What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy enables people to participate in activities of everyday life

Occupational therapy helps a child, young person, adult and their carers manage or cope with a difficulty or disability.  This includes improving function or learning new skills that affect self care (i.e. dressing, washing), play, school or work activities. Occupational therapists work in a person's home, school/college or in their community.  

Therapy or recommendations are individual, meaningful to the person and activity based to ensure that it is purposeful.  

School or college input can include advice on motor skills, handwriting  or changing the classroom/routine to help a child or young person stay focused.  

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Occupational therapy, often referred to as OT, is a healthcare profession that focuses on developing, recovering, or maintaining the daily living, educational and work skills of people with physical, emotional, or cognitive impairments.

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assessment and intervention



Assessments are selected according to the child's needs. The methods will be discussed during the initial contact. They may involve the following:

  • Telephone consultation with parents or carers
  • Questionnaires from parents/carers and school staff
  • Discussion with the child and parents/carers
  • Observation of the child during different activities
  • Sensory profiles
  • Standardised and non-standardised assessments to assess gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual-motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, handwriting, sensory processing and behaviour
  • Assessment of self care skills and daily living skills, e.g. dressing, cleaning teeth, shoe laces, handwriting, play and school performance.
  • Observations of the child or young adult in their setting, not in a clinic setting, e.g. school, college, home.  This means that an assessment is individual and reflects the person's needs.

Report and recommendations

After an occupational therapy assessment is completed, a written report is completed and provided, with consent, to relevant professionals.  This includes:

  • Occupational therapy report
  • Recommendations and individual therapy programme 
  • Advice and activity ideas
  • If appropriate, expert witness report (tribunals and court reports)


Intervention uses a range of approaches. The selection of these depends on the findings from the assessment.   All occupational therapy intervention is individual and specific to the person's needs:  

  • Sensory integration therapy.
  • Development of motor skills - balance, coordination, posture, muscle tone, body awareness, fine motor skills.
  • Handwriting skills.
  • Visual motor skills and visual perceptual skills.
  • Advice on independent living skills, e.g. self care skills (toileting, dressing, cleaning teeth, eating and drinking), community living skills.
  • Ideas for play and development.
  • Equipment to facilitate function.
  • Sensory diet.
  • Classroom layout and design, adapting activities, equipment for school. 
  • School and home programmes to develop skills.
  • Early intervention.
  • Recommendations for exam concessions.

Other Services Include

  • Training for staff groups, parent groups or charities
  • Consultation on classroom and child care settings to include children with special needs.
  • Consulting schools or professionals about special or additional needs