Occupational therapist

Occupational therapist

About occupational therapists

Occupational therapists are university-trained health professionals who help people improve their ability to do the everyday things that they want or need to do.

Occupational therapists help people to:

  • improve their ability to look after themselves - for example, eat, dress, or complete personal hygiene tasks
  • take part in tasks at work, school or preschool
  • enjoy leisure activities.

Occupational therapists work with people who might have difficulties because of injury or illness, psychological or emotional problems, developmental delay, intellectual disability or physical disability.

Why your child might see an occupational therapist (OT)

Your child might see an occupational therapist (OT) if she has trouble doing everyday activities because of physical, psychological or emotional problems, developmental delay or intellectual disability.

OTs work with children who can't take full part in everyday life for some reason. The OT's job is to help your child develop independent living skills and participate to the best of his ability in everyday activities.

OTs consider all areas of your child's development, including thinking, speech, language, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Occupational therapists also look at your child's environment, including physical, social or legislative barriers that can make life hard for your child, and try to find ways of improving the environment or working around these barriers.

You don't need a GP referral to see an occupational therapist, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you're worried about your child's health or development. Your GP can help you decide about seeing an occupational therapist and help you find someone who's right for your child.

Before going to an occupational therapist

If your GP or child and family health nurse refers your child to an occupational therapist, it's a good idea to talk with your GP or nurse about the following things:

  • Why you're going to the occupational therapist: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see an occupational therapist and whether there's anything you can do while you're waiting for the appointment.
  • Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the occupational therapist?
  • Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
  • Cost: how much will the appointment with the occupational therapist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you're eligible for Medicare, private health insurance, TAC, WorkCover or another rebate.
  • Location: find out where you have to go to see the occupational therapist - for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child's needs. Some OTs might also come to your family - for example, at home or in the school.

You can talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP before you go to the occupational therapist. You could also ask the occupational therapist's clinic when you make your appointment. It's a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don't forget.