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What is Occupational Therapy for Children?

Updated: May 10, 2021

So your child has been referred to Occupational Therapy – but they don’t have a job! What is it and how can it help? Rest assured, it’s a very common question many people have.

What are Occupations?

“Occupation” doesn’t mean that your child is getting job training. Occupations are all the activities we do throughout the day that are meaningful to us. Whether it's getting dressed, driving, or participating in hobbies, we either need to, or want to do these things in our day to day lives. With children, their occupations are a little different. The activities they need or want to do are to reach developmental milestones, play, participate in school, and become more independent with their self-care activities like eating, dressing, and bathing.

Why was my child referred to Occupational Therapy?

Participation in play and other typical children’s activities are important because they help build foundational skills. When kids have a challenging time getting through what they should be doing day to day, or have delays in areas of their development, it might be a good idea to talk to an occupational therapist. Some examples may include:

  • My child gets frustrated when trying to put on their shirt and pant

  • My child seems distracted and has difficulties focusing on tasks

  • My child cannot draw or write like other kids the same age

  • My child throws a temper tantrum every time we want to move onto a new activity

  • My child grabs at food, doesn’t use their spoon/fork, and makes a mess every time

  • My child has a hard time dealing with certain touch or sound sensations

How can Occupational Therapy help?

No matter the age of your child, your occupational therapist can work alongside you and your child to maximize their success with participating in occupations! Your child’s occupational therapist will assess their current strengths, as well as the source of their challenges when completing tasks.

For example, difficulty putting on a shirt and pants may be caused by a combination of several factors:

  • Difficulty understanding instructions

  • Difficulty coordinating hands and with physical movements

  • Difficulty differentiating front and back, up and down, left and right

  • Not knowing how to start the task

  • Feeling overwhelmed by all the different textures on the skin

By evaluating the person, environment, and occupation, your child’s occupational therapist can develop a targeted plan to work on the underlying area of need in order to build age appropriate skill development.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact our team!


Kramer, P., Hinojosa, J., Howe, T., & LWW Health Library - Occupational Therapy Collection. (2020). Frames of reference for pediatric occupational therapy (Fourth ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.


Andalusia Speech provides Occupational Therapy online to anywhere in the world or in person at our four clinics in Ontario. Contact us for more information.

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