Occupational therapy practitioners have training in psychological and mental health conditions and are well suited to address children’s emotional and behavioral needs as they relate to everyday activities and social interactions.

  • For example, occupational therapy practitioners help children develop the ability to cope with challenges, and to use calming strategies to deal with frustration, defuse anger, and manage impulsivity in order to succeed at individual tasks and collaborative interactions at home, at school, and in the community.

Occupational therapy practitioners:

  • Work with infants, toddlers, students in preschool, and elementary, middle, and high school to support successful learning, appropriate behavior, and participation in daily routines and activities.
  • Address self-determination and self-advocacy skills, along with the transition into adult roles. As children grow older, skills for success in independent living become essential.

For children and youth, occupations are activities that enable them to learn and develop life skills (e.g., preschool and school activities), be creative and/or derive enjoyment (e.g., play), and thrive (e.g., self-care and relationships with others) as both a means and an end.

Occupational therapy practitioners work with children of all ages and abilities through the habilitation and rehabilitation process.

Recommended interventions are based on:

  • A thorough understanding of typical development
  • The environments in which children engage (e.g., home, school, playground)
  • The impact of disability, illness, and impairment on the individual child’s development, play, learning, and overall occupational performance.

Occupational therapy practitioners collaborate with parents/caregivers and other professionals to:

  • Identify and meet the needs of children experiencing delays or challenges in development
  • Identify and modify or compensate for barriers that interfere with, restrict, or inhibit functional performance
  • Teach and model skills and strategies to children, their families and other adults in their environments to extend therapeutic intervention to all aspects of daily life tasks
  • Adapt activities, materials, and environmental conditions so children can participate under different conditions and in various settings (e.g., home, school, sports, community programs)

The primary occupations of infants,toddlers and young children are playing, learning, and interacting with caregivers and, eventually, their peers.

Occupational therapy interventions address developmental milestones such as, but not limited to:

  • Facilitating movement to sit, crawl, or walk independently
  • Learning to pay attention and follow simple instructions
  • Developing the ability to eat, drink, wash, and dress independently
  • Learning to cope with disappointment or failure
  • Reducing extraneous environmental stimuli, such as noise for a child who is easily distracted
  • Building skills for sharing, taking turns, and playing with peers
  • Using toys and materials in both traditional and creative ways
  • Participating in age appropriate daily routines

The primary occupations of older children and teens are integrating educational instruction in and outside of school, forming and maintaining productive friendships, and beginning the transition to work and more independent, higher education.

Occupational therapy interventions for this population often expand to include such items as:

  • Adapting or modifying curricula, the environment, or activities to support participation in educational routines and learning activities
  • Navigating more complex social relationships, including dating
  • Assessing the skills needed to learn to drive or assisting with alternative community mobility options
  • Strengthening self-determination and decision making skills, and enhancing overall independence
  • Helping with vocational planning and transitions, including employer supports
  • Planning for transition to college, including time management, study habits and routines, and independent living skills