Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy treatment focuses on helping people achieve independence in all areas of their lives. OT can help children with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

A child's main job is playing and learning, and occupational therapists can evaluate their skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group.

Children Who Might Need Occupational Therapy

According to the AOTA, (American Occupational Therapy Association) children with these medical problems might benefit from OT:

• sensory processing disorders
• learning problems
• autism/pervasive developmental disorders
• developmental delays
• behavioural problems
• traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
• juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
• broken bones or other orthopaedic injuries
• post-surgical conditions
• burns
• spina bifida
• traumatic amputations
• cancer
• severe hand injuries
• multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses
• birth injuries or birth defects


Occupational therapists might:
• Help children work on fine motor skills so they can grasp and release toys and develop

   good handwriting skills
• Address hand-eye coordination to improve children’s play skills (hitting a target,

   batting a ball, copying from a blackboard, etc.)
• Help children with severe developmental delays learn basic tasks (such as bathing,

   getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves)
• Help children with behavioural disorders learn anger-management techniques (i.e.,

   instead of hitting others or acting out, using positive ways to deal with anger, such as

   writing about feelings or participating in a physical activity)
• Teach children with physical disabilities the coordination skills needed to feed

   themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting
• Work with children who have sensory and attentional issues to improve focus and social

• Evaluate a child's need for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing

   equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids



What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist?


For many years, when people thought about Speech and Language Pathologists, they thought about the women who worked with students on saying their “R” or “S” sound in that tiny office in the back of their elementary school. Times have changed!


A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a highly-trained professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty with speech or language.

Although people often think of speech and language as the same thing, the terms actually have very different meanings.


If your child has trouble with speech, he/she struggles with the “how-to” of talking—the coordination of the muscles and movements necessary to produce speech.


If your child has trouble with language, he/she struggles with understanding what he/she hears or sees. Your child may struggle to find the right words and/or organize those words in a meaningful way to communicate a message or hold a conversation.

Below is a list of common speech and language disorders with a brief explanation of each.


Speech Disorders
• Articulation - the way we say our speech sounds. When children of a certain age say 

  “Wabbit” for “Rabbit” that is when you call in your local SLP.
• Phonology - the speech patterns we use
• Apraxia - difficulty planning and coordinating the movements needed to make speech

• Fluency – stuttering. Speech and Language Pathologists have the unique training to

   work with people who are trying to

   overcome stuttering, or the inability to speak fluently. Fluency is the involuntary motor

   speech act of not being able to speak fluently
• Voice - problems with the way the voice sounds, such as hoarseness


Language Disorders
• Receptive Language - difficulty understanding language
• Expressive Language - difficulty using language. SLPs work to improving overall

   expressive language which includes being able to correctly describe objects or

   concepts, retell a story or narrative, describe similarities or differences or orally explain a

   logical sequence of events.

• Pragmatic Language - social communication; the way we speak to each other

   Pragmatic Language refers to the overall social or conversational skills that a person 

   demonstrates in everyday life situations. Speech and Language Pathologists may

   run a “lunch bunch” in schools or social skills groups with other professionals in a private

   practice or counselling office. Some individuals that may or may not be on the Autism

   spectrum may need some help with navigating the social world of their peers. This may

   include eye contact, eye gaze, starting a conversation, knowing how to maintain a

   conversation (topic maintenance), turn taking in a conversation, greetings and



Other Disorders
• Deafness/Hearing Loss - loss of hearing; therapy includes developing lip-reading, speech,

   and/or alternative communication systems
• Oral-Motor Disorders - weak tongue and/or lip muscles


A Speech- Language Pathologist can also work on the following areas.


Auditory Processing
Auditory processing is the fancy way of describing “how the brain hears a message.” An individual may have a perfectly functioning ear with “normal hearing” but could still have difficulty with Auditory Processing. Improving auditory processing skills includes working on improving overall auditory memory, auditory sequencing, auditory cohesion and more. It’s good to remember that the diagnosis of a (Central) Auditory Processing Disorder comes from an Audiologist and the Speech and Language Pathologist is the professional that works with the person after that diagnosis.

Phonemic Awareness
Before you learn to read, you have to know the letters of the alphabet and the sounds each letter can make. Then, once you have this knowledge you can begin to blend and put sounds together to make words. Individuals with communication disorders may also have difficulty in the area of “phonemic awareness” which is “identifying and knowing the sounds a letter makes.” Speech and Language Pathologists help those who are having difficulty making that jump into reading by working on their overall phonemic awareness abilities.

Reading Comprehension
The ability to understand what is being read, not just reading words on a page, is reading comprehension. Many times, students with communication disorders have been reluctant readers or are a grade level behind or two on their reading abilities. Being able to comprehend or understand what happens in a story is a crucial part of academic and testing and job success. Strategies for reading comprehension can be part of a treatment plan for students with diagnosed reading disorders, such as dyslexia, or students who have been identified as “struggling readers.”

Writing Disorders
Individuals may be diagnosed with a written expression disorder from a psychologist or a Speech and Language Pathologist. This describes the inability or difficulty in getting down ideas or thoughts in your head to a tablet, computer or paper. This can happen in short answer questions on a Science test or when writing a thesis for your PhD in Astrophysics. A Speech and Language Pathologist provides strategies for getting thoughts down on paper, organizing and sequencing ideas into grammatically correct sentences, paragraphs and essays. Use of cognitive organizers, such as Mind Maps, can be very helpful in getting ideas out in written form.