What is Pediatric Occupational Therapy?

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  • Written By: Summer Banks
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Pediatric occupational therapy is designed to aid in the gross motor and fine motor development of children. From birth, the motor skill development of the child may be a major focus of well-child visits. As the child ages, the slowed development of these fine and gross motor skills may impede the development of life activities and school activities. The pediatric occupational therapy specialist may focus on pencil grasp, pre-printing skills, scissor skills, and hand-eye coordination skills.

Fine motor skills are used in many school and home activities. The difference between a fine motor skill and a gross motor skill is in the smallest of details; the fine motor skill utilizes smaller muscle movements and the coordination of those movements. Hands and fingers are often synonymous with fine motor skills. Pediatric occupational therapy may work with pencil grasp and handwriting skills, for example. The pediatric occupational therapy specialist will often work with both preschool and school-aged children to enhance fine motor skills and correct fine motor deficiencies.

Gross motor skills include the larger muscles of the body. Walking, lifting, and sitting are all controlled with gross motor skills. The use of pediatric occupational therapy for the development of gross motor skills can be more prevalent when a gross motor disorder like Development Coordination Disorder is present.


Gross motor development is tracked most commonly between the ages of birth and 6 years of age. The pediatrician will often ask the age when the child walked, rolled, or stood with help. These are all milestones in gross motor development. As the school years approach, these gross motor skills can bleed into school development and learning if they are impaired.

One common sign of gross motor development problems is the inability to learn right from left. The pediatric occupational therapy specialist may work with the child to discern between the two directions in addition to the fluid movement between sitting, standing, and squatting. Hand-eye coordination may also be a focus of the pediatric occupational therapy specialist, as the 6th year of life begins the fine tuning of gross motor skills requiring the hand and eye to work together.

Pediatric occupational therapy can help a child learn to be more self-sufficient in both daily life and school activities. This can affect the future development of the child both mentally and physically. The therapy session may be held at either the school, at home or in a clinical setting.


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Post 3

I work alongside people in pediatric occupational therapy jobs, in a specific sector. I work in a school for students with profound disabilities both mental and physical in nature.

I just had to mention that I think this particular line of pediatric occupational therapy seems to be particularly rewarding for the occupational therapists that I work with (as shown by two of them having worked with this specific population for decades!).

You work on many of the same things that you work on in the schools with typically developing children but with these kids the progress is a bit slower or you have to find interesting ways to work around the limiting physical disabilities with things like adaptive


But even if you did not work in this specific pediatric field, one of the things I like about what I have seen about what occupational therapists do is the fact that they truly work on real life skills, and therefore give independence back to their clients because the skills they are working on are usually the ones you do every single day.

Post 2

@sunnySkys - I think you're right. My sister had some motor development problems when she was little. I remember it was really hard for her when she started pre-school. She had trouble doing stuff like grasping crayons!

However, the therapy really helped her. I think after a few years she was able to stop (it's been so long I forget how long she had the therapy.) And she's been fine ever since!

I think it would have been a lot different if my parents had done nothing though!

Post 1

I think it's really important to seek pediatric occupational therapy if the child needs it. Kids need every advantage once they reach school age. If they don't have motor skills, learning will be very difficult for them.

I feel like if you can address the problem early, you have more of a chance of solving it.

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