Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a profession allied to medicine that uses a client-centered approach in the treatment and rehabilitation of people with physical, mental and psycho-social challenges, dysfunctions and or disabilities by enabling them to reach a maximum level of function and independence to their full potential in all aspects of daily life.

It can also be defined as a health care profession in which functional activity is the therapeutic medium to help people with physical, mental or social problems to lead an independent and productive life.

Occupational therapy focuses at improving independence, preventing or reducing disability and promoting or maintaining health of individuals.

The aim of Occupational Therapy is: “to treat and rehabilitate clients so as to;- prevent and reduce disability, maintain health, promote functional independency, productivity and compensate for decreased ability of clients after illness or impairment”

Occupational therapists help people with mental, physical or social disabilities to independently carry out everyday tasks or occupations. They work with children and adults of all ages whose difficulties may have been present since birth or as a result of an accident, illness, ageing or lifestyle.

Occupational therapists create individual treatment programmes to help people carry out their daily tasks with more confidence and independence. They may suggest changes to the person’s environment whether at home, work or school and may introduce the use of equipment which will help with some activities.

Occupational therapists review the treatments periodically, evaluate progress and make changes to the treatment as needed.


  • An understanding of the relationship between occupation, health and well-being;
  • A regard for the productive potential of each individual and the need for participation in occupation;
  • A recognition of the requirements for a balanced life style between work, play and self-care;
  • A belief in the ability of an individual to take responsibility for his own life.


Occupation refers to all the tasks or activities that a person:

  • Wants to do (interests, hobbies, play)
  • Has to do (e.g. eat, toilet, dress)
  • Is expected to do (reading, writing, academics)

Occupational Therapy aims to help a person achieve success in their life occupations. It focuses on the main occupations of:

  • School (e.g. writing, reading, fine motor skills, learning, cognitive skills.)
  • Home tasks (e.g. fitting in with family life, jobs, homework, getting self-ready)
  • Play (e.g. imaginative play, social interaction, gross motor skills)
  • Self-care ( e.g. bathing, dressing, eating, cutlery use, organizing self)
  • Work (preparing a person to be able to effectively engage in work and adapting work places )

How Occupational Therapy Will Help

The therapist carefully analyses the sensory, physical, cognitive and behavioral aspects causing the child to have difficulties in his/ her life occupations.
Intervention is then targeted at the weak areas to improve the underlying skills. Intervention looks at a combination of:

  • Education of child and adult caregivers about the reasons for the difficulties and how to overcome them.
  • Environmental modification  to enhance child’s functional performance
  • Home and school based treatment and training program/plans aimed at promoting child’s independency in work, leisure and self-care.
play4Children in play/fine motor skills and learning
An occupational therapist with a child in stacking toy and puzzle work aimed at training grip/fine motor skills secondary to stroke/right hemiplegia.


Areas /conditions addressed at UMRC Occupational Therapy department include but not limited to;

  • Autism
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Developmental delays
  • Sensory Integration Disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Visual Perception Difficulties
  • Memory Issues
  • Handwriting Difficulties
  • School Readiness / preparation
  • Play
  • Eating issues
  • Self-care issues e.g Toileting  and Dressing skills
  • Behavior management
  • And other functional difficulties


Children with special needs or learning disability can be treated, trained/ educated or guided to overcome their challenges in a number of ways. They include but not limited to;

  • Conducting initial assessment to identify child’s underlying medical challenges
  • Making treatment and intervention plans to address a client’s health needs.
  • Cognitive/mental stimulation to improve on child’s reasoning, problem solving, logical thinking and executive skills
  • Participation in activities to improve on attention span, eye contact & coordination.
  • Training in self-care like bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding and washing to promote independence
  • Stretching exercises of upper and lower limbs such as for the hand, shoulder, and trunk to improve on child’s physical health
  • Social skills/behavioral training such as sharing, flexibility, turn taking and peer interaction
  • Fine motor skills and bilateral hand training to improve on finger and hand use
  • Grip training and verbal skills to improve on hand writing and English speaking skills
  • Modification of adaptive equipment such as cups, spoons, slant boards, pencil grips, classroom and home environments.
  • Training in Basic vocational skills like art and craft, tailoring & computer to promote economic independence.
  • Training in play or leisure activities like watching TV, music, and relaxation techniques
    • Training Activities to improve visual skills such as sorting objects
    • Training Activities to improve sensory processing such as, swinging, jumping
    • Giving Instruction and practice of functional skills such as zipping, buttoning, shoe tying
    • Giving of assistive aids/appliances such as crutches, splints, wheel chairs, standing frames to improve on functioning, mobility.
    • Training parents and caregivers on how to raise a child or client with disability; ensure quality health, safety and promote client’s independence.
    • Giving advice on basic Medical treatment and Nutritional support
    • Collaborating with other stake holders to promote the rights of children and people with disabilities.
    • Developing a rehabilitation program to help rebuild lost skills and restore lost confidence/self-esteem
    • Providing community or home based rehabilitation services
    • Team work and providing appropriate Referrals to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, specialists like neurologists, pediatricians.