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Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Updated on August 29, 2017

What is Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy is a holistic specialized service that enhances the ability of individuals to achieve a satisfaction in everyday lives. The therapy is designed to restore or maintain clients' functional abilities to perform daily activities thereby helping them to regain their optimal independence. Daily activities include aspects of self maintenance, productivity and social or leisure.

To ensure that clients receive effective and specially targeted therapy, occupational therapists carry out functional assessments to establish premorbid and current level of function so as to compare. The assessment results help towards analysing the individuals function in order to determine ways or methods and equipment to be used to restore or compensate for any loss of function.

Occupational Therapists can specialize in more specific areas of interests focusing on people of all ages who experience some difficulty in coping with daily tasks. The specialities can range from Orthopedic, Neurology, Medical and Elderly, Psychiatry or Mental Health, general and Hand Splinting, Pediatric (Children Services) and Vocational Rehabilitation. Difficulties can be the results of illness, injury, mental disability and aging.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy focuses on developing the child's skills necessary to become functional and independent adult. Pediatric occupational therapists work in schools, hospitals and homes. Therapists assess children using standardised and non standardised tests and clinical observations. They are trained to provide clinical reasoning and professional judgement based on their findings to give the best possible solution to child's problem.

Relationship between therapist, child, parents, school, nurses, social workers, pyschologists and doctors is imperative to co-ordinate and ensure continuity of treatment or interventions provided.

The uniqueness of occupational therapists is that they design individualised programs of activities that are used at home and at school to help the child develop the necessary skills. Another important aspect is to prescribe and provide necessary and suitable equipment and aids to compensate or replace any loss of function. Equipment to be provided depends primarily on the child's disability and needs. Equipment could be special seating chairs to help correct and maintain the child's seating posture, wheelchair to aid in mobility, special feeding utensils, casts and fabricated splints, and many more.

It is always advisable to contact your local health centre if you are concerned about any of your child's developmental stages or progress.

Help for a Cerebral Palsy Child

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is non-degenerative neurological condition that affects gross and motor skills. As it is non-curable, activities for the child should be aimed at improving their functional skills to be independent as possible. The most important one is to improve the quality of life.

Caring for a child with cerebral palsy can bring frustration to those living with child especially if there is limited access to resources that can enhance the child life experience. There is however wealth of information available online but still not many people aware of how they can use this information without proper guidance from a professionally experienced individual. Some people are still ashamed to talk about the issues they face. Meeting the care demands of cerebral palsy can be very challenging and exhausting.


Play is described as those activities that children engaged into. Play can be either planned or chosen by the carer and or the child. In most cases when play is for therapeutic reasons, it is usually decided upon by the adult or agreed upon if the child is mature enough to be involved in decision making. Just like adults work, children’s work is play. Having a structured and meaningful play involving therapeutic activities can have a positive influence on the child‘s performance and the quality of life as a whole.

What are therapeutic activities?

Therapeutic activities are those activities that have been purposefully chosen and adapted to produce a specific movement or position. Occupational therapists are trained to assess the children’s level of participation and analyse activities to match the needs. Occupational therapy therefore plays a very major role in rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy. Occupational therapy aim is to retrain the child to learn essential living skills or provide advice on techniques and tools to compensate for the lost or permanently loss of function. Occupational therapist may suggest activities that will help to produce smoothly coordinated movements that the child requires to carry out activities such as feeding, walking, colouring, putting and taking off clothes, etc. The ultimate goal is for the child to be as independent as possible in their daily living activities wherever suitable or for those who provide care to manage the child’s needs and demands with ease.

What activities can you do to help the child?

As much as there is endless list of activities available, always check with your professional advisor before attempting any new activity. Some activities can be tailored for each individual as every individual has their own varying limitations. As well as some activities can be very effective, some can be as damaging. Some people may not be aware that cerebral palsy children may have weak muscles and joints. These factors can put the child at a very high risk of joint dislocation and stress to the joints. It is therefore advisable to always check with your occupational therapist or your local health centre before attempting any new or unfamiliar activities.

How to Improve Your Child’s Bilateral Integration Skills

What is the difference between Bilateral Integration and Bilateral Coordination

Bilateral integration is the awareness and use of the extremities, both separately and simultaneously in unilateral and bilateral combinations. Bilateral coordination is the ability to coordinate the movements of the left and right sides of the body efficiently and smoothly and the term applies to both gross and fine motor activities.

Activities to Help Improve Bilateral Integration Skills

Bilateral Integration is an activity programme designed to enhance the links between both hemispheres in the brain. The programme develops inter-cerebellar connections via stimulation of the corpus callosum using physical movements. Bilateral coordination is necessary for many activities including writing, drawing, cutting, and throwing or catching a ball. Therefore a well-regulated vestibular system is essential to help integrate sensory information from both sides of the body.

Walking fearlessly through the world seems to be one thing that saints have a reputation for being easily able to do. Walking up and down stairs one foot at a time, marching, skipping and twisting a nut onto a bolt are good everyday examples. Climbing the ladder, walking on the beam and any rhythmical activities can all help to improve Bilateral Integration.

Here is a list of other activities you can explore:

  • Stitching and sewing activities. Threading beads

  • Cutting and scissor activities.

  • Playing a piano works in two ways as it stimulates the auditory processing as well as encouraging use and coordination of two hands.

  • Swimming involving a variation of breast strokes and leg pumping. This activity also works on strengthening the muscles of the back.

  • Tug of war using both hands.

  • Have the child trace around or colour inside plastic templates. This encourages stabilisation with the left hand so the design will come out clearly.

  • Drawing on small bits of paper - make sure the non-dominant hand is stabilising the paper.

  • Draw a picture on a vertical surface so the paper has to be held in place with the non-dominant hand. Tracing a very simple picture using the window for background lighting may be fun.

  • Practice opening jars and containers with screw top lids.

  • Musical instruments – tambourine, drum and triangle etc.

  • Wind up toys.

  • Kitchen activities such as buttering bread, cooking activities that require stirring and mixing. Use a manual eggbeater; mix dough or batter in a bowl.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome information,job super well done!

    • profile image

      Greg Todd 

      7 years ago

      Cerebral Palsy is highly challenging to survive with. Congratulations on creating a amazing website to spread the knowledge about this dreadful problem.

    • mkhovu profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Many thanks Peggy, it's slowly becoming easier to write especially with the supporting comments like these. I appreciate it, it really is motivating for the new hubber.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Wonderfully written article. Welcome to hubpages!


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