What is Occupational Therapy?

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Let’s get back to the basics… As an Occupational Therapist I rarely find people who know what I do without having to explain and ironically I still forget that a lot of people don’t know what Occupational Therapy is. So below I have tried to best summarize what Occupational Therapists do…

Occupational therapists focus on helping people with a physical, sensory or cognitive disability be as independent as possible. Occupational Therapists can work in all areas of rehabilitation with people of all ages. Some people may think that occupational therapy is only for adults, kids after all, do not have occupations. But a child’s main job is playing, learning and socializing, and Occupational Therapists can evaluate a child’s skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities e.g. feeding, dressing, etc. and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group. If a child has difficulties in any area, they then develop these skills through activities, whilst also enhancing their self-esteem and sense of achievement to be able to perform age appropriately at home, in the classroom and in the community.

10 ways an Occupational Therapist might be able to assist your child:

  1. Fine motor skills – hand strength, pincer grasp, handwriting, etc.
  2. Gross motor skills – balance, ball skills, jumping, hopping, etc.
  3. Visual motor skills – reading, eye hand coordination (ball skills or copying from a board)
  4. Visual perception skills – mazes, puzzles, reading skills.
  5. Sensory motor skills – assisting children who are overly sensitive or seek sensations including tastes, scents, sound, visual input, movement, pressure/touch and emotions.
  6. Self-help skills – feeding, bathing, dressing, brushing teeth, toileting, organization skills.
  7. Improve a child’s attention, concentration and social skills.
  8. Increase independence – cooking, organization skills, planning and mobility.
  9. Provide appropriate equipment e.g. wheelchairs, splints, communication aids, bathing and dressing devices, safety rails, etc.
  10. Environment modifications e.g. ramps, sensory integration rooms, classroom modifications, specialized desks and chairs, visual aids, etc.

Some people ask which conditions Occupational Therapists can assist with however I like to think that Occupational Therapists focus on functions rather than a diagnosis. So as long as we know what the underlying issue is and/or the goal is, we can work on achieving this regardless of the diagnosis and if we don’t know what to do we will know who to contact! 

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