What is Occupational Therapy and how does it improve the quality of life in children and adults?

Updated: May 4, 2018


This is a question that is continually asked. For most people, the name alone would imply some sort of job preparation therapy. Although this therapy discipline will certainly help individuals improve their life skills in order to get a job, this therapy discipline focuses on improving and strengthening the everyday daily life skills known as "occupations." Are you still confused? Think of the daily life skills that you take for granted everyday. Some of these will include: (Tying your shoes, eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, socializing, dressing, driving, speaking) These skills are probably automatic for you, and are accomplished without giving much though. Now, imagine if these automatic tasks that we do everyday, were extremely difficult or impossible for you. What if you were unable to accomplish these basic skills. How would that impact your life? Would you feel defeated and frustrated? Would you leave the house? For many adults and children, this is their reality! Occupation Therapy can help improve the quality of life for these individuals by identifying weaknesses or deficits that are the result of sensory, physical or mental barriers.



Pediatric Occupational Therapy


Parents are constantly evaluating their children and comparing their children's development to the development of other age appropriate children. This is completely normal and happens everyday. This comparison is often what leads to the parent identifying the first signs that their child may have a developmental delay, sensory issues or just not progressing like the other children they see. Not all children reach their milestones the same. Fine motor developmental milestones are given in a suggested age or age bracket.

Have you noticed that your child is delayed or lacking in certain milestones pertaining to:


  • Self-care or activities of daily living (brushing teeth, buttoning clothes, using eating utensils.

  • Hand-eye coordination

  • Fine motor skills (grasping and controlling a pencil, using scissors)

  • Planning and organizing


While your child may have met all of their developmental milestones for their age, they may have certain sensory challenges that are developing. These sensory challenges can delay or interfere with the normal progression of reaching continued milestones. Your child's normal progression throughout their childhood sets the foundation for their continued journey to adolescence and eventually adulthood. Identifying and working through sensory, mental or physical delays at an early age is essential to their continued normal development and can results in more confidence, increased independence, better concentration and increased success at school.


Not sure if your child needs Occupation Therapy? Here are some questions that can help you in talking to your pediatrician or your local occupational therapist.


  • Is your child bothered by various textures (grass, sand, sticky items)?

  • Is your child always bothered by clothing tags?

  • Does your child scream or cry at bathtime? Bedtime? Dinner time?

  • Is your child uncomfortable wearing socks, underwear or other clothing?

  • Is your child disturbed by other kids getting close to them or touching them?

  • Does your child have meltdowns in crowded or noisy places?

  • Is your child sensitive to tastes and textures or the feel of certain foods?


Answering yes to a question does not necessarily mean your child is delayed or needs sensory therapy. If several of these questions pertain to your child, then you may want to talk to your pediatrician. You can also call your local Occupational Therapist.



Adult Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapists work with adults to help overcome a variety of life skill deficiencies. After an injury or stroke, people can be faced with upper extremity difficulties. Some specific concerns are muscle strains/tears, fractures, amputations, arthritis, ligament instability, hemiparesis and neuromuscular pathologies. Occupational Therapists can recommend and utilize orthoses and adaptive equipment to promote increased independence with activities of daily living for post-surgical or post-injury circumstances, as well as utilizing ergonomic principles. 


In many clinical therapy settings, occupational therapists work closely with speech language therapists to evaluate and develop successful therapy treatment plans. If you are local to the Auburn or East Alabama area and have questions or concerns about your child, please feel free to call Auburn Therapy and Learning Center at 334-734-5511.