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8 Skills Addressed in Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Does your child have difficulties with day-to-day activities at home, school, or in the community? Do they experience challenges that do not affect most typically developing children? If these difficulties sound familiar to you, pediatric occupational therapy may be able to help your child.

What is Occupational Therapy?

First, let’s define occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is defined as a treatment that supports a child and their family when the have troubles with the following areas:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Developmental skills
  • Visual processing
  • Oral motor
  • Sensory processing
  • Social interactions
  • Learning challenges
  • Play Skills


Fine motor skills are small movements made with fingers, toes, wrists, lips, and tongue, like holding a small object or picking up a spoon. If your child is struggling with fine motor skills, they may have difficulty with one of these actions:

  • Manipulating toys and puzzles
  • Holding a pencil, using scissors
  • Using utensils or straws at an age-appropriate time
  • Using zippers, buttons, shoelaces
  • Coloring, drawing, tracing, prewriting shapes
  • Poor handwriting, letter/number formation
  • Not developing a hand dominance at an age-appropriate time

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills help us move and coordinate our arms, legs, and other body parts. They involve larger muscles that help us control our body. A child who is behind in movement, strength, and/or balance may appear clumsy or uncoordinated. Somethings you may notice:  

  • Coordination of both sides of the body
  • Poor ball skills 
  • Poor balance
  • Not crossing midline
  • Fear of leaving the ground
  • Avoiding games or sports requiring gross motor skills

Developmental Delay

A developmental delay is a more than just being behind other children in a skill. Further, it is being behind in a combination of skills or not meeting development milestones. Some examples of developmental delays are below:

  •  Milestones of sitting, crawling, walking
  • Age appropriate level of learning
  • Not developing age appropriate social or play skills

Visual Skills

Visual processing is the process we use to make sense of what we see. It is a process in our brain that interprets visual information. If your child has difficulty with one of these things, they may have difficulties with this skill. Other visual skills your child may have difficulties with include; tracking, scanning, and eye teaming.  Some signs that your child is having trouble with their visual skills may include:

  • Reading
  • Copying from the board at school
  • Recognizing proper spacing and sizing of letters
  • Right left concepts
  • Recognizing letters and numbers
  • Finding objects among other objects
  • Completing puzzles

Oral Motor Skills

Oral motor skills are the control of muscle movements in the face and oral area, such as the lips, jaw, tongue, and soft palate. Delayed oral motor and sensory skills can show in one or more of the following:                

  • Excessive drooling      
  • Putting objects in their mouth beyond appropriate age
  • Picky eaters
  • Losing excessive liquid when drink from a bottle or cup depending on age
  • Difficulty sucking from bottle or straw
  • Chews food in the mouth instead of using molars

Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is making sense of information that we receive through our senses.Your child may be oversensitive to the things around them and may be seen through: 

  • Over sensitivity to sound, touch, or movement
  • Under responsive to some senses
  • Constant moving, jumping inability to sit still
  • Easily distracted by visual or auditory stimuli
  • Difficulty handling change in situations
  • Inability to calm self when upset

Social Interactions/Play Skills

Social interactions and play skills are skills that help us have relationships with peers and family and understand those around us. They help us bond with other people in our lives.  . A child can gain self-confidence, learn problem solving, and develop social skills through play. Examples include:

  • Difficulty communicating and playing with others
  • Delayed language skills
  • Overly focused on an object and not aware of environment or others in the room
  • Difficulty coping with school or social environments
  • Needs adult help to initiate play
  • Difficulty with imitative play
  • Wanders aimlessly without purposeful play
  • Moves quickly from one activity to the next
  • Participates in repetitive play for hours (e.g., lining up toys)
  • Does not join in with peers/siblings when playing

Learning Difficulties

Learning difficulties can be seen in the classroom or at home.  This can be a type of developmental delay.  If you see one or more of the following you may want to consult with an occupational therapist.

  • Poor focus and attention at school
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Poor impulse control
  • Child tires easily completing schoolwork

It’s important to know that all children develop and learn at their own pace. However, if you have a child that you feel may need help with any of these skills you may want to contact your occupational therapist. From there, they can take a look and see if there is a possibility your child would benefit from assistance using occupational therapy.

Reference: University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics

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The decision to seek therapy is not always an easy one. If you're looking for life improvement, we want you know that we've got your back!

We invite you schedule a call If you have further questions regarding OT/PT/SLP services for kids and adults at Crawl Walk Jump Run in Clinton Township