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Occupational Therapy for the whole family

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Occupational Therapy for the whole family

Prolific scribe

Occupational Therapy for the whole family

As some of you may have already had experience with the OT many of us haven't. There are many reasons that you may need to see one - motor skills, rehab, behavioural issues, medical diagnosis, mental health etc. Below I have found some information that may be helpful for issues you may be experiencing or yet to experience. OT's are part of the allied health team with physio's, soc workers etc.



Occupational therapists can assist children to engage in school, play, and self-care occupations and to participate in their life roles with their families at home, school, and in the community. 


The role of occupational therapists

Occupational therapists (OTs) are child- and family-focused. They assist children to manage the sensory sensitivities, as well as the behavioural and coordination difficulties, that often accompany medical diagnosis. OTs also help children to overcome challenges they may have with daily activities. OTs use children’s everyday activities as the focus of intervention and are expert at modifying activities and environments to better suit a child’s needs.


When should a child/family see an occupational therapist? 

If a child has difficulties with play, managing transitions, self-care, or school-work tasks such as concentrating and writing, or has sensory and coordination difficulties.

What does an assessment involve?

The OT will talk with the parents or carers, the child (if appropriate), and other professionals about a child’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, and behaviour.



What kind of treatments do occupational therapists provide?

The OT will work collaboratively with the child and parents to identify goals for intervention and develop a plan of action with short-term objectives that they can work on together.



For a school-aged child, an occupational therapy session might involve additional activities such as:


  • active movement,
  • role-plays,
  • stress reduction techniques,
  • handwriting practice, 
  • participation in a social skills group with other children.


As the child gets older, these activities might expand to include organising and managing friendships, interests, and responsibilities.

OTs make use of visual strategies such as visual timetables, social stories, and visual cue-cards. They may teach the child self-management or self-regulation strategies to cope with challenges such as personal organisation, social skills, or sensory sensitivity. 


Within the school setting:


The OT may work with the child and the teacher to modify classroom expectations to allow new ways for a child to demonstrate knowledge despite such things as poor handwriting and difficulties with personal organisation.


In summary, OTs are skilled in a variety of types of intervention:

• promoting and maximising a child’s occupation performance, health, well-being, and participation;
• assisting a child to develop new skills;
• ensuring new skills are maintained and built upon;
• modifying the environment or activity to ensure a child can participate in meaningful ways; and
• implementing steps to prevent the development of behaviours or performance that would diminish a child’s strengths or abilities in the long term.



I have a SN teen who started seeing an OT around 2 yrs. Mostly her behaviour was/is our biggest issue -being a twin she was leading her sister along on her escapades. We slowly managed to proceed and then went back when she was 4. Learning difficulties were so pronounced -she still at 14 has just been dx again with the age of 9 in basic English. She is a very clever girl but just cannot get it out. At 7 she tried holding things but her co ordination is still quite poor. We are about to go back and relearn how to refine hand skills - she loves to cook and does it well - but the house is covered in flour etc.


As you have read through the different processes on what an OT does my family and I have used them many times at all ages. It can be used privately and also through the public system. They are very supportive and interested both on the phone and in person.

Hopefully this can help when you are beyond coping and unable to think of where else to turn.

Super contributor

Re: Occupational Therapy for the whole family

Hey @Lily17 That's incredible, thank you so much for that!!


I really hope you don't mind but I edited it down a tiny bit. 


And thank you for sharing your experience with an OT. Can I ask what made you choose an OT? Was it recommended?


I'm wondering how many parents out there have kids that they think are just super naughty when in fact they need the support of an OT. What do you think?

Super star contributor

Re: Occupational Therapy for the whole family

Awesome thread, thanks so much for sharing @Lily17. I'm sure this will be of interest to many parents. I was keen to learn more about OT. 


I had a complete blank yesterday Lily17 when I was responding to Cameo, I do apologise, but @Cameo, rather than starting a new thread, would like to add your experiences with OT here? 


I reckon there'd be many parents @Ngaio-RO.  


Is being really naughy the only indicator?


Prolific scribe

Re: Occupational Therapy for the whole family

My girls were 28wkers their outcome for survival was very limited due to brain injuries at birth. We were given support from the allied health team on that day. This included the OT so that when we touched them in their  isolates we were able to stimulate their sensory skills as we did not hold them until they were over a wk old. With the help of the OT their survival started to increase as they got used to us holding stroking stretching their tiny bodies and helping them to respond and relax. Without that help and knowledge the outcomes we were coming to terms were unimaginable. Our MH was completely shot but she talked us through the many options that other health professionals were unable to explain to our level of understanding.


Moving forward T1 met milestones slowly and happily. T2 was a disaster always happening. She couldn't hold/grasp anything - we covered the floor and the table in newspapers for her to eat until she was 4/5. Her non stop bunny battery did not have a switch. She couldn't sit still, concentrate and we couldn't catch her!!

Back to the OT learning to write and slow down along with behaviour and social skills for all of us - not just her!! Physically her body was very tight from her brain injury although movement was so extreme they ruled out Cerebral Palsy at 4mths. The joke of it is she was diagnosed with it again 18 mths ago for her - lack of physical ability..


It is not because her behaviour was naughty she has never been able to control of her emotions so the OT based her behaviour around simple things like dress ups and lots of things she liked to do rather than punishment and yelling as she understood neither! The OT put together plans for us to discipline her and provide boundaries for her safety. One in particular was building 3 fences in the front yard for her security, we were in a busy street. By the 4th fence we had time to grab her, it was a 6ft fence. Obviously other parents had gone through the same issues for her suggestions..


If you go back to the births of your kids not meeting those milestones, things not seeming quite right that's where the OT comes into it. They provide the specific plans to meet the whole families needs right throughout our lives. They teach us new skills and provide the support that we so badly crave. And, you aren't just a number.


I hope by sharing a small part of our trials and many tribulations it gives you a much wider idea of other areas you can go for help. T2 has also attended as she couldn't write, hold a pen etc.


If you require additional info the Australian occupational therapists have more specific details.