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 kids 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; kids, after all, do not have occupations. But a child's main job is playing and learning, and occupational therapists can evaluate kids' skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), in addition to dealing with an 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 kids.
According to the AOTA, kids with these medical problems might benefit from OT:
Occupational therapists might:
Although both physical and occupational therapy help improve kids' quality of life, there are differences. Physical therapy (PT) deals with pain, strength, joint range of motion, endurance, and gross motor functioning, whereas OT deals more with fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory-processing deficits.
There are two professional levels of occupational practice — occupational therapist (OT) and occupational therapist assistant (OTA).
Since 2007, an OT must complete a master's degree program (previously, only a bachelor's degree was required). An OTA is only required to complete an associate's degree program and can carry out treatment plans developed by the occupational therapist but can't complete evaluations.
All occupational therapy practitioners must complete supervised fieldwork programs and pass a national certification examination. A license to practice is mandatory in most states, as are continuing education classes to maintain that licensure.
Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including:
If you think your child might benefit from occupational therapy, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist. The school nurse or guidance counselor also might be able to recommend someone based on your child's academic or social performance.
You also can check your local yellow pages, search online, or contact your state's occupational therapy association or a nearby hospital or rehabilitation center for referrals.
However you find an occupational therapist for your child, make sure that your health insurance company covers the program you select.
Reviewed by: Wendy Harron, BS, OTR/L
Date reviewed: March 2014
|American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) The AOTA website provides national and regional news and information about occupational therapy and related issues.|
|National Organization on Disability This website provides information, programs, publications, and more for people with disabilities and their families.|
|OT Kids, Inc. This website offers information on occupational therapy, therapy activities, and the different ways OT can benefit children.|
|Word! Occupational Therapist An occupational therapist can help kids who have trouble doing everyday things, like writing, eating, or getting dressed.|
|Word! Occupational Therapy Do you know what your occupation is?|
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|Physical Therapy Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability. Learn more about PT.|
|Physical Therapy Physical therapy helps people get back to full strength and movement - and manage pain - in key parts of the body after an illness or injury.|
|Wheelchairs Wheelchairs are a way for some people to be independent, despite illnesses or injuries. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Who's Who in the Hospital There are so many different medical specialties that it's easy to feel confused. Here's a guide to some of the experts who care for you in the hospital.|
|Who's Who in the Hospital Parents are likely to be stressed when a child is hospitalized, and questions about the people providing medical care and what roles they play can add to the confusion. Our guide can help.|
|Caring for a Seriously Ill Child Taking care of a chronically ill child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks a parent can face. But support groups, social workers, and family friends often can help.|
|Going to an Occupational Therapist Occupational therapy helps children overcome obstacles to be as independent as possible. Learn more about OT.|
|Managing Home Health Care When kids need intensive health care after they're discharged from the hospital, it's important that family and caregivers learn about the devices, equipment, and support they'll need.|
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