How can Occupational Therapy help?

What is Occupational Therapy - "I want to do it by myself."

Occupational Therapists are trained to help people of all ages to better perform the everyday activities (or occupations*) that they need to, want to or are expected to perform. For children, this means playing, learning, developing independence and being a part of a family and friendships.

Occupational therapy is a family-centred, holistic health profession that is based on the understanding that child development is shaped by the relationship between the individual child’s skills, their environment and the activities they are expected to perform.

The focus of occupational therapy is participation in the meaningful occupations of everyday life in the areas of self-care, productivity, play development and social participation. These may include:


  • Learning to dress self, use the toilet, grooming, eating (feeding self with spoon, and fork); sleep routines or activities such as chores, preparing simple snacks, organising self and belongings).


  • Education/school based occupations; participating in what is expected of a student at school or kindergarten such as sitting and listening to the educator, learning to write or draw and use a pencil, organising their belongings, following rules and directions, completing tasks with multiple steps, using hands to manipulate objects such as scissors (fine motor skills), regulating emotions.

Playing to learn:

  • Engaging in and enjoying pretend play activities by themselves and with others; learning to use hands to manipulate objects such as lego or blocks; engaging in active play such as riding a bike, and playing on the playground, dancing, throwing and catching games or sports such as swimming, gymnastics, soccer, or basketball.

Social participation:

  • Relating to family and friends (joint attention), forming and maintaining friendships, joining in play with others, turn-taking, sharing, attending social outings.

*Occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life.

Occupational therapists who work with children require specific knowledge and skills in the area of:

  • Child and adolescent development
  • Occupations of children (school work, play/leisure, self-care, rest/sleep)
  • Child and family-centred practice
  • Assessment and outcome measurements
  • Evidence based interventions

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