An occupational therapist explains the purpose and use of orthotics

By Darrell Parker, Occupational Therapist

An orthotic is any device used for an orthopedic purpose. They can be used to stabilize, immobilize, prevent deformity, protect against injury, and/or assist with function. These devices may be constructed of a wide variety of materials including plastic and other synthetics, metal, canvas, leather, and rubber.

Many children with disabilities are required or recommended to wear orthotics (splints and braces). Orthotics are used for a host of reasons including protecting joints, improving posture,facilitating correct positioning of joints, and improving function with basic activities of daily living and mobility.

Very often, wearing orthotics is not comfortable for the child, but for the children who need them it is important that orthotics be worn consistently for them to be effective. It is better to say "no" to the tears of the moment than allow deformities and dysfunction to overtake the child when they could have been prevented by the consistent use of orthotics.

Warning! If you ever have redness arise from the use of orthotics that does not go away with in 30 minutes of the removal of the orthosis (brace or splint), then an adjustment is needed for a proper fit. It is best to contact the person who made the orthosis, if possible, for the adjustment. Usually, this will be an occupational therapist or orthotist.

Darrell Parker is an occupational therapist with Texas Children's Hospital. This overview of orthotics is excerpted with permission from A Parent and Teacher's Guide to the Special Needs Child.