Occupational Therapy Education

Occupational Therapy FAQs

These are some of the most commonly asked questions. If you need additional information, our dedicated team is always here to answer any and all questions you might have.


What is occupational therapy (OT)?
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA, 2002), occupational therapists help to promote engagement in occupations and to support participation in context. The areas of occupation addressed by occupational therapists are activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation.

What is the difference of occupational therapy in the school system versus in a hospital or clinic?

Occupational therapy in the school system serves a slightly different purpose than the traditional medical role you might find in a clinic or hospital. As a related service, occupational therapy in the school system helps students to obtain benefit from their specially designed program (special education) and improve in their educational performance as mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A medical model (clinic and hospital occupational therapy) focuses on the medical diagnosis of the problem and the remediation of the problem.

What is sensory processing?

Sensory processing and discrimination refers to how a person takes in information from the environment, makes sense of it, responds to it, and utilizes it to explore and differentiate between objects in the environment. This information is interpreted by the visual (sight), auditory (sound/hearing), tactile (touch), proprioception (body awareness, joint position sense) and vestibular (perception of movement/balance). 

What is tactile/touch processing?

The tactile system provides feedback about how something feels. It will tell us if something is hot or cold, soft or hard, wet or dry. It can tell us about an object’s shape, size or texture. Children who have difficulties with tactile/touch processing may present with hypersensitivities to textures that appear non-threatening to the general population (i.e. paints, glue, playdoh, putty,etc.).

What is proprioceptive processing?

The sense of proprioception gives information about the muscles and joints. It tells one where your body is in space. It tells one how hard or how soft to perform a task (i.e. how hard to press on a writing utensil, how hard to push a door closed, how hard or soft to throw a ball to hit a target). Children with proprioceptive processing difficulties may use too much force or not enough force when performing an activity. Other times, children may appear "disorganized" and seek a lot of movement. Also, a child may tend to seek a lot of hugs or gentle squeezes (this is characterized more as deep pressure input for the muscles and joints) which can be calming at times. 

What is vestibular processing?

The vestibular sense provides information related to head position and movement. The receptors of this system respond to gravity and motion, especially when there is a change of direction. Children with vestibular processing issues may tend to seek a lot of movement and appear "unorganized." They may also present with a fear of having their feet off the ground and feel uneasy with movement such as when being on a swing or accessing a slide. 

How do I know if my child may need occupational therapy services or early intervention services?

There is no exact rule of thumb, but if you feel that your child is delayed or is not developing normally, bring this attention to your pediatrician. The following are some indicators that you should pursue an evaluation. It is important to note that every child reaches milestones at different ages and there is a range on what is considered normal/typical development. 

Gross Motor

  • Not sitting upright by one year of age
  • Not standing unaccompanied by 14 months of age
  • Not walking by 18 months of age
  • Walks on toes rather than soles of feet
  • Falls frequently for no reason

Fine Motor

  • Uses a fisted grasp on a crayon
  • Is unable to imitate or copy simple lines (vertical, horizontal, circle) by age 4
  • Displays uncoordinated movements during activities
  • Uses one hand to participate in activities
  • Does not have a hand preference by age 4


  • Afraid of swinging movements; does not like to be upside down
  • Over/underreactive to pain
  • Has difficulty calming down appropriately
  • Touches everything - including people, objects
  • Avoids messy projects and does not like touch
  • Lacks eye contact
  • Has rigid muscle tone


  • Does not display joint attention (only wants others to pay attention to what he/she is doing)
  • Does not copy actions of others by age 2
  • Does not exhibit pretend play by age 2
  • Does not demonstrate typical play with toys
  • Is overly fixated on a limited repertoire of activities (this can be typical in normal development, but abnormal fixation interferes with social interaction or other activities during the day)


  • Has difficulties biting/chewing food
  • Does not initiate feeding self by 18 months of age
  • Is unable to drink from a cup at 18 months of age
  • Has a limited food repertoire
  • Gags or vomits at the sight or smell of certain food textures

    (From Delaney, 2008)
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