Occupational therapy for children can be an effective early intervention. Learn more about how OT can help kids who need it.

Fine motor skills are crucial for play time, school, and daily activities. For instance, the ability to grasp toys and write is part of healthy childhood development. Some kids are slower to acquire these skills. For kids with fine motor difficulties or sensory processing issues, early intervention in the form of occupational therapy can help them develop the fine and gross motor skills and strength they need in daily life . A Pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT) can provide necessary support to help kids embark on a path to better functioning and self-confidence.


What is Occupational Therapy for Children?

Occupational therapy for children involves activities to help kids develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and even positive behaviors. Pediatric OTs typically evaluate kids to determine how well they are functioning compared to other kids their age, and what their therapeutic needs are. For example, if a child has trouble with handwriting, the OT will develop an occupational therapy program of exercises and techniques to help. Or a child could have sensory processing disorders that make it difficult to self-regulate emotions. In this case, an OT may design a sensory diet comprised of sensory input activities that help kids feel more balanced. OTs also partner with physical therapy providers to help gross motor functioning. Visit the American Occupational Therapy Association website for more resources and information on OT for children and youth.


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Who Benefits from Occupational Therapy? 

Kids with certain medical and behavioral conditions may be more likely to need occupational therapy services. For example, a child with illness, disability, autism spectrum disorder(ASD), orthopedic injuries, hand injuries, traumatic injuries, chronic illnesses, developmental delays, or mental health concerns. Not everyone who benefits from OT has an underlying condition, however. Occupational therapy is appropriate for any adult or child who has difficulty completing the “occupational tasks” of daily living necessary to function. For kids, this can be anything from self-care skills, like getting dressed, to modulating sensory integration.


Where can I Find an Occupational Therapist for My Child?

OTs are masters level practitioners who take a holistic approach. They consider a person’s functioning from physical, psychological, social, and environmental perspectives. Their services and treatment plans are as varied as the settings you find them in. Occupational therapists for children can be found privately in the community, at schools, clinics, health care centers, and children’s hospitals. Services may vary depending on the setting. For instance, a school based OT might have a limited scope of practice aimed at helping kids to access their education.


Altogether, occupational therapy can contribute positively to the physical and mental health of a child. If you think your child could benefit from OT, one way to get the ball rolling is to have a conversation with your pediatrician. They can listen to your concerns and refer you to a specialist or a good care provider. You also might want to consult with the school guidance counselor about services offered at school through an IEP