What is Occupational Therapy?

New World OT_24 Many parents aren’t sure what occupational therapy is and if it could benefit their child.  Occupational therapy focuses on the various skills needed to do everyday tasks. Occupational therapy has many benefits for a child’s motor skills, social skills, problem solving and self-help abilities.

Occupational Therapy Services Can Address:

  • Fine Motor Skills:  such as a child’s ability to manipulate toys, hold a writing or eating utensil, and complete classroom activities.
  • Visual Motor Skills:  this includes the skills needed to complete a puzzle, copy noted from a classroom board, or cutting out a shape.
  • Play Skills:  this includes a child’s ability to play appropriately with peers and to tolerate unpredictability of engaging with same aged peers.
  • Self-Care Skills: such as hygiene, clothing management during a bathroom break, getting dressed in the morning, brushing teeth and safety awareness.
  • School Skills:  this includes any skills required to be independent within a classroom, including cutting, coloring and writing letters.
  • Self-Help Skills:  this includes a child’s ability to self-sooth when upset, manage frustrations and cope with unpredictability.
  • Attention and Behavior difficulties:  therapy can provide guidance and suggestions to manage difficult behaviors at home and within a classroom.

Occupational Therapists have experience with the following…

  • Sensory process disorders
  • Premature birth
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Feeding problems
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism spectrum disorder


Fine motor skills are the skills needed to complete small tasks that require the use of the hands and fingers. Fine motor skills are broken down into the following:

  • Reaching, which is the extension and movement of the arm for grasping or placing objects
  • Grasping, which is the attainment of an object with the hand
  • Carrying, which is transportation of a hand-held object from one place to another
  • Voluntary release, which is the intentional letting go of an object in the hand after grasp

More complex fine motor skills include in-hand manipulation, which is the ability to move and position one or more objects within one hand without using the other hand to assist, and bilateral hand use, which is the use of two hands together to accomplish an activity. Young children with fine motor difficulties may appear clumsy, display poor hand-eye coordination, and have difficulty holding onto objects. As children with fine motor delay get older, they may seem disinterested in tabletop activities, like writing, drawing, crafts, and building (such as with Legos), as these activities will be challenging for them to complete.

To identify a child’s current level of performance related to his fine motor skills, our occupational therapists will administer standardized assessments, either the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (BOT-2) or the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales (PMDS-2), depending on the child’s age, to identify the child’s baseline of functioning related to his fine motor skills, and complete clinical observations of the child’s fine motor performance. These assessments and observations provide the occupational therapist with the information necessary to promote development of the child’s fine motor abilities, as well as to see where the child should be performing for his/her age.


Following the evaluation, our therapists work with children who experience difficulties with their fine motor skills by creating appropriate goals for the child, followed by intervention planning with activities that are fun, yet address the fine motor skills necessary for the child’s age. Activities that may be completed in therapy or suggested for home include arts and crafts such as finger painting or beading; building games such as Legos and Jenga; cutting, tearing, and folding paper; using clothespins; hitting balloons back and forth; completing puzzles; sorting objects; playing card games; putting pegs into a peg board; tasks that involve handwriting; as well as activities that involve twisting and screwing on objects.

Each activity and therapeutic activity are customized to best address a child’s needs and skills level.  Therapists suggest activities to attempt at home and advice for the greatest carryover of skills between all environments.

More Summer Activities!

Summer is quickly coming to a close.  Take advantage of these final weeks with your children to add in seated and structured tasks for better school preparation.

Sensory Processing: 

Summer is a great time to explore outdoors and encourage sensory exploration. Pinterest has endless ideas and recipes for sensory activities. Some of my favorite are:

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream is cheap and easily accessible.  Put some on a table, or in a container if you’re nervous about making a mess, and have your child draw pictures, shapes or letters.  

Corn starch and water

Mixing com starch and water is one of my very favorite sensory activities. It can be intense for kids at first because it’s wet and sticky but can be a great activity for kids that have sensory sensitivities. 

Postural Control 

If your child frequently sits in a “W” position this is an indicator of low postural and core strength and endurance.  It is important to discourage sitting in this position as it can be detrimental to hips and knees. 

Ball Kicks and Punches 

If you have an exercise ball or beach ball you have all of the necessary supplies for a great core/postural muscle exercise. Have your kiddo lay on their backs, propped on their elbows with knees into their chest (head and upper back should be off of the floor). Roll or toss the ball to them and have them kick it back to you keeping feet off of the floor. 

Next, have your child lay on their belly and lift their chest and legs off the floor, like a super man position, roll/toss the ball to them and have them punch it back to you. 

Tether Ball:

Tetherball is a cheap, portable activity to do while at the park or beach. Playing with a tetherball is a great way to work on eye hand coordination, grading muscle pressure and postural control/endurance. Have your child play in half kneeling, kneeling, propped on elbows or on stomach to address core and postural muscle strength and endurance.  

Summer Activities

Hi Families,

I hope you are enjoying your summer break! I wanted to share some activities to do at home or on the go to keep up with the skills we’ve been working on over the year.  

Fine Motor Skills:


Coloring books are easy to transport and a perfect way to work on grasp, finger strength, grip endurance, and dexterity. Choose your battles here, if you’re most concerned about grasp be more lenient about coloring in lines.  If you’re working on coloring in the lines it’s okay to be looser with grasp and postural expectations. 

Tweezer Games.

Using tweezers to grasp small items is a great way to practice finger strength and dexterity. Have kiddos grasp tweezers with thumb on one side and pointer and middle finger on the other to pick up an item. A great game that works on this skill is called Wok n’ Roll!

Fusible Bead 

Fuse beads are perfect to practice pincer grasp and eye hand coordination. They are tiny cylindrical beads that are arranged on a plastic card and can eventually be ironed together out form a picture.  Ask your child to follow a pattern or work off of a model for extra visual motor/pattern recognition practice. For in hand manipulation skills give your child 3-8 beads in their palm and ask them to bring the bead to their fingertip without using their other hand or the table to stabilize. This skill is similar to when you have a palm full of coins and are put them into a vending machine one at a time. 

Visual Motor Skills:


Cutting is extremely important for hand strength, coordination of two hands, and eye hand coordination. Cutting skills should develop in this order: snipping at a paper’s edge, cutting across a paper, cutting along a straight line, cutting out a curved shape, cutting complex linear shapes. Have a chat about scissor safety and remind your kiddo to watch out for their helping hand. 


Puzzles are an important way to work on visual perceptual skills, visual scanning abilities, task organization and problem solving abilities.   If your child is new to interlocking puzzles try a 12 piece interlocking to start. Encourage them to identify the pictures that they see on each piece and then try to match the pictures. Melissa and Doug or Ravensburger have great interlocking puzzles of all sizes. I often work with 24-48 piece puzzles with the kids. 

Hand Writing:

Letter Treasure Hunt.

Letter recognition is an important skill for letter writing.  On long drives or walks ask your child to scan the environment to find different letters.  This is an easy, convenient way to increase familiarity with letter and promote visual scanning skills. 

Before writing letters, a child must be able to form pre-writing shapes which are vertical lines, horizontal lines, cross, circle and diagonal lines.   Start with uppercase letters! Don’t introduce lower case letters until the child is comfortable with upper.  Lower case letters are more complicated as they include more curved shapes.  When practicing letters I find it helpful to draw a long rectangle which I break up into the number of letters that are in the word. Giving a border is helpful to form letters with correct orientation and consistent sizing. 

Use Different Mediums

While practicing letter writing it is great to form letters using different mediums. Create letters using play doh, Wiki Sticks or even wet spaghetti. Write letters in the sand, mud, or shaving cream.  Exposure to skills in different ways greatly helps carry over and generalization of skills.