Checklist: Does Your Child Need Occupational Therapy?

Spot the Signs Your Student Needs Help Taking Part in Daily School Activities

Does your daughter struggle every night to finish her homework because she’s brought home incomplete instructions, copied from the board in an almost illegible scrawl?

does my child need occupational therapy checklistWhen your son tries to use scissors, does he end up snipping his fingers more than the paper?

Are teachers sending home progress reports telling you your student needs to pay more attention in class?

Every child hits some rough spots in school. If these scenarios sound all-too-familiar to you, you’ll want to read this checklist of signs your child may need occupational therapy (OT)

At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), Inc., we’ve earned a reputation as a leading provider of innovative, effective school-based therapy services. Our plethora of resources for parents, guardians, and other caregivers is one reason why.

These therapist-developed and -tested resources help families support students’ educational achievement by reinforcing at home the skills developed during OT interventions at school.

By using our checklist to review who needs occupational therapy, you’ll be able to tell whether OT might help your child make greater progress at school. You’ll also see how our OT resources can help you support her or his progress at home.

What Do School-Based Occupational Therapy Services Accomplish?

In any setting, OT uses daily activities—“occupations”—in a therapeutic way. It enables people to do what they want and need to do. It empowers them to live their fullest possible lives by helping them promote health and prevent or live better with illness, injuries, or disabilities.

School-based occupational therapists view kids from a holistic perspective. They see the whole child, not just his or her disability or disorder. They use evidence-based interventions to help him or her succeed in the daily occupations involved in accessing an education.

Why Would a Child Need Occupational Therapy in School?

OT practitioners are members of the school’s education team. The interventions they design and implement can help students take part in and succeed more often at such daily education-related occupations as:

  • Paying attention in class so they can know and follow teachers’ directions.
  • Holding and using a pencil effectively in order to clearly communicate in writing what they know, think, and feel.
  • Using a computer to access information and share school work.
  • Copy information from the board accurately and efficiently, so they have the information they need to complete assignments.
  • Playing with others at recess, to benefit not only from physical activity but also from positive interactions with peers.
  • Opening a lunchbox or using fasteners, so they can function more independently during the school day.
  • Experiencing positive mealtimes in the cafeteria, so they develop healthy relationships with their food and their fellow students.

Typically, children and youth with the following diagnoses may benefit from OT:

  • Birth injuries or birth defects
  • does my child need occupational therapy checklistSensory processing disorders 
  • Traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries
  • Learning difficulties
  • Autism or pervasive developmental disorders
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mental health or behavioral problems
  • Broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
  • Developmental delays
  • Post-surgical conditions
  • Burns
  • Spina bifida
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Traumatic amputations
  • Cancer
  • Severe hand injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

Other students facing specific problems in school may also be eligible to receive OT. 

Recognizing the Signs: A Checklist

If you’re asking, “Does my child need occupational therapy?” this checklist can help you find out.

Do any of the statements below accurately describe your student?

___ My child is overly sensitive to stimulation.

___ My child overreacts to or doesn’t like touch, noise, smells, etc.

___ My child is fidgety and easily distracted in the classroom, and is often out of his or her seat.

___ My child is easily overwhelmed at the playground, during recess, and in class.

___ My child is slow to perform tasks.

___ My child has poor or illegible handwriting.

___ My child has difficulty using scissors.

___ My child has difficulty performing or avoids fine motor tasks.

___ My child appears clumsy and stumbles often, slouches in the chair.

___ My child craves roughhousing and tackling and wrestling games

___ My child is slow to learn new activities.

___ My child is in constant motion.

___ My child has difficulty learning new motor tasks and prefers sedentary activities.

___ My child has difficulty making friends because he or she is overly aggressive or passive and withdrawn.

___ My child “gets stuck” on tasks and has difficulty switching to other tasks.

___ My child is overly focused on one topic or subject.

___ My child confuses similar-sounding words and misinterprets teachers’ or peers’ questions and requests.

___ My child has difficulty reading, especially aloud. 

How Families at Home Can Support School-Based OT Services

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools must provide only those occupational therapy services that further a student’s free appropriate public education. 

But students will naturally benefit the most from school-based therapy services when their families are reinforcing and complementing those services at home.

Here are just a few resources PTS therapists have developed to help you support your child who needs occupational therapy—and which may, in some cases, circumvent the need for OT altogether.

  • Activities and Exercises for Home from Your Occupational Therapist
    Building these fine motor activities into children’s’ daily life and playtime can produce dramatic results! Also includes a list of helpful websites and smartphone apps.
  • Sensory Activities
    Help your child develop all seven senses—the commonly known five, plus body awareness and the sense of movement—with these easy-to-implement activities.
  • Taking Notes in Class
    Even grown-ups can have trouble writing at the speed of speech! These tips will help your child develop her or his own system.
  • Summer Activities for Visual and Fine Motor Skills
    Using this calendar as your model, you can make sure time off from school doesn’t mean time off from developmental progress.
  • Sensory Diet for Home
    Check this chart for at-a-glance sensory strategies to use with children any time of day, from when they get up in the morning to when they go to bed at night. 
  • Morning Readiness
    Help your child get the day off to a great start with these sensory and scheduling strategies.
  • Bedtime Readiness
    Making sure your child’s sensory system gets all the input it needs at the end of the day can make going to bed nothing to dread.

If you’d like to find out more about how PTS’ school-based OT services set up students to succeed at school, as well as how you can support your student’s progress at home, be sure to check out our collection of even more fun and exciting activities and resources for families

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