Ask an OT: What is Occupational Therapy?

August 31, 2019
Ask an OT: What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapists (OT) work with adults and children of varying ages and abilities to help them participate in occupations that they need, want or are expected to do. They work in a range of settings including hospitals, health-care systems, educational settings, homes and in private practice. OTs work with the child, their parents and other significant people including doctors, teachers, and/or other health professionals. It is a client-centred health profession that enables people to participate in activities, also known as “occupations,” of everyday life. Some people think that OT is only for adults, as children don’t have occupations; however, a child’s main job is to play and learn.

In the area of Paediatrics, OT plays an important role in helping children and adolescents to overcome the effects of any condition, disability, or impairment, that affect their ability to carry out everyday tasks. OT is goal orientated where occupations that are meaningful are considered as well as what challenges a child or adolescent might have in completing that task successfully. OT’s aim to develop skills, adjust the environment or modify the occupation to help children and adolescent achieve success and build confidence!

What does an OT do?

  • Educate parents, carers and teachers to support children’s development and learning
  • Help children and adolescents to achieve their developmental milestones such as their fine and gross motor skills e.g. handwriting, balance and coordination
  • Facilitate play and social skills
  • Support and maintain positive behaviours in a range of environments
  • Improve concentration and ability to follow instructions
  • Develop self-care skills e.g. toilet-training, dressing, eating
  • Achieve an optimal level of arousal for children who have sensory processing challenges i.e. those who are over or under responsive to sensory input

What is the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy?
There is a lot of overlap as both therapists look at children’s ability to perform their full potential in everyday tasks. The main difference is that OT focuses on developing functional skills to improve activities of daily living such as eating, dressing, playing, and learning. OT looks at the physical, developmental, and emotional components involved. Physiotherapy, in comparison, focuses on the movement of the body, and focuses on the prevention, intervention and rehabilitation of the musculoskeletal system so the body can function properly.