Occupational therapy (OT) treatment focuses on helping people with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. OT can help children with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

Some people may think that occupational therapy is only for adults; children, after all, do not have occupations. But a child’s main job is playing and learning, and occupational therapists can evaluate children’ skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group.

In addition to dealing with someone’s physical well-being, OT practitioners address psychological, social, and environmental factors that can affect functioning in different ways. This approach makes OT a vital part of health care for some children.

Children Who Might Need Occupational Therapy

Children with these medical problems might benefit from OT:

  • birth injuries or birth defects
  • sensory processing disorders
  • traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
  • learning problems
  • autism / pervasive developmental disorders
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • mental health or behavioral problems
  • broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
  • developmental delays
  • spina bifida
  • traumatic amputations
  • severe hand and injuries
  • multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

Occupational therapists might:

  • help children work on fine motor skills so they can grasp and release toys and develop good handwriting skills
  • address hand–eye coordination to improve children’ play and school skills (hitting a target, batting a ball, copying from a blackboard, etc.)
  • help children with severe developmental delays learn basic tasks (such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves)
  • help children with behavioral disorders maintain positive behaviors in all environments (e.g., instead of hitting others or acting out, using positive ways to deal with anger, such as writing about feelings or participating in a physical activity)
  • teach children with physical disabilities the coordination skills needed to feed themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting
  • evaluate a child’s need for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids
  • work with children who have sensory and attention issues to improve focus and social skills

Source: Louis Center