What is OT?

by Rachel Jensen, ChildServe Occupational Therapist

Has your child been recommended or scheduled for an occupational therapy evaluation?

Occupational therapy (OT) is a service area that works toward increasing an individual’s independence with daily tasks. Individuals of any age can receive occupational therapy, but pediatric OT looks different from adult OT because we target the primary occupation of most children – play.

At ChildServe, we use play to motivate children, engage with them, determine likes/dislikes, and work toward functional goals. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what a child is working on in therapy because it looks like play!

Common Goal Areas of OT

  • Sensory processing
  • Fine motor skills/handwriting
  • Activities of daily living (ADLs) – dressing, clothing fasteners, grooming
  • Gross motor skills – bilateral coordination, balance, crossing midline
  • Vision

What does an OT session look like?

At ChildServe, an OT session will take place in a gym alongside other sessions or in an individual treatment room. Sessions often begin with sensory preparation activities, such as swinging or completing an obstacle course to regulate your child’s sensory system and help him or her feel physically and mentally ready to learn. Following sensory preparation, your child might work at the table or on the floor with therapy tasks.

How do I know if my child needs OT?

If your child is displaying any of the following, an occupational therapy evaluation may be beneficial.

    • Delays with milestones – gross motor, fine motor, handwriting, dressing, grooming
    • Difficulty with academics – handwriting, vision/visual motor, attention
    • Sensory processing – difficulty tolerating sensory input (i.e., distress with brushing hair, bathing, clothing), seeking sensory input (i.e., difficulty sitting still, chewing on objects, frequently touching objects)
    • Emotional regulation

How does ChildServe measure success in OT?

  • Progress toward goals is summarized every 3 months, at which time goals can be continued, upgraded, or discontinued based on your child’s needs.
  • Goal areas can be modified at any time to best fit the needs of your child and family.
  • Discharge from OT occurs when all goals are met, the child demonstrates age-appropriate skills in all areas of occupation, when a family chooses to discontinue services, or when consistent progress toward goals is no longer demonstrated.

ChildServe‘s Specialty OT Clinics

Along with ChildServe‘s general Occupational Therapy program, the following specialty clinics are available*:

  • Feeding & Swallowing Clinic – Ideal for kids who have a limited number of foods in their diet
  • Vision Intensive – Ideal for kids who have difficulty reading/writing, difficulty finding objects, whose eyes get tired easily
  • Reflex Intensive – Addresses reflex integration to improve coordination
  • Sensory Intensive – Explores sensory strategies and equipment to improve regulation, focus, participation
  • Concussion Clinic – Specialized for kids who have had a concussion or concussion-like symptoms
  • Groups – Ideal for kids who would benefit from working toward OT skills within a group setting to also address social skills

*Talk to a social worker to learn more about which clinics are available near you.

Get Connected

To schedule an OT evaluation at ChildServe or get more information, email communications@childserve.org, or reach our social work teams at one of the following locations:
  • Johnston – 515-331-4518
  • Ames – 515-232-7220
  • Iowa City – 319-665-3221


ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 5,800 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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