What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapists (OTs) help your child master motor skills, step-by-step planning, organizing, and day-to-day activities. We break down how and why that’s important.

Why are motor skills important for your child?

Have you ever thought about the number of tasks we expect of our young children in the morning alone just to make it out the door and get to school on time? We may take for granted how some activities, such as eating breakfast, taking off pajamas, getting dressed, brushing teeth, packing your backpack, and putting on sneakers may actually be daunting for a child. The morning rush can be a particularly stressful time for parents who have children who struggle with any one of these activities.

Some children need more time to complete daily tasks due to underdeveloped fine motor skills, motor planning, and sensory sensitivities. Below, we break down how many fine motor skills, planning and sequencing, and independent skills are required just to successfully complete just ONE of these tasks that may seem so simple and straightforward to us.


  • Eating breakfast: a child needs fine motor skills, motor planning (the ability to learn, remember, and perform all the small steps to make a movement happen), and coordination to use a fork or spoon and hold a cup and not spill. Let’s not forget some of our picky eaters, who may very well have sensory sensitivities to certain smells, tastes, and textures…

  • Going through a school day: handwriting, organizing folders, zipping and unzipping backpacks, cutting with scissors, throwing a ball in gym class, playing at recess…

  • Nighttime: bath time, mealtime, playtime, and bedtime routines each require dozens of skills that occupational therapists can address.

What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists are holistic health care providers who help children (and adults) with daily activities with the goal of instilling independence. They can help children with:

  • Improving fine motor skills such as manipulating fasteners, holding writing instruments, and cutting with scissors

  • Following step-by-step processes like tying shoes or brushing teeth

  • Fostering independence for activities of daily living such as feeding, dressing, and toileting skills

  • Becoming more comfortable with certain textures, sounds, tastes, smells, and sights (sensory processing)

  • Improving balance and coordination, motor planning, and motor organizational skills

Why are occupational therapists so helpful?

Pediatric occupational therapists have so many tools in their toolbox! They often spend time learning about a child’s interests to incorporate games, activities, handouts, and special equipment specific to the age and developmental level of the child.

An occupational therapist helps your child feel successful in order to master day-to-day activities. You might be referred to an occupational therapist by your child’s pediatrician, a medical specialist, or school. The first step is undergoing an evaluation to determine if your child needs services. Some diagnoses including birth injuries, traumatic brain injuries, acquired medical conditions (e.g., stroke, severe burns, traumatic brain injury), and autism spectrum disorder are often referred to an occupational therapist right away.

Most importantly…

Occupational therapists will work with you on implementing fun and manageable strategies at home to help practice and generalize the lessons they’ve learned. See here for an example of the types of exercises, handouts, and games your child can do with an occupational therapist.

If you are unsure about whether occupational therapy is right for your child, talk to your pediatrician or join Clay today to get your questions heard.

The Details: occupational therapist

What do parents receive?

  • A detailed report of your child’s strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for next steps

  • Goals for your child to work on at school, home, and if recommended, during their occupational therapy sessions

  • Handouts, visual aids, and information for you and your child

  • Activities, toys, and tools that can be used at home to achieve therapeutic goals

  • Accommodations for home, school, and other environments to foster independence and success

Earliest age

Some therapists will start seeing children during infancy. For example, if your baby is premature, born with a condition such as down syndrome or cerebral palsy, or demonstrates delays reaching developmental milestones early on, such as holding up their head or holding a bottle, an OT may come to your home to help you and your baby.

Intake Process

  • Typically, a therapist talks with parents prior to meeting the child to learn about their concerns.

  • They’ll ask who recommended the evaluation and why.

  • The OT will then evaluate a child using the appropriate evaluations/assessments. For those who are unable to complete standardized testing, clinical observations will be used.

  • Once the tests have been completed therapists will make recommendations based on the results.

Evaluation + Services

  • On average, 1-2 hours of face-to face testing. Sometimes therapists do a classroom observation.

  • Approximately 2-3 hours for the OT to score, interpret, and generate their report

  • One hour of feedback to parent

  • Additional hours to meet with other caregivers and schools


  • Prices vary widely by state – please check with your provider and insurance company to determine the costs of evaluation and therapy sessions.

  • When calling your insurance company, it is helpful to ask if you have any co-payments.

  • In some cases, insurance companies will provide reimbursement for out-of-network providers.

  • Additional costs may be needed for assistive devices, such as braces or splits and adaptive equipment, such as writing tools, TheraTogs, Check with your insurance company as their coverage may depend on your child’s medical diagnosis.

Help your teachers be more successful today

Help your teachers be more successful today

Help your teachers be more successful today