The treatment of physical and developmental disorders through purposeful activities that improve & develop
skills, needed for everyday independence. Both children with or without disability may receive therapy.
Occupational therapy is beneficial when there are concerns regarding fine motor, sensory, visual motor, and/or
motor planning. These children have a limited sensory experience and lack normal motor control.
Areas of Occupational Therapy
Fine motor skills generally refers to actions of the hands, wrists, and arms, including dexterity, coordination, and
strength. Handwriting is a complex process of managing written language by coordinating the eyes, arms, hands,
pencil grip, letter formation, and body posture. The development of a child’s handwriting can provide clues to
developmental problems that may hinder the child’s learning. Sensory integration (SI) is the process of receiving,
organizing, and interpreting input, becoming the basis for motor planning, learning and behavior. When this
process is disorganized, it is called Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
The tactile system interprets touch and the perception. It protects us from stimuli that may be perceived as
harmful. With an over or under sensitive tactile system, the body interprets touch differently. When this occurs,
due to certain types of clothing, food textures or unexpected touch, the body releases an excessive emotional
reaction such as hitting, crying or other behaviors.
Poor range of motion, deficits in eye and hand coordination, problems with fine motor ability, and decreased
visual perception often result in poor performance in sports, poor handwriting, and will likely lead to problems
with academic performance. In addition, the child's functional abilities, such as self-care, may be impacted, as
the child may not be able to function at a developmentally appropriate level.
An occupational therapy evaluation assesses a child’s gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills,
handwriting skills, daily living skills, oral motor skills, and sensory processing skills. The use of standardized
assessment tools, non-standardized assessment tools, parent interview, and clinical observations will be used to
assess the child’s performance.
Occupational therapy treatment is necessary when several areas of performance are affected.
Fine Motor Skills: movement and dexterity of the small muscles in the hands and fingers.
Gross Motor Skills: movement of the large muscles in the arms, and legs. Visual Motor Skills: a child’s
movement based on the perception of visual information.
Oral Motor Skills: movement of muscles in the mouth, lips, tongue, and jaw, including sucking, biting, chewing,
Self-Care Skills: daily dressing, feeding and toilet tasks. Sensory Integration: ability to take in, sort out, and
respond to the input received from the world.
Motor Planning Skills: ability to plan, implement, and sequence motor tasks.
The Role of an Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapist use play to enhance the child's fine motor skills and muscular strength. They also address
feeding and oral motor skills,self-care skills, positioning, adaptive equipment, splint fabrication and use, sensory
integration techniques, and assist individuals in acquiring the knowledge, needed to preform.
Occupational therapist have used brushing and joint compression as an intervention technique. This method of
therapy is to provide deep tactile input to help organize the sensory system, increase focus and level of alertness.
It is best to provide this technique daily every two hours and prior to activities that may bring fear, anxiety, or
Therapists also help those with permanent disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and aid in
eating and dressing. Assessing and recording a client’s activities and progress is an important part of an
occupational therapist’s job. Accurate records are essential for evaluating clients, and for reporting to physicians
and other healthcare providers.
Occupational therapists work from hospitals, schools and in the community. Therapists will use any combination
of activities to strengthen muscles, increase movement, restore co-ordination and balance. In schools, they
evaluate children’s abilities, recommend and provide therapy, modify classroom equipment, and help children
participate as fully as possible in school programs and activities.