Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy focuses on permitting people to engage in occupations which provide a personal meaning and purpose to their lives. These activities refer to everything that people do during the course of the day: self care activities-such as dressing, bathing, eating; productive activities- such as attending school, paid work, home management, etc., and social and recreational activities (Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy, 1997). Occupational Therapists can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, community agencies, home care agencies, school based settings, and private practices. During the evaluation process, the occupational therapist collaborates with the client to identify the existing and expected difficulties the individual is faced with in engaging in daily activities because of the existence of an illness, whether it is physical, cognitive or emotional, or due to an injury. Working with the client, the occupational therapist develops a treatment plan using an approach or strategy that enhances the client’s ability to participate as independently as possible in those daily activities. The treatment approaches or strategies would focus on:  preventative measures while improving performance in daily activities; wellness promotion; skill restoration through rehabilitation; compensatory strategies through the use of assistive technology (Pedretti, 2006).


Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services

 Pediatric Occupational Therapy focuses on sensory processing issues, cognitive, motor, and other developmental delays, as well as, injuries and other impairments. Occupational Therapists can work in pediatric hospitals, pediatric outpatient settings, home care agencies, and school settings. Many occupational therapists work in school settings under the regulations of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as related service providers. A related service for those eligible students ages 3 through 21, is a service that allows the child with a disability to benefit from special education. Under the definition of IDEA “related services provided by a qualified occupational therapist includes:

  • Improving, developing, or restoring functions impaired or lost through illness, injury or deprivation
  •  Improving ability to perform tasks for independent functioning when functions are impaired or lost
  • Preventing through early intervention, initial or further impairment or loss of function”(34 C.F.R. 300.24 [b][5] ).

 The occupational therapist, working in a school setting, uses an activities based intervention, which can also include the use of Assistive Technology to help the child become independent in school activities. The occupational therapist determines the needs of the learner with disabilities in using assistive technologies to help the learner engage in school related activities, such as reading, writing, music and art.


In addition to these services, the occupational therapist is vital to the multidisciplinary team in working with the adolescent and their families in planning transition services for the student in entering post school life as a young adult. The IDEA requires that these transition services must be comprehensive and designed to provide meaningful positive post school outcomes and improve the student’s quality of life (Orentlicher & Michaels, 2003). The occupational therapist working in a school based setting brings a unique perspective to the educational team, as cognition, perception, psychosocial, and motor abilities of the child are assessed and treated in a functional context (Pedretti, 2006).The expertise of the occupational therapist demonstrates in assessing and addressing deficits and strengths in all these areas can also profoundly effect the student’s quality of life. The focus of occupational therapy is relevant in working with a student who is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, given that the illness affects all areas of the student’s life.



Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (1997). Enabling occupation: An occupational therapy perspective. Ottawa, Canada: CAOT Publications ACE.

Individuals with Disabilites Education Act Amendments of 2004. Pub.L. 105-117, 20 U.S.C. Chapter 34.

Krohn, W.S., Foti, D., & Glogoski, C. (2006). In Pedretti’s occupational therapy: Practice for Physical Dysfunction(6th Edition). Mosby, St. Louis, Mo.

Orentlicher, M.L., & Michaels, C.A. (2003). Enlisting occupational therapy practitioners to support students in transition from school to adult life: Part 1. Developmental Disabilities: Special Interest Section Quarterly, v.26, no.2, June 2004, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.


Web Links:


American Occupational Therapy Association:   http://www.AOTA.Org

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy:   http://www.CAOT.Org

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law:   http://www.wrightslaw.com


Suggested Readings:


Council for Exceptional Children. (1999). IEP team guide. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

 Multiple Sclerosis Council: Fatigue and multiple sclerosis, Washington, DC, 1998, Paralyzed Veterans of America.

 Wright, P.W. D.  & Wright, P.D. (2004). Wrightslaw:Special Education Law. Harbour Hose Law Press, Va.

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