What is Occupational Therapy?

Laura Parkin-Brown, Occupational Therapist

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapists believe that participating in every day activities improves a child’s wellbeing resulting in a safe, healthy and happy life.

Occupational Therapy - helping you with the skills you need to live life to the fullest

Through assessment and treatment Occupational Therapists support children to gain independence, function and to reach their developmental milestones by focusing on development of fine and gross motor skills (physical development), sensory and visual motor skills, learning and concentration or any difficulty a child may present with, that affects their independence in day-to-day activities.

Day-to-day activities Occupational Therapists focus on include;

Self Carehelping a child to wash, dress, eat and toilet independently

Play and Leisure a child learns and practices new skills, makes friends and finds a sense of self through play

Educationparticipation in education is a key occupation for children.

Occupational Therapists put the fun in functional.

Who can benefit from Occupational Therapy?

A child’s role in life is to play and interact with other children. An OT can assess and evaluate a child’s current development and skills at school, during play, day-to-day activities, and determine whether a child is developing typically for their age group. An OT can help a child overcome these difficulties and challenges by addressing sensory, social, behavioural, motor and environmental issues.

Occupational Therapy can benefit children who experience problems with:

Physical Development (Fine and Gross Motor Skills)

  • Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

  • Dyspraxia

  • Motor Planning Difficulties

  • Developmental Delay

  • Clumsy movements

  • Poor handwriting

  • Difficulty with bilateral skills i.e. using two hands together, co-ordinating different parts of the body.

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills - such as shoelaces, clothing fastenings (zips, poppers), cutlery, cutting.

  • Poor body awareness i.e. walk into things, walks with heavy steps, drags feet along the ground.


Sensory Processing

  • Sensory Processing Disorder

  • Sensory based Motor Disorders

  • Children on the Autistic Spectrum

  • Regulation and modulation difficulties e.g. sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviours - such as seeking movement, disliking touching certain textures, avoiding particular loud noises or smells.

  • Children who appear not to register pain

  • Poor attention and focus

  • Emotional reactivity


Cognitive (learning) and Visual Perceptual Skills

  • ADHD / other attention difficulties

  • Handwriting difficulties

  • Visual Perception Difficulties

  • Functional and self care tasks


Specific Conditions

  • Cerebral Palsy (hemiplegia / neurological conditions)

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / Asperger’s / Pervasive Developmental Disorder

  • Downs Syndrome

  • Congenital Conditions

  • Acquired Injuries

  • Sensory Processing Disorders

  • Learning Difficulties

  • Developmental Delays


Sensory Integration

When children feel overwhelmed and over-stimulated, their development can be affected.

Sensory Integration is a theory by Dr A. Jean Ayres, she defines defines Sensory Integration as;

“the organization of sensations for use. Our senses give us information about the physical conditions of our body and the environment around us…The brain must organize all of our sensations if a person is to move and learn and behave in a productive manner.”

  • Sensory Integration Therapy uses play activities to change the way in which the brain reacts to different stimulation – touch, sound, sight and movement.

  • Sensory Integration can improve attention, co-ordination, social participation and behaviour, leading to improvements in day-to-day activities and skills.


Who can benefit from Sensory Integration Therapy?


  • Under or over responsiveness to stimulation e.g. touch, sound, taste

  • Avoiding noise

  • Difficulty performing fine motor tasks

  • Constantly on the move

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task

  • Difficulty maintaining seated position i.e. slumping on the chair, propping self up against object

  • Appears low toned with clumsy movements

  • Poor language and social skills

  • Difficulty transitioning between activities


What do Occupational Therapists hope to achieve?

  • Occupational Therapists aim to empower and enable children, young people and their families to live their lives as independently and easily as possible.

  • Occupational Therapists aim to work with the child, their family, and the wider team involved with the child to support their needs and challenges, working collaboratively to achieve their full potential.

  • Occupational Therapists treat the child holistically, assessing the individual’s physical, psychological, social and emotional barriers that may affect their ability to participate in day-to-day activities (self care, play and education).

  • Occupational Therapists will help a child to achieve their individual goals and wishes, through meaningful graded activities, adaptations to the environment maximising their involvement in daily life, consequently maximising participation.


To find out more about Occupational Therapy and how it can help your child, please contact us on 0208 6737930


Lizz Summers

Voice & Presentation Skills Coach