Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics

Hey readers, happy blogmas day 3! Today I want to talk about OT in pediatrics. As someone who is interested in being a pediatric OT, I was super excited for this semester. We had our pediatrics practice course as well as pediatric fieldwork opportunities. I also found out that I will be doing BOTH of my level II fieldwork placements at pediatric sites! Here are some of the main aspects of OT in pediatrics that I learned this semester:

Family-Centered Care

Working with kids doesn’t mean you are ONLY working with kids. You also work with their parents/caregivers, family members, siblings, teachers, etc. Family-centered care is important when working with children to ensure that you are meeting the goals and needs of the family. You also need to respect their cultural values and norms. Family-centered care means giving the family the tools to be successful outside of OT treatment sessions in ways that work for them. This means that your interventions, strategies, and suggestions won’t be “cookie cutter”, rather, you will customize everything to the unique needs of the family. This will help them to generalize what they learn in OT sessions to their home and community settings (which is also a hint at what I am researching for my ADE project).

Play, Play, Play!

When I first observed pediatric OT before applying to grad school, I was honestly a little confused. I didn’t know what to look for during the session, so I thought they were just playing with the kids. Little did I know, the OT was strategically choosing games, toys, and activities to play with the child to work on so many skills all at once! This is one of the things that I love so much about OT in pediatrics. From the outside (and to the child), you are just playing fun games. But the OT knows all of the skills that you are sneakily working on by playing that game or using that toy.

During my level I fieldwork opportunity this semester, I planned and implemented a play session (similar to an intervention) with a child, observed by an OTR/L. For my play session, I wanted to work on handwriting skills. To do this, I had the child trace a jack-o-lantern (it was almost Halloween at the time), color it in, peel and stick stickers to the paper, and copy his name. The child thought we were just playing a fun game, but in my mind I was looking at handwriting skills that he will need for kindergarten (e.g. pencil grasp, fine motor skills, bimanual coordination, visual perceptual skills, and more!).

All Things Sensory

Who else loves sensory tools?! Children (and adults) with sensory processing disorder may be over-sensitive to sensory stimuli, under-sensitive to sensory stimuli, unable to register sensory stimuli, or they may seek out sensory stimuli. OTs may suggest sensory breaks, sensory diets, or specific sensory tools and strategies to either increase or decrease the amount of sensory stimuli the child experiences depending on their responses to those stimuli.

Some of my sensory preferences include enjoying calming scents (e.g. lavender) and getting some form of movement and fresh air everyday to feel balanced. Some sensations that I don’t like include spicy food and excessive sound or background noise. Comment your sensory preferences below!


OTs, especially school-based OTs, work on handwriting a lot. However, it’s not all we do! I am really excited to learn more about school-based OT in the elective I am taking next semester, so more information on that is coming in the spring. This semester, I performed a handwriting screening on a child who was referred for OT services. This was a really cool experience because I got to work with a real client and learn more about the skills that are required for handwriting and personal/environmental factors that can impact handwriting performance.

Transition Planning

It is important that OTs start addressing transition planning with children as early as age 14. Children who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school are eligible for transition services, which may include learning vocational skills, skills related to money/financial management, cleaning, personal care, and more. It is an important role of the OT to ensure that adolescents graduate from high school able to care for themselves and fulfill desired vocational roles to the best of their ability.

Pediatric Conditions

We learned about various conditions that children who OTs work with may have, including but not limited to: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Albright Hereditary Osteodystrophy, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and Williams Syndrome.

And there is so much more! I am so excited for my level II fieldwork experiences, where I hope to learn a ton about OT in pediatrics and to apply what I have learned this semester to real clients.

Be sure to check out my first two blogmas posts, and be on the lookout for more all the way up until Christmas. Thanks for reading!

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