What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

Taryn Erickson M.S., OTR/L
Taryn Erickson M.S., OTR/L

Occupational Therapist
LKS & Associates

Find a more in-depth look at occupational therapy written by Taryn Erickson, M.S., OTR/L here.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy focuses on improving independence, skill development, and overall functioning across daily activities or ‘occupations.’ Children have many meaningful ‘occupations’ that they participate in daily including playing, learning, drawing, reading, writing, self-care, eating, and socializing with friends and family (just to name a few).

The goal of pediatric OT is to ensure that every child has the necessary foundations and skills needed to participate and succeed in their daily activities and in their roles as students, players, friends, and most importantly, as confident kids!

Through an individualized and holistic treatment approach and motivating, targeted play activities, OT improves skill development and independence across various activities and areas of development. 

OT can help children develop and improve:

  • Gross motor skills, balance, and coordination
  • Postural control and ability to sit/ stand upright
  • Fine motor and handwriting skills
  • Basic and sustained attention to task 
  • Executive functioning skills ( e.g. sequencing, planning, task initiation, etc.) 
  • Sensory processing skills, self-regulation, and related behaviors
  • Visual motor and visual perceptual/ spatial skills
  • Self-feeding and oral motor skills
  • Self-care and adaptive skills
  • Functional play-skills and social participation
  • Social-emotional and coping skills
  • Motor planning and sequencing 

How do I know if my child needs OT? 

Does your child experience difficulty in any of the following areas?

  •  Your child has difficulty participating in fine motor and table-top activities (child avoids or has difficulty with coloring/drawing/handwriting/scissor use)
  • Difficulty participating in developmentally-appropriate play activities. For example, your child prefers to observe peers on the playground rather than participate in the activities themselves 
  • Difficulties with behaviors, self-regulation, and coping skills (tantrums often, is not easy to console or comfort.)
  • Difficulty with transitions and flexibility (your child is unable to deal with unexpected changes in routine)
  • Difficulty with self-care activities and age-appropriate independence (dressing, toilet training/ hygiene, feeding & utensil use)
  • Difficulty with visual attention and spatial/ environmental awareness (does not look where they are going, does not look at the task in front of them, displays poor or unstained eye contact with others)
  • Difficulty with sensory processing and modulation (difficulty staying organized in a loud or multi-sensory environment, demonstrates increased arousal/ excitement in different environments/ behaviors do not match environment)
  • Difficulty with tactile tolerance/ tactile defensiveness (avoids sticky/wet textures, does not tolerate clothing with seams, tags, and or of different fabrics/ textures, has behavioral outbursts during bathing or tooth brushing)
  • Difficulty with age-appropriate food repertoire and/ or feeding skills (limited diet/ picky eating, only will eat foods of a certain texture, gags often, difficulty feeding self, etc.)
  • Difficulty learning, recognizing, and memory for symbols, forms, letters, and numbers
  • Difficulty with handwriting, letter formation, spacing, and sizing (messy drawing, illegible handwriting, etc.) 
  • Your child shows delayed hand dominance/ often switches the hand they use to draw/ write with?  (*While all children develop at their own pace, it is typical for most children in preschool to begin to choose a preferred hand (3-4 yrs.), and children entering Kindergarten (age 5-6 yrs.) have established a definite hand preference for using fine motor tools such as pencil and scissors).
  • Difficulty with motor planning, motor coordination, and praxis (difficulty with balance and coordination, appears clumsy, seems rigid, difficulty imitating motor movements, etc.)
  • Difficulty with executive functioning skills (difficulty planning, sequencing or organizing activities that involve multiple steps, etc.)

*If your child exhibits one or more of the above listed ‘red flags,’ it is recommended that you consult with a licensed occupational therapist.

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