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Pediatric Occupational Therapy is the Best-Kept Secret in the Healthcare Field

Unfortunately, it’s such a well kept secret that many families don’t know what it is and aren’t aware that it could significantly improve their quality of life. The goal of pediatric occupational therapy (OT) is to improve kids’ ability to function in their daily lives through the use of creative, play-based interventions. Whether it’s learning to tie their shoes, navigate a loud environment, or manage their emotions, OT helps children improve their skills to succeed in their everyday lives. Keep reading for just a few examples of the challenges OT can target and improve.

1. Behavioral Outbursts

During toddlerhood, tantrums are common and nothing to be alarmed about, as at this age children are just beginning to learn to manage their emotions. But, if behavioral outbursts are severe, frequent, and disruptive to the daily routine (especially in older children), intervention may be needed. An OT will investigate the root cause of the outbursts by evaluating the child. We believe the child is behaving in this way either because of an underlying physiological cause (such as a sensory sensitivity or a survival response), or because the child does not yet possess the skills to handle the emotions they are experiencing. After the OT evaluation helps to determine what the source of the problem is, a treatment plan is designed to help address these underlying concerns.

2. Potty Training

Google “potty training” and you will find countless methods, recommendations, and rules around teaching your toddler to use the bathroom. We are not here to endorse or refute any of them, as the bottom line is that every child is different and what works for one is bound to fail for another. Similarly, we do not believe that there is an exact age that children should be potty trained. With that said, some children have extreme difficulty learning. If you have concerns that your child is not yet potty trained despite numerous attempts, an occupational therapist can help. Whether your child is having difficulty understanding their body’s signals, having a hard time sequencing the steps of the process, or aren’t able to handle the sound of a toilet flushing, an OT can help get to the source of the problem. Once the source is identified, the OT will help develop strategies individualized to your child’s needs to help them become more independent.

3. Sound Sensitivity or Other Sensory Challenges

Did you know we have EIGHT separate sensory systems? In addition to the 5 we learned about in grade school (smell, sight, touch, taste, sound), we have three more sensory systems that are just as essential to our daily lives. One of these is our sense of movement and balance (vestibular). Another is our awareness of where our body is in space (proprioception). Finally, our sense of interoception is how we monitor our internal sensations, such as hunger, emotions, or need to use the bathroom. When working together as they should, these sensory systems help us navigate our environment and understand how to take care of our own biological needs. Unfortunately, at times these sensory systems go awry. A child may be so sensitive to sound that they can not handle a trip to the grocery store without melting down. Or, they may not be able to keep track of their body in space, bumping into everything in sight and tripping/falling all the time. Sensory challenges are complex and unique to each child, and even to each individual sensory system. OTs are trained in the neuroscience of how the sensory systems work, and what happens when they aren’t quite in sync. They know how to use safe and fun activities to help a child regulate their sensory system. They are also well versed in a variety of tools, equipment, and strategies to use at home to help the child make sense of the world.

4. Self-Care: Dressing, Shoe Tying, Toothbrushing, and more

As with all developmental tasks, every child learns to dress themselves in their own time. Typically easier tasks, like pulling pants up, are mastered much earlier than lining up a zipper, or tying shoes. If your child seems to be “stuck” and is not picking up certain skills after a long time, or is significantly behind their peers, OT may help. For example, think of a 7-year-old child who is unable to zip up their coat. Perhaps their fingers haven’t yet developed the dexterity to line up the zipper. Or, maybe their dexterity is fine but the way that their brain is processing visual information is making it difficult for them to see where the zipper should go. Or, maybe they have a hard time sequencing the steps required to line up, thread, engage, and pull the zipper. These are all possibilities (and there are many others) that the OT could evaluate, identify, and treat. This expert analysis can also be applied to tooth brushing, tying shoes, fastening buttons, or any other self-care task.

These are just a few common challenges that occupational therapists are able to assess and treat. If your child is experiencing ANY challenges participating in daily activities, contact us today to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. At your consult, we’ll listen to your concerns. If we feel that OT may address them, we’ll help you set up an evaluation. If they would be better addressed by a different medical specialty, we’ll assist you in finding someone to help. 

With so much to gain, there’s no need for pediatric occupational therapy to stay a secret! 


For more information on all that occupational therapy has to offer across the lifespan, visit 

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