What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a service that helps people of all ages and abilities achieve function and independence in the things that are important to them…in the things that occupy one’s day. Occupational Therapists do this by offering adaptations, modifications, and by addressing underlying factors that impact independence.

Let’s take it a step further; Think about what you do in a single day: getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, making the bed, making and eating breakfast, getting out the door on time and with everything you need for the day, doing your job at work and everything that entails, driving, shopping for groceries, setting the table, balancing your checkbook. This list could go on and on and on!

All these skills are your daily occupations, or things that occupational therapists can help one accomplish so they are as independent and functional as possible. But there’s more to it than just the daily tasks. There’s also the ability to physically accomplish these jobs. There’s the ability to staying focused on the task at hand, prioritize what’s important, and to stay organized. There’s safety and higher-level thinking involved. There’s tolerance to one’s senses and the world around you. There’s balance, vision, coordination, and endurance involved. Essentially, every system in your body needs to be working optimally so that you can be as functional as possible during each task that you accomplish during the day.


What do Occupational Therapists work on with kids?

Occupational therapists can work on many different things in a variety of settings:

In schools:

  • Any need that impacts education or learning
  • Fine motor skills
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Handwriting
  • Assistive technology to improve education or learning
  • Managing containers in the lunchroom
  • Keyboarding or typing as an accommodation to learning
  • Sensory needs that impact education
  • Staying organized
  • Cognitive processing
  • Attention
  • Visual processing
  • Executive functioning
  • Motor abilities
  • Self-regulation
  • Participation in the classroom

In clinics:

  • Play
  • Self-care skills- getting dressed, grooming, bathing, caring for oneself and the tasks associated with self-care
  • Leisure activities
  • Sleep
  • Toileting and potty training
  • Safety in the community
  • Feeding and oral motor skills
  • Sensory processing
  • Self-regulation
  • Emotional regulation
  • Social participation
  • Executive functioning skills- organization, attention, working memory, planning, prioritization, impulse control, and other skills
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Balance and gross motor coordination

Occupational therapy can also work with children in early intervention (birth though 3 years of age) on development of skills. This can occur because of a disability or difficulty in developing certain skills. Still other aspects of care can be related to autism, sensory integration needs, mental health, and specific diagnoses.