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Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Pediatric cccupational therapy is focused at facilitating a child’s development, functional ability, and independence within the family, community, and school. A common question for most parents is, “What is important about occupational therapy? My child isn’t old enough to work.”

An occupation is a basic human need that is a necessary and important determinant of health. Health can be strongly influenced by a person’s engagement in meaningful occupations. Occupations serve as a means of organizing time, space, and materials. It is through occupation that patterns, habits, and roles evolve through the organization of occupation. Occupations change over the life span, representing occupational development.

Play is the primary occupation for children that is used as a therapeutic medium and reflection of development. In each occupational therapy session, play is used for the development of motor, social, and cognitive skills. Occupational therapy treatments may utilize sensory strategies, which expose a child to various types of sensory input through play to promote an appropriate adaptation and response to their environment. Each activity provided will help the child understand cause and effect relationships, explore new environments, learn through sensor-based experiences, and recognize rules that guide social interactions.

The occupational therapist (OT) will observe, evaluate, and treat the child often in the context of play and education. The OT will determine the child’s level of development in performance areas and performance factors. The OT analyzes the daily occupations in which the child is expected to participate (e.g. school, sports), determines factors that influence performance (e.g. strength, coordination, hand dexterity), and uses some of these occupations (e.g. finishing a writing activity, throwing a ball, joining a group activity) to facilitate the child’s performance; in short, the occupation will be the intervention and the outcome.

The goals for the OT will be to facilitate development, assist in the mastery of life tasks, and promote the ability to cope with life expectations. The dynamic process by which the child will develop will be non-linear, complex, and adaptive in relation to the child’s innate characteristics, the sensory-rich environment, and the interactive learning of occupation over time. Our occupational therapist will engage the child with creative and fun goal-directed gross and fine motor activities and play to improve functional participation in daily activities.

Common diagnoses treated by the OT  include:

Delays or deviations in development that have not yet been assessed or are not fully addressed. Oral motor, feeding, or eating dysfunction. School difficulties (writing, PE, manipulating tools) Self-care difficulties/delays Sensory processing problems affecting function in the home, school, or community Assessing for motor and sensory co-morbidities commonly associated with ADHD, ADD, or speech delays Executive Skills (planning, organization, working memory…)

  • Independent Living Skills in Adolescents
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Torticollis
  • Handwriting/Fine Motor Difficulties


  • Case-Smith, J., Allen, A. S., & Pratt, P. N. (2001). Occupational therapy for children. St. Louis: Mosby.
  • Gray, J. M. (1998). Putting occupation into practice: Occupation as ends, occupation as means. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52, 354-364. doi:10.5014/ajot.52.5.354.
  • Kielhofner, G. (1997). Conceptual foundations of occupational therapy (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
  • Wilcock, A. (1998). Reflections on doing, being, becoming. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 248-256.