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Hearing that your child might need occupational therapy is not easy. However, it might help them to reach their full potential.

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists defines occupational therapy as: “a profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life.”

The Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa (OTASA) says occupational therapy deals with: fine-motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills and sensory-processing deficits.

Occupational therapists use scientifically chosen activities to maximise their client’s functioning.  This empowers them to be as independent as possible and to experience quality of life.

Find out more about motor development therapy.

Trusting in the process

After one meeting with an occupational therapist (OT) Jane* viewed occupational therapy differently. “My husband and I discussed what the teacher had said about our son’s struggles in the classroom. We then decided we owed it to Callum* to at least investigate it,” she says. “Once I got over myself, I was surprisingly impressed.”

Holistic approach

Jane was impressed by the occupational therapist’s approach. “She viewed Callum as a total entity, looking at the way he played and what he liked to do. She also looked at how he went about his daily activities and tasks, observing his posture, balance, motor skills and visual perception.

“Occupational therapy is the best thing that could have happened to Callum. I was so concerned about the stigma. And worried about him being singled out. But, he loves it. He’s a different little boy. His confidence has increased. He has blossomed in every conceivable way.”

*Names have been changed.

Who benefits from occupational therapy?

  • children with birth injuries or birth defects
  • those with sensory processing/integrative disorders
  • children who have suffered traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
  • those with learning problems
  • children who have autism
  • those with pervasive developmental disorders
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis sufferers
  • those experiencing developmental delays
  • children with mental health or behavioural problems
  • burn victims
  • children with post-surgical conditions
  • sufferers of spina bifida (split spine)
  • children who have had traumatic amputations
  • cancer sufferers
  • children with severe hand injuries
  • sufferers of multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses.

Adapted from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)

OT should be considered if a child exhibits any of the following:

  • does not use both their hands simultaneously and for different actions
  •  cannot cut along a line at age four
  •  is unable to cut out a circle at age five
  •  ends up full of glue or paint, but doesn’t know how it happened
  •  has difficulty moving to music
  • experiences difficulty writing letters when learning to write in Grade R.

For further information, contact OTASA.  Tel: 012 362 5457; email;