What Kinds of Programs do Occupational Therapists Provide?

First, the occupational therapist will provide for an evaluation of your child’s strengths and challenges while engaging in the activities of daily living. Therapy interventions are tailored to the needs of the individual and a variety of approaches are used to foster participation in activities.

Occupational therapists may perform the following services:

  • Customized treatment programs to improve the ability to perform daily activities
  • Comprehensive home site evaluations with adaptation recommendations
  • Performance skills assessments and treatment
  • Recommendations for adaptive equipment and trainingGuidance to family members and caregivers
Specific activities that occupational therapists work on engaging may include:
  • Helping children with severe developmental delays learn some basic tasks, such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves.
  • Teaching children with physical disabilities the coordination skills required to feed themselves, use a computer or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting.
  • Evaluating each child’s needs for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices or communication aids.
  • Working on fine motor skills so that kids can grasp and release toys and develop good handwriting skills.
  • Addressing hand-eye coordination to improve play skills, such as hitting a target, batting a ball or copying from a blackboard.
  • Improving focus and social skills for kids who have sensory and attention issues.
  • Helping the child and family understand sensory processing differences that a child may have and then helping the child begin to tolerate some of the sensations they perceive as anoxious or substitute activities for undesired behaviors that might be driven by sensory seeking.

Who Performs Occupational Therapy Treatments?

Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled professionals whose education includes the study of human growth and development with specific emphasis on the social, emotional, and physiological effects of illness and injury. There are two professional levels of occupational practice – occupational therapist (OT) and occupational therapist assistant (OTA).

An occupational therapist assistant is only required to complete an associate’s degree program. OTAs are able to carry out treatment plans developed by the occupational therapist but can’t complete evaluations. Occupational therapists need to earn a master’s or doctoral degree, complete supervised clinical fieldwork in different settings, and must pass a national certification exam. Most states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam require occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants to be licensed. (For the licensure requirements for your state, you can consult the state occupational therapy regulatory agency.)

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Private practices
  • Children’s clinics
  • Early intervention programs
  • In patients’ homes

How Do You Find a Qualified Occupational Therapist or Program?

The first resource for finding a qualified occupational therapist is your pediatrician or another clinician involved in the care of your child. Many times, your pediatrician can help you identify early intervention programs available through the state’s Department of Social Services or Department of Health which can provide some occupational therapy through the intervention program. After early intervention services (from birth to 3 years), children in pre-school and beyond may be eligible for occupational therapy services through the public school district  under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to issues relevant to the child’s education. In certain situations, referral to a private occupational therapist is indicated.

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