What IS occupational therapy?

Children are often referred for an occupational therapy evaluation without their parents knowing what to expect. In fact, many other health care providers may not know the full extent of what occupational therapists can do to help their patients.
OTs work in many health care fields including: hospitals (acute care, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation), skilled nursing facilities, home health, mental health, vocational rehabilitation, driver’s rehab and pediatrics (schools, early intervention, hospitals, and outpatient clinics). In general, OTs help people with their occupations – work, school or daily living.
For children, their primary “occupation” is play. Everyday activities include success at home, school and with peers. TherapyWorks helps children birth-21 years old with a wide variety of physical and neurological diagnoses including:
×          Developmental delay
×          Autism spectrum disorders
×          Sensory processing disorder
×          ADHD
×          Down Syndrome
×          Torticollis
×          Brachial plexus injury
×          Cerebral palsy
×          Traumatic brain injury
×          Developmental coordination disorder
×          Genetic disorders
×          Behavior problems/modification (reactive attachment disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder)
… as well as many children who do not yet have a diagnosis.
I often explain occupational therapy as an “umbrella” covering many areas of a child’s functioning including:
 
×          School readiness skills: visual motor skills such as handwriting or cutting and visual perceptual skills to boost reading, puzzles, etc.
×          Self-care skills: dressing, brushing hair/teeth, sleeping suggestions, shower sequences
×          Vocational skills: completing chores, simple meal preparation, interview skills, filling out a resume/application
×          Gross and fine motor strength and coordination: Reflex Integration, jumping jacks, throw/catch, finger dexterity, pencil grasp, home exercise programs
×          Physical limitations: range of motion, amputations, congenital deformities, muscle tone fluctuations, wheelchair transfers, splinting/casting, adaptive equipment
×          Sensory processing and modulation: paying attention, listening and following directions (auditory processing), pain and touch (tactile processing), picky eating (oral sensory), balance and body awareness (vestibular processing)
×          Social skills: deciding what to play, taking turns, sharing, joining in, inviting others, cooperation
×          Emotional development: identifying and working through emotions, awareness of how our actions impact others, responding appropriately to others’ emotions
×          Behavioral management: meltdowns, shutting down, aggression, positive reinforcement, natural consequences
×          Executive functioning: sequencing routines or chores, ranking/grading scales, homework help, problem solving
×          FloorTime™ (functional emotional developmental levels): shared attention, engagement (reciprocal interactions), purposeful communication, shared problem solving, symbolic play, emotional thinking
Occupational therapy evaluations typically last 1 hour and will include parent interview, standardized testing, clinical observations of behavior, attention, fine and gross motor functioning, and free play if time allows. Please bring a copy of your school-based Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or other therapist or psychological evaluations if your child has been evaluated elsewhere.
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