Unpacking Daily Functioning Skills – Why this superhero power is important

What are our daily functioning skills? As we grow into adults our everyday tasks become background noise. We do them without thinking, and we’re usually on autopilot to just “get it done” so we can focus on the fun things we really want to get to. Before we can catch up with friends, go on an outing or start our day we must perform those daily functional tasks.

But as children, we need to establish the skills, our daily functioning skills, to be able to perform those daily functional tasks with simplicity and ease of transaction. Things like getting dressed, tying shoelaces, showering, having a bath, going to the toilet, cooking, brushing our hair, packing our school bag, and writing.

It’s our role as occupational therapists are to assess your child, analyse their results, and have a clear idea of what we can work on together, and how we can support your child in a range of play-based or functional tasks in their occupational therapy sessions to increase their independence and promote their engagement.

So, when you ask us:

Question 1: Why is it SO tricky for my child to brush their hair, tie their shoelaces or go to the toilet?”

OR Question 2: But how is all this playing helping my child do everyday things outside of therapy? Like writing, dressing, or putting on their shoes?’

The answer is: Because for each functional task (their writing, dressing, and putting on their shoes), there are HEAPS of foundational and underlying skills needed to successfully complete the task.

For every task we perform we need to have already established the skills needed to perform each task.

7 important daily functioning skills your child needs:

1. Getting dressed

To get dressed every day we need the following skills: sensory regulation and processing, touch perception, body awareness, balance, motor planning, bilateral coordination (using both side of her body at the same time), postural control, attention, problem solving, visual motor skills and fine motor skills.

2. Tying shoelaces

Tying shoelaces is an art that once mastered, we never forget. However, to get there we need our visual motor skills, fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, sequencing, planning, attention to details and attention span as well as problem-solving skills.

3. Showering and having a bath

One of life’s necessary and daily functions requires our sensory regulation and processing, touch and temperature perception for hot and cold, body awareness, balance, careful attention not to slip, sequencing and planning.

4. Going to the toilet

Another daily functioning skill we need to be taught when we are young. As much as we take this for granted, going to the toilet requires our sensory regulation and processing, auditory processing (processing sounds), touch perception, interoception (feeling when we need to go), body awareness, motor planning, bilateral coordination (using both side of her body at the same time), postural control, attention skills, problem solving, visual motor skills and fine motor skills.

5. Brushing hair/plaiting hair

Our basic grooming is important, however again, in order for us to be able to brush our hair we need the functional skills to be able to do this. These include sensory regulation and processing, touch perception, body awareness, postural control, bilateral coordination (using both side of the body at the same time), visual motor skills and fine motor skills.

6. Cooking/Meal prep

One of life’s major skills. In order for us to cook (And we’re not talking about reading recipes) we need to have the basic functional skills worked out to be able to make everything else work. Sensory regulation and processing are very important. Along with touch and temperature perception, following instructions, sequencing, planning, safety awareness, visual motor skills, fine motor skills, bilateral control, attention, communication, and social skills.

7. Packing school bag

Wouldn’t it be great if our children packed their school bags and their lunches! Before we can get them to do this however, they need to have the basic functional skills such as attention, planning, forward thinking, sequencing, organisational skills, bilateral coordination, and visual motor skills.

Supporting your child’s daily functioning skills is an important part of our occupational therapy. Our therapists are constantly thinking about developing your child’s underlying skills. These are the skills we mentioned above in order to support their ability to successfully engage in everyday tasks!

We’re now based across three locations Adelaide CBD, Mile End and Parkside.

OTFC Group – We’re Influencing Lives. Creating Possibilities. Making a Difference

OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.


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