Sarah Anderson-Daniels, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy Specialist

KellyAnn Roush, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy Specialist

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) treatment focuses on helping people of all ages with physical, cognitive, and/or sensory disability/difficulties to be as independent as possible in all important areas of their lives. OT at Special Kids focuses on helping families and children find a way to accomplish and fulfill the various needs/areas of issue(s) to help increase and improve the functional ability of a child's cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills. Many people do not associate OT with children as it is often associated with adults and "jobs"; but, children have many jobs in their daily lives. The main jobs are PLAYING and LEARNING; occupational therapists are the skilled individuals able to evaluate a child's abilities, overall skills with life and school performance, and playing in a child's daily activities. These observations and testing assessments are used to "compare" a child's demonstrated skill sets with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group at the time and to create specific, individualized, goals for treatment intervention.

What does Occupational Therapy "look at"?

Common areas of focus/skills that Occupational Therapists may assess and/or work on in an evaluation/treatment could include:

  • Fine motor skills: focusing on a child's ability to manipulate items and toys that they can grasp and release; develop and increase skills needed with handwriting, clothing fasteners, bottle and container lids, etc.
  • Visual Motor/Visual Perceptual Skills:  improve and increase skills needed for activities and items in play, community, social, and school settings such as copying from a blackboard/paper/computer screen, manipulating/texting/typing, writing in print/cursive, completing mazes, dot-to-dot, word/picture searches, recognizing visual input correctly (i.e. the letter “A” for example is always the letter A no matter the size, color, shape, or position it may be), scanning/locating items or people in a crowded room, drawer, area, etc.
  • Hand–Eye Coordination Skills: improve and increase skills needed for activities/items in play, community, social, and school settings such as bat to ball, bounce/catch with others/self, hitting a target.
  • Life Skills: needed for children with mild, moderate, or severe developmental delays to learn basic self-care tasks such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, washing hands, making simple snacks, feeding themselves, and chore completion.
  • Behavioral Control Skills: needed for children struggling with behavioral disorders/difficulties to utilize learned calming/coping strategies and maintain self control to demonstrate "positive" behaviors in all environments/settings; also working with children who may have sensory and/or attention difficulties - we work to increase and improve overall focus and body/spatial awareness of self and others for safety and social skills.
  • Motor Skills: needed for the overall coordination needed for children to feed themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting.
  • An occupational therapist may also evaluate a child's need for specialized equipment, such as splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, writing grips and modified paper, and/or tools for written work.

What is the difference between Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy?

While both physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) work and focus on providing a child/family assistance in improving overall quality of life and functional ability for each of "our kids",  there is a vast difference between these two areas of skilled treatment. PT focuses on getting the body strong enough to move in a functional pattern to walk, jump, ride a bike, climb stairs, and transfer in/out of wheelchairs or with the use of adaptive equipment. OT focuses on individualized strategies/modifications that can be made for a child to complete tasks throughout their daily routines (dressing, feeding, toileting, writing, working, playing, etc.) and in their daily settings (school, home, social/community). OT deals more with the following areas of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, fine motor skills, and sensory-processing deficits/skills. Simply put, OT and PT both focus to bring a child to their highest level of independence and ability and both therapies also focus on pain relief/management, strength, joint range of motion, endurance, and motor function, but do so in different approaches.

What will happen during my child's Occupational Therapy evaluation?

  • The evaluating therapist will meet you in the waiting room. There will be several items of paperwork that the caregiver/parent will be asked to complete during the evaluation time.
  • These documents may include the following: Medical History, ADL/self-care checklists, Sensory Profile checklist, and/or additional information relative to your child's needs/areas of difficulty. You are welcome to observe your child's OT evaluation, though many parents opt not to do so as they feel their child may be more distracted with a parent/caregiver present in the room. If this is the case, you are welcome to wait in the waiting room or our parent/caregiver coffee lounge.
  • During the evaluation, the therapist will determine if the use of a standardized assessment is appropriate and what specific assessment that may be. The assessments used will be reviewed and explained within the provided write-up of your child's evaluation report. Evaluations may take anywhere from 30-90 minutes; they are suited to each patient being assessed and are individually designed to best meet the needs and abilities of the child.
  • The evaluating therapist will check-in with parent/caregiver for further questions/details needed. This may occur before, during, and/or after the evaluation takes place. At the end of each evaluation, the therapist will sit with the parent/caregiver and provide a brief review of focus areas, testing completed, and observations made. The evaluating therapist will also provide areas of difficulty that may have been noted during the evaluation process. Parent/caregiver's are wanted and welcome to provide input and comments regarding areas of struggle/difficulty seen at home, school, and other settings.

What will happen during my child's Occupational Therapy session?

Occupational therapy sessions are tailored to meet the needs of your child. The majority of OT sessions are provided weekly on a 1:1 basis with options for your child to also be involved in group therapy, as appropriate. We value the role of sensor motor development in our practice, therefore your child will likely participate in activities in our sensory gym to get to his or her "just right" state. Your child may also spend time during his or her session completing table top activities in our fine motor gym. We enjoy using all spaces provided to us during our therapy sessions. You may even see your child zooming down the hallway on a scooter board! We strive to make our sessions fun, motivating, and appropriate to fit the needs of your child. We value caregiver carryover into the home environment; therefore, we provide time to discuss what activities were completed during the session, the skills the activities addressed, your child's performance, and areas to work on for homework until the next appointment.

How do I know if my child needs Occupational Therapy?

All children develop and progress at their own pace. The evaluation process with an Occupational Therapist will provide further information regarding your child's skill sets, possible areas of delay, and overall determine if OT intervention is appropriate and needed at the time of evaluation. The qualifying factors of a child in need of OT services can, and should be, determined only by an experienced pediatric occupational therapist. We are happy to provide this service and to also be available to our families, as well as Family Resources, to further assist and educate on the purpose of occupational therapy for your child.

How do I get my child seen by an Occupational Therapist?

  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician.
  • Talk with Family Resources at Special Kids Therapy & Nursing Center for assistance with process and protocol needed when seeking OT services.

Recommended references to learn more:

References are for informational purposes only and they are not intended to replace physician and/or occupational therapy treatment(s).