What is an Occupational Therapist?

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The World Federation of Occupational Therapists provides the following definition of Occupational Therapy: “Occupational therapy is as a profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to do things that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying the environment to better support participation.”

An Occupational Therapist is often assumed to simply assist people with their ‘occupation’ -their job. In fact, an occupation is anything that occupies your time – meaning any and all of the activities that a person does each day. For most adults, this does include some type of employment, but also includes self-care tasks such as dressing and showering; and leisure activities like doing the crossword or playing golf. When something is getting in the way of a person being able to participate in these activities, an OT can assist them to get back on track.

Play is considered the ‘job’ of a child – this is where they learn how to interact with the world, learn the rules of socialising and develop their cognitive, language and motor coordination skills. At school, a child learns the basic skills they will need as an adult out in ‘the real world’. As a teenager, we learn own sense of self, our passions and interests, and make decisions about our skills and future.

A child’s occupations will typically include self-care activities, play and social interactions, and learning. If a child is having difficulty in performing any of these tasks, an OT will look at what components of the task are providing an obstacle, and work together with the child and their family to help the child successfully participate in their daily occupations. This might include showing the child how to do the task more effectively, changing the requirement of the task to suit the skills of the child, or changing the environment to support independence.

An OT working with children helps kids having difficulties with gross motor, fine motor, visual perception, behavioural and self-care. These may or may not include:

  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Toileting
  • Sleeping
  • Play with peers
  • Sports or physical activity
  • Handwriting
  • Reading

Click here to download this Fact Sheet in PDF format