport as a delivery tool in supporting the development of a range of skills. OT led sports-based groups provide the opportunity for children to strengthen their gross motor skills, develop their social connections, learn new sports, foster a sense of connection, and build confidence.
Unlike community sports, OT led groups can use sports as a tool to deliver meaningful and purposeful occupational therapy specific interventions that foster the development of a child’s skills. OTs can adapt and modify activities to suit the needs of the individuals and group to provide the ‘just right challenge’. OT led sport groups can also provide the opportunity for children with disabilities to participate in sport, in a safe, positive and meaningful way.
Gross motor skills are the most obviously targeted skill in a sports group. Children can develop their hand eye coordination, balance, motor planning and muscle strength; which all lead to improved performance across a range of sports and daily activities, including self-care and leisure. OT led sporting groups focus on developing basic skills that are transferable across a variety of sporting activities, such as passing and throwing, following a rhythm, agility, and endurance. For some children, developing these basic skills can lead to the transition to community-based sporting clubs.
However, sporting groups don’t just support gross motor development, but also with the children’s social skills, by supporting the development of communication skills, teamwork, and expected winning and losing behaviours. Within a team, children are encouraged to make new friends, work together, encourage others, and work towards a team goal. With the support of OT’s, sporting groups are a great place for children to develop the social skills they require at school, in the community, and in later life.
OT led sport groups also require children to use their executive functioning skills. When participating in sports or group activities children are required to listen, follow instructions, maintain attention, practice sequences, reflect on their performance, and persist. Through sporting groups children develop their ability to understand and retain rules, use impulse control to wait for their turn, reflect on why something worked or did not work, and try again. Furthermore, being a part of a group means that children are required to compromise and negotiate, as well as try different strategies, thus developing their flexible thinking skills.
Sporting groups also provide an opportunity for a range of sensory experiences that can be calming or alerting. Tactile (touch), proprioceptive (body awareness) and vestibular (balance) sensory inputs can be found through various sports, and provide opportunities to gain these experiences in a fun and structured way.
Research shows that exercise is extremely beneficial for mental health, as when a person exercises the brain releases ‘feel good chemicals’ like serotonin and endorphins that improve mood. In addition, being a part of a group and learning new skills supports the development of children’s resilience and self-esteem, which will support their mental wellbeing throughout all aspects of their life. Within an OT led sports group, activities can be graded to ensure success, allowing for children to gain that sense of achievement when they succeed. In addition, being a part of a team can foster a sense of belonging and build leadership skills, that are transferable across all aspects of a child’s life.
OT led sporting groups provide supported opportunities for development across a range of areas, extending beyond the physical. OT led sports groups specifically provide a child the opportunity to transfer skills they have developed within their individual sessions into a new environment.
If you are interested in supporting your child to engage in sport, please speak to their occupational therapist to seek advice about the appropriate sports for them. Follow our social media pages and check our website for upcoming sporting groups. You can also contact us at email@example.com or call us on 9913 3823.