Defining Occupational Therapy


Occupational therapy is an essential health service dedicated to helping people achieve independence, meaning and satisfaction in all aspects of their lives. Whether it is in the home, hospital, community, school or private practice, occupational therapists are available to help (CJOT,2012).

The term ‘occupation’ refers to adults and children doing activities during the everyday course. We help children and adults throughout the lifespan participate in activities they want to and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. We work in settings such as hospitals, schools, respite care. 

Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from an injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. (AOTA,2016).

A Paediatric Occupational Therapist uses everyday activities as a foundation for supporting health as well as well-being through self-care, productivity and leisure.  We work with children to improve their quality of lives by engaging them in meaningful tasks. For example, teaching a child to do laces who has difficulties in planning and sequencing tasks.

The evaluation process includes history taking, parental interviews, assessment (using standardised and non-standardised tools) and clinical observations (structured and non-structured) done within home and classroom setting.  Occupational Therapists (Sensory Integration trained) evaluate the child or young person’s sensory difficulties using standardised measures such as Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT; Ayres 1989), Sensory Processing Measure (SPM; Parham & Ecker, Miller-Kuhaneck, Henry, & Glennon, 2007) or Sensory Profile (Dunn 2014). Similarly, to measure Gross and Fine motor skills Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency can be used.

The evaluation process is followed by defining goals and planning intervention program. The intervention plan can be activity or group of activities designed to facilitate child’s performance. The evaluation planned is clear, replicable, manualised and measurable (Mailloux 2014).

According to the study done by Tomcheck 2007, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder process sensory information differently from the external world compared to typically developing children. Around 95% of children diagnosed with ASD experience sensory processing difficulties.

There can a wide range of difficulties which can make simple everyday tasks overwhelming such as tooth brushing, copying from the blackboard, hyper-responsiveness towards touch, handwriting difficulties, using scissors for cutting and pasting, standing in a queue for lunch. We use our knowledge of sensory integration into a holistic assessment of child and work collaboratively with children, parents and school. We work to establish strategies to increase the safety of child’s environment and support families to manage child’s needs.
OT’s are best known for creativity and modifications of the task which provides the ‘just right’ challenge to a child having difficulties in performing skills. 

They are competent to analyse child’s strengths and limitations and provide activities which are ‘purposeful’ and at the same time PLAYFUL for a child to accomplish.

Final words to describe OT- Learning with Fun!!

The following video is an extremely informative video depicting how Occupational Therapists work with children having difficulties.

                               Video description credit: The OT Practice