April 18, 2017

occupational therapyApril is National Occupational Therapy Month. In addition to working on sensory disorders and fine motor skills, Occupational Therapists take into consideration environmental, psychological, and social abilities. This therapy is not just to help adults learn or regain skills for their job, rather is beneficial for all age groups with a variety of diagnoses to include developmental or learning disabilities, chronic illness, post-surgery, traumatic injuries and birth defects.

Occupational therapy (OT) is often provided in addition to Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy and incorporates everyday household items and activities in the treatment. In addition to outpatient clinics and the hospital, OT can be provided in the home or school setting; helping the patient continue with their normal daily routine while receiving the benefits of therapy.

How Can Occupational Therapy (OT) Help my Loved One?

Once ordered by the primary physician, the Occupational Therapist will complete an initial assessment to determine the appropriate therapy and set goals based on the age, diagnosis, and developmental level of the patient. The therapist will also look at the home and any other environments such as school or work to ensure proper equipment is in use. Based on the environment and needs of the patient, the therapist may also suggest additional equipment or changes to the current equipment used.

The therapists are trained to recognize the best treatment based on development and disease process or medical condition and work with the family and caregivers to create realistic goals. For example, a goal of assisting with putting on shoes may be more realistic than learning how to tie shoelaces. Teenagers and adults may have OT geared towards life skills such as time and money management, safety in the community, laundry, shopping, cleaning, and simple cooking skills.

Regardless of the diagnosis or treatment regimen, consistency is key in helping the patient achieve milestones and meet goals.

Examples of Skills Assisted by OT

Activities of Daily Living

  • Skills such as using utensils or holding a cup
  • Using hands or fingers to pick up objects
  • Learning how to dress oneself
  • Self- care such as brushing teeth


  • Pressing buttons on/using toys
  • Social skills
  • Ways to deal with anger and distractions


  • Learning how to hold a pen/pencil
  • Handwriting skills
  • Use of a computer keyboard or mouse


  • Time management
  • Computer/keyboard skills
  • Work and social skills
  • Money management

Environmental modifications

  • Adaptive devices to help make transfers and routine care easier
  • Adapting living environments
  • Car seat modifications
  • Ensure proper fit of equipment
  • Provide education to patients, parents, and caregivers on the use.

As discussed in a recent blog, patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder benefit from ongoing therapy, including OT. Occupational Therapists set customized goals geared towards the patient’s abilities and place on the spectrum. For additional information on how OT can benefit your loved one with ASD or help with other diagnoses or conditions, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. website.