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Occupational therapy (OT) is a type of rehabilitation that focuses on the tasks of living. Occupational therapy provides patients and families with the tools they need for success in daily life. The purpose of OT is independence and safety with everyday tasks such as getting dressed, bathing, brushing teeth, cooking, handwriting, and playing.
The purpose of an evaluation visit is to assess areas of function so that the occupational therapist can develop a treatment plan to meet the patient’s specific needs. The areas assessed during an OT evaluation depend on the patient’s age, diagnosis, and rehabilitation needs. Different methods and tools are used to evaluate the child’s abilities and develop a plan of care. These may include asking questions about the child’s activities, carefully observing the child during specific tasks, using therapy evaluation equipment, or completing an assessment that allows the therapist to compare the child’s performance in a task to other kids their age. An occupational therapy evaluation is usually performed at the first visit and may be done periodically during treatment.
Evaluation of infants and toddlers focuses on assessment of developmental skills as well as vision, strength, and neurologic function. Limitations in any of these areas can affect a child’s ability to do the jobs of childhood — to learn, grow, and play.
The occupational therapist will evaluate fine motor, visual motor and gross motor skills. A standardized assessment might also be completed which can involve the occupational therapist performing tasks with the child or having parents fill out a questionnaire.
Fine motor skills are movements that use small muscles, like those in the hands and fingers. These skills are important for tasks such as writing, eating, grasping, and buttoning clothes.
Visual motor skills involve the ability to perceive and interpret visual information and coordinate the appropriate movement response. Examples include being able to copy letters or shapes or catch a ball.
Gross motor skills are movements involving large muscle groups of the arms, legs, and trunk. These skills include activities like crawling, walking, and running.
Age appropriate self-care skills will also be evaluated. These include activities like feeding, dressing, brushing teeth, toileting or bathing. Occupational therapists can determine how a child is doing relative to other children the same age and provide recommendations to encourage development of these skills.
Evaluation of children and teens will focus on assessment of the skills needed for activities of everyday life. Part of the evaluation will include an interview with children and their parents to learn about the child’s ability to do daily tasks in home, school, and community settings. The occupational therapist will ask the patient and caregivers about how much assistance they need for daily tasks including dressing, bathing, toileting, grooming, and eating as well how the child is doing with school and play activities. The occupational therapist will also try to find out more about what the child likes to do and what motivates them.
After the interview, the occupational therapist will ask the child to perform a variety of tasks or assessments to identify any limitations or areas of concern.
Different areas of function may be assessed during an occupational therapy evaluation. These include:
Fine motor skills: Ability to use the small muscles of the hands to manipulate objects such as toys, eating utensils, or a pencil for handwriting.
Gross motor coordination: Ability to perform large, coordinated movements
Visual skills: How well children use their vision to perform daily tasks.
Activity tolerance: Having the energy needed to perform daily activities at home, school, and in the community.
Musculoskeletal function: Function of muscles and joints.
Sensation: Ability to detect pressure, touch, and temperature.
Functional cognition: Ability to use thinking and processing skills to learn and complete tasks including self-care, school, and play.
An OT evaluation can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Initial evaluations may require more time so that the occupational therapist can gather all the information needed to develop a plan for services that will best help your child.
This decision is usually up to the family. Typically, parents are asked to stay for the interview to provide therapists with more information about what the child is doing in the home setting.
Yes, an order is required from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
Each insurance company offers different coverage for therapy. Please contact your insurance provider directly for more information.
Your child should wear whatever is comfortable, preferably clothing that is easy to move in.
For your initial occupational therapy visit, you will not need anything specific. However, your therapist may ask you to bring certain items to follow up visits such as splints or assistive devices. Your therapist will let you know what is needed.
The OT evaluation will use assessments and tools that are appropriate based on the patient’s age and individual needs. Evaluations for adolescents and young adults may include unique areas of assessment such as work, school, driving, cooking, and other activities of daily living.
Reviewed: August 2020