Pediatric Occupational Therapist with a young patient

What Does a Pediatric Occupational Therapist Do?

First of all, welcome. If your child has been referred to occupational therapy you probably have some questions, and we hope this will be a good place to start. We want to begin to explain what a pediatric occupational therapist can offer, who exactly we treat, and more. Let’s get started.

What Is Our Role?

Occupational therapy is often associated with adults and with the workplace—helping patients remain at work or return to work after a medical injury or diagnosis. However, the acts of playing, learning, and socializing ARE the important jobs of children. Pediatric occupational therapists help children perform these “jobs”. These everyday activities like eating, dressing, and going to school can also be instrumental in identifying mental and behavioral disorders. Interventions are applied to help children overcome challenges and reach their goals.

We work with children of all ages—infants to teenagers—in a variety of settings, including schools, homes, and clinics. 

Who Do We Treat?

In most cases, a physician will request that a child receive an occupational therapy evaluation and begin treatment.

Although not a comprehensive list, children with any of the following conditions may be referred for occupational therapy intervention:

  • Autism
  • Birth defects or injuries
  • Broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
  • Burns
  • Chronic illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Developmental delays
  • Down syndrome
  • Learning or cognitive deficiencies
  • Mental health or behavioral problems
  • Post-surgical recovery
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Sensory-based feeding problems
  • Severe hand injuries
  • Spina bifida
  • Traumatic amputations, hand injuries
  • Traumatic injuries to the brain or spinal cord

There are several signs that can indicate if a child would benefit from occupational therapy:

Motor Skills Delays: This includes delays in reaching physical markers, such as rolling over, sitting up, and walking; as well as difficulty with clasping and unclasping objects, or not using both hands together.

Coordination Issues: Struggles with handwriting, using scissors, dressing or catching a ball, can indicate a problem with coordination.

Sensory Processing Disorders: Children who have difficulty with sensory processing may be overly sensitive to stimuli and respond with inappropriate behavior. A speech delay may also be present.

What Does A Treatment Plan Look Like?

Patients typically attend weekly therapy appointments – however, the frequency of sessions will depend on family goals and the progress of the child. Parents are encouraged to be part of these sessions.

Because each patient is unique, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment, Pediatric occupational therapists use a wide range of techniques and equipment in their treatment plans. These plans are designed to help develop motor, language, and cognition skills, as well as self-care and social skills. The equipment and instruction used in your child’s therapy plan might include:

  • Balance beams: to strengthen core and leg muscles.
  • Building blocks and puzzles: for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Obstacle courses: to address multiple goals at once: gross motor skills such as posture control and body coordination, and fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination and grasp strength.
  • Pencil control: to improve handwriting.
  • Instruction on special equipment: such as wheelchairs, bathing equipment, or communication aids.
  • Education for self-care: helping children learn to bathe, dress and feed themselves.

In most cases, we will also ask to have your child perform activities outside of a clinical setting. These activities are done at home. They employ household items to encourage play and exploration which build necessary skills.

All in all, pediatric occupational therapy assists kids with daily activities and performance in school. These, in turn, promote independence and self-esteem, which will prove invaluable to a child’s future, and help a child reach developmental milestones and goals.

Do You Still Have Questions?

In the end, We hope this provides some answers and we are ready to help you through this journey. If you still have questions, we understand. Feel free to contact Connect Pediatric Therapy today. We’ll be happy to talk and help you get a better idea of how pediatric occupational therapy can support your child.




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