Occupational Therapy for Children

Occupational Therapy for Children

Written by

Beyona Rachel Mathew, BOT,
Occupational Therapist

More often, parents think it’s their child’s laziness or disinterest and presume kids will outgrow it as they age…. and they wait! When a problem is persisting, let’s first understand that it may not be laziness or disinterest, but perhaps, an underlying difficulty in performing the task. A child may not know how to express the difficulty and parents may not know how to help their child. Fortunately, a professional trained in occupational therapy can help the child and the parent. Let’s see how?

What Is Occupational Therapy for Kids?

Occupational therapists help kids perform occupations relevant to their age. Occupation here refers to the everyday activities or duties a child needs to perform, wants to perform or is expected to perform in different environments such as home, school or community. These activities may broadly be grouped as:

Self-care activities that include feeding, toileting, brushing teeth, bathing, grooming.

Learning activities include school and studies, volunteering work etc. 

Play activities include sports, hobby and all extra-curricular activities

Occupational therapists carefully choose techniques and activities to make a child’s participation in occupations fully independent and satisfying.

Why Occupational Therapy for Children?

OT helps develop independence in one’s life. It enhances the quality of child’s involvement in daily activities such as play, learning and self-care by enhancing,

  •         Gross motor skills (skill to use large muscles in the body for sitting, walking, throwing a ball, jumping etc.)
  •         Fine motor skills (skill to manipulate small objects like holding a pencil or fork, using scissors etc.)
  •         Handwriting skills
  •         Self-care skills
  •         Play skills
  •         Social skills
  •         Planning and organizational skills
  •         Sensory processing skills (response to touch or other external stimuli)

7 Signs Your Child Might Need Paediatric Occupational Therapy

Early intervention is the key for successful results. Never delay to seek help if you notice any of the following difficulties in your child.

Delay in achieving developmental milestones 

Delay or not gaining developmental milestones appropriate for his/her age – like rolling over, head control, sitting up, crawling, walking or not presenting age appropriate play and social skills.

Difficulty in processing information received through senses may present as

  •       Difficulty in postural control, body positioning, motor planning(planning how they are going to do an action), writes too hard, plays rough, likes tight clothes , engages in behaviours such as  toe walking, constant bumping or crashing. 
  •         Difficulty climbing stairs, running, swinging or jumping, poor balance or difficulty throwing and catching a ball.
  •         Have trouble with specific sounds which may be overwhelming and unbearable leading to hands over the ears. 
  •         Difficulty copying from board or another paper, trouble with recognizing letters and numbers, problem finding one object amidst others, difficulty with spacing and sizes of letters. 
  •         Extremely choosy about the material they wear or fussy about a dress label. 
  •         Picky eater, with high intolerance for specific tastes and textures of food.
  •         Intolerance to certain smells or seek specific smells.

Difficulty in gross motor skills(involves larger muscle group)

Difficulty moving around, trouble completing a task standing, poor motor planning and execution (planning when to move), poor balance, difficulty performing complex movements.

Difficulty using small muscles in hands and fingers(Fine Motor Skills)

Difficulty holding a pencil, using scissors, tying shoelaces, buttoning and unbuttoning. Poor handwriting or difficulty tracing, drawing, colouring or painting.

Difficulty in performing self-care activities

Difficulty in brushing teeth, dressing themselves, self-feeding, toileting.

Lack of attention, Hyperactivity and/or Impulsivity

Gets easily distracted, has difficulty remembering recent instructions or incidents, misses important details, difficulty following directions, difficulty getting organized, restless and easily bored, talks excessively and cannot wait for turn, struggles to sit still, and difficulty controlling emotions.

Avoiding Eye contact

Avoiding eye contact is a vital sign that should never be dismissed.

What Challenges Does Your Child Experience?

Does your child have trouble performing everyday activities at home or school? Do they show differences or difficulties performing tasks which are easily accomplished by typically developing children? Does your child have a problem following directions or waiting for turn to speak?

If you have answered ‘YES’ to any of the above questions, reach out to an occupational therapist for guidance.

How Do I Know that My Child Needs Occupational Therapy?

If your child is showing any of the 7 signs mentioned above, then he/she may need occupational therapy. 

A child cannot understand the skill deficit nor express the difficulty. As parents, it is important to observe your child during play and everyday activities. And if you notice a lack of specific skill or a difficulty that’s hindering your child’s involvement in activities, do not delay to seek professional help.

Occupational therapy can help your child. It can help them develop required skills and make them participate fully in all the activities they want and need. 

How to find Occupational Therapy for kids?

You can approach a trusted and experienced child development centre with paediatric occupational therapy. You can also ask your doctor or talk to your child’s teacher or school counsellor to refer or contact nearby hospital for referral to occupational therapy.


A child’s primary occupation is play. Play helps them learn and develop all the fundamental and essential skills required for life. A difficulty in throwing a ball while playing basketball or a difficulty holding a paintbrush while colouring with friends can deprive a child of all the fun and learning. It can also affect their self-esteem and social skills. 

When identified early, an occupational therapist can help your child develop key skills, bridge the barriers and help them grow into healthy, independent adults.

Need occupational therapy for your child?

Find out how we can support you and your child

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