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What Is Occupational Therapy?

“I know speech therapy is about language and communication, and physical therapy is about injury and recovery. So what is occupational therapy?”

People often confuse occupational therapy and physical therapy. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are three related types of rehabilitation therapy that work together to treat people as a whole. All three professions have different focuses, but there are some areas of overlap. For people with physical, cognitive, developmental disabilities, a combination of the three therapy works together to help restore function in their daily life.

Who are Occupational therapists?

5 Seconds to Understand Therapy
Occupational therapy aims to improve quality of life. Occupational therapists (OTs) help people from any age to be functional and independent physically and mentally in their daily life. An OT can work in many different settings including but not limited to: clinical practice, hospital, skilled nursing facilities, school, and research.

We are superheroes! OTs can do anything!

OT and Pediatrics

In the pediatric population, my goal as an Occupational Therapist is to help with development and support kids with developmental delays in order to be successful at home and in school.

Part of the development
  1. Personal hygiene/self care

    1. A person’s ability to take care of themselves

    2. Dressing, brushing teeth, using the bathroom

  2. Motor skills

    1. Gross motor (involving large muscles ex: arms and legs) and fine motor (involving smaller muscles ex: fingers) skills

    2. Includes coordination, balance, movement, manipulation, dexterity

    3. Gross motor skills: jumping, running, sports

    4. Fine motor skills: handwriting, scissor use, utensil use

  3. Sensory skills

    1. Use of 8 senses (vision, hearing, smell, touch, mouth, balance, body awareness, visceral sensation)

    2. Sensory processing

    3. Sensitivity to loud noise, light, certain textures, etc.

  4. Cognitive and attention skills

    1. May be typical for ASD, ADHD

    2. Executive functioning (ex: organization, attention, following directions)

  5. Emotional regulation

    1. Ability to identify and regulate emotions

Types of things that OT can treat:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Developmental delays
Handwriting deficits
Learning Disabilities
Muscle Dystrophy
Emotional Regulation Deficits
Early Intervention Concerns

Ella Wu, OTD, OTR/L
Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Lead Occupational Therapist Speech For Success

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