Occupational Therapy Explained.

Would your child benefit?

Occupational Therapy involves helping children with their occupations – i.e. (their activities). Children sometimes need to learn specific strategies so they can participate in activities with others. Your child might benefit from occupational therapy intervention if they experience difficulty with the following:

Self Care

Reduced independence, sensory sensitivity or difficulties in daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, grooming, mealtimes and fussy eating.

Sensory Processing

Oversensitivity to sensory input such as noises, messy play, being touched. High activity levels such as, fidgeting, poor concentration and constantly on the go. Poor sleep patterns. Under-reactivity to sensation e.g. not noticing when name is called, high pain threshold and missing instructions.


Reduced interest in pretend play, preference for repetitive solitary play or slower to develop play skills than peers. Difficulties playing cooperatively, poor frustration and social play skills.

Social/ Emotional

Difficulties relating to peers, understanding and managing feelings.

Attention & Regulating emotions

Increased levels of activity or arousal, easily distracted, difficulty knowing what to focus on, difficulty regulating behaviour and managing emotional flexibility e.g. meltdowns, outburst

Fine Motor

Poor drawing and writing skills, inconsistent use of their dominant hand, poor strength and control in the hands, poor co-ordination when using both hands together and reduced efficiency and fluency in movements.

Gross Motor

Difficulties of delays with ball skills, hand eye coordination, running and balance. Avoiding or not appear as smooth in climbing activities, participating in sport etc. Difficulty maintaining good posture and sitting positions for tasks.

Handwriting & Written Expression

Difficulties with handwriting legibility and organising ideas on paper.

Executive Functioning skills

Difficulty following a three-step task, initiating a task, sticking at a challenging task to achieve goal, organizing materials, time management and difficulties waiting for their turn.

An occupational therapist works to build up a child’s skills or modifies the task / environment to support a child to succeed.

SKILL BUILDING:  An occupational therapist can assist your child building skills & functional abilities by using task analysis to break down skills into their smaller parts. Task analysis is important so that difficult skills do not overwhelm children. Occupational therapists apply task analysis to many skills – catching a ball, tying shoelaces, handwriting and getting ready for school for instance.

SUPPORTING SENSORY PROCESSING: Some children are overwhelmed by their sensory environment. Children may have difficulty processing sensory information. They may over react or under react. For example strongly react to hair cutting or brushing, be irritated with certain clothing or become overexcited with lots of rough play. Occupational therapists use sensory processing strategies to help reduce anxiety and behavioural difficulties increasing positive interactions.

ENVIRONMENTAL OR TASK MODIFICATIONS: Some tasks require modifying or adapting to meet the “just right challenge”. Some environments need to be modified to meet the child’s needs. An occupational therapist can provide advice about how to make these modifications.

SUPPORTING EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING: High-level cognitive functions called executive skills allow us to manage our emotions, monitor our thoughts in order to work efficiently. These skills include planning, organization, time management, working memory, metacognition, response inhibition, sustained attention, task initiation, flexibility, goal directed persistence and emotional control. Occupational therapists use skill building, environmental and task modifications to support executive functioning skills. If these skills are supported and developed you will see increased independence in specific tasks.

All occupational therapy interventions focus on teaching the necessary skill, modifying the task, adapting the environment and educating the client/family in order to increase participation and performance.