What Is Pediatric Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

We just finished celebrating Occupational Therapy month in April!

Occupational Therapy (OT) may help children improve their ability to fully participate in daily activities. Here are a few questions you can think about to determine whether your child may benefit from Occupational Therapy services.

  • Does your child struggle with pencil control for writing and drawing tasks?
  • Is dressing and manipulating clothing fasteners more difficult for your child than for his/her peers?
  • Does your child struggle with tilting his/her head back to wash hair?
  • If your child sensitive about certain clothing fabric or tags?
  • Does your child resist touching messy materials such as glue, play dough, dirt, or walking in the sand/grass?
  • Does your child use one side of his/her body significantly more than the other side of the body?
  • Does your child resist eating many foods, food textures, or food colors?
  • Do they struggle navigating playground equipment including stairs, bridges, swings, and slides?
  • Does your child have difficulty paying attention or following multi-step instructions?
  • Have they yet to reach a developmental milestone when all their peers have (e.g., sitting, crawling, jumping)?

If you have answered “yes” to several of these questions, your child may benefit from skilled occupational therapy services.

Occupational therapy consists of providing rehabilitation services to clients who have an illness, injury, or disability, through the therapeutic use of occupations to support participation in home, work, school, and the community (and therefore improve quality of life). Children’s “occupations” consist of playing, learning, and socializing. Occupational therapists may work with children in a variety of settings, including homes, schools, hospitals, and outpatient therapy clinics.

Occupational therapists have the skills to address the varying needs of children including (but not limited to) autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, dyspraxia, ADHD, and other disabilities.

Occupational therapists have training in a variety of areas, including:

  • Fine motor skills such as handwriting, cutting, beading, and appropriate hand grasps on writing and eating utensils
  • Self-care skills such as dressing, buttoning, shoe tying, self-feeding, and brushing teeth
  • Feeding skills including introducing new foods, flavors, and textures to a child’s diet
  • Visual motor skills including copying shapes, drawing mazes, eye tracking, and ball skills
  • Gross motor skills including strength, endurance, range of motion, balance, motor planning, and coordination
  • Sensory processing skills including gravitational security, auditory processing, messy play, and body awareness
  • Creation of a “sensory diet” to meet the child’s sensory needs and help the child stay regulated throughout the day
  • Self-regulation skills including impulsivity control and behavioral management
  • Executive function skills including attention, planning, and sequencing skills
  • Social skills such as learning appropriate play skills and social interactions
  • Potty training recommendations
  • Equipment fitting and ordering including splints, weighted vests, adaptive seating, and wheelchair components
  • Caregiver education to promote home/school carryover of recommendations and techniques


It is common for children to have challenges with a few areas of development, but if children need increased assistance in many areas and it is making participation in age-appropriate daily activities difficult, they may benefit from skilled occupational therapy services. If you know a child that may benefit from occupational therapy, consult with the pediatrician to determine if an evaluation may be necessary.


The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) has additional information and fact sheets at www.aota.org.


Written by Kara Syrek, OTR/L, from NTS Therapy 


Northwest Houston clinic: 713-466-6872

Katy clinic: 281-392-4221