Gloria J. Frolek Clark, Theresa L. Schlabach; Systematic Review of Occupational Therapy Interventions to Improve Cognitive Development in Children Ages Birth–5 Years. Am J Occup Ther 2013;67(4):425-430. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2013.006163.
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This systematic review examined the research evidence for interventions used by occupational therapists to improve cognitive development in children from birth to age 5. Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed by three teams of two people. From the selected articles, which described Level I and IV studies, two general categories emerged: (1) developmental interventions and (2) joint attention interventions. Developmental interventions occurred in neonatal intensive care units, home, child care centers, and preschools. Synthesis of the articles indicates that developmental interventions result in gains in early cognitive development (e.g., infant and preschool age) with inconclusive evidence for gains through school age. Educating parents of preterm infants to be more sensitive to their child’s needs and more responsive in interactions increased cognitive outcomes and joint attention. Interventions using joint attention enhanced generalization to novel situations and increased play, language, and social interactions in preschoolers with autism. Further studies that describe intervention strategies used to enhance cognitive functioning to promote preliteracy skills such as joint attention, imitation, memory, problem solving, and decision making and are conducted by occupational therapists are needed.
Occupational therapists should conduct research with young children in their natural context to identify the impact of cognitive and executive functioning on daily life skills and learning.
Research should identify effective cognitive interventions that have long-term effects on children with various disabilities (e.g., prematurity, attention deficit disorder, autism).
Research should identify effective intervention protocols for specific populations and outcomes.
Research should be conducted on occupational therapy interventions to develop young children’s cognitive functioning needed for early literacy skills such as alphabetic principle, formation of letters, visual searching for matching letters or numbers, and motor planning.
Service delivery should always include partnerships with family and caregivers.
An evidence-based developmental curriculum should be used to enhance cognitive development in young children.
Cognitive development and executive functioning should be addressed within the daily life skills of young children and their families.
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