2/8: What on Earth is a Child’s Occupation

Occupational Therapy is often pretty tough to explain to people because of what it’s called. It honestly sounds like an OT is someone who can help you get a job. But the core of what OT is all about is actually defined by its title. An OT is tasked with using a person’s “occupation” to design the plan of treatment. In the 1920s, when occupational therapy was first defined, an occupation was another word for a meaningful activity. It’s an activity that you prefer and love to do. Essentially, it’s what floats your boat. So, say you absolutely love to cook for your family, but you get in an accident resulting in a physical or neurological impairment. An OT should find out about your love for cooking and use that activity to create a treatment plan to get you intrinsically motivated to do the work to get better. So imagine how fun it is for an OT to work with kids, because what’s the main occupation for a child? PLAY!!! We get to use play themes to help children become motivated to push themselves to try challenging tasks. Watching them and learning about what makes them happy makes our job so wonderful. I always tell parents, if a therapist isn’t asking you about what your child loves, it may be they are doing therapy TO the child instead of WITH the child. It’s also the biggest advice I’ve always given to parents and teachers. If a child is struggling with initiating a non preferred task, do your best to incorporate what they DO prefer, whether it’s trains, letters, dinosaurs, or even rainbow color order. You will see much more progress when the child is the motivated to participate!

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