In this day and age where, from a very young age, children are bombarded with all sorts of tuition programmes, enrichment classes, extra-curricular activities and an ever-expanding number of books, it comes as no surprise that now, Paediatric Occupational Therapy has been added to the list.
According to an article in The New York Times, several years ago, Paediatric Occupational Therapists (OTs) were hired mainly to help rehabilitate children with disabilities like autism or spinal cord injuries, so that they can be independent and productive individuals in the areas of self care, play and school. But now, their roles have evolved to include promoting fitness and enhancing children’s performance at school. And so today, Singaporean parents are hiring OTs to teach their children how to hold a crayon even before they attend preschool. In such conditions, once is forced to rethink the increasingly cultivated nature of early childhood experience. Gone are the days when children developed motor skills through climbing trees, as we usher in a time of overly-structured development programmes to do the same.
The “kiasuness” begins
Several preschools and kindergartens have very tough admission processes, and parents have become paranoid and competitive as a result. Many parents hire paediatric OTs to develop their toddler’s abilities early on, for fear that they may be rejected from preschool. Parents we approached, who have taken their children to OTs, say that “it was really worth it”. But really, what was it worth? We’re beginning to institutionalize children at very young ages, providing them expert guidance, but are we depriving them of simple joys and a natural development in the process?
This sort of intervention for children who haven’t even started school might just be taking things too far. If children aren’t exhibiting severe signs of under-development, parents might be doing them a big favour by allowing them to develop at their own pace Exposing our children to varied environments and stimulating experiences to facilitate their natural development process may be a valuable alternative to subjecting them to therapists and development programmes. Your child could just benefit more in the long run from playing freely in the mud than from attending crayon-holding sessions at age 1!
What do you think? Would you hire an OT just to make sure that your child gets accepted into the most elite preschool in town?