What is occupational therapy?

By Gail Belsky

Expert reviewed by Keri Wilmot

At a glance

  • Occupational therapy (OT) is a treatment to improve motor skills, balance, and coordination.

  • It helps kids and adults who struggle with everyday tasks like writing or getting dressed.

  • Kids with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) often need OT.

Occupational therapy (OT) is a treatment for problems with movement and coordination. It helps people improve the motor skills involved in everyday tasks, like writing and getting dressed.

These skills include fine and gross motor skills and motor planning. Therapists also work on coordination, balance, and self-regulation skills.

Kids can get OT for free at school. But adults have to find a therapist who works privately. (Doctors can often recommend private occupational therapists). Insurance may or may not cover OT.

The need for OT can come up at any age and for a wide range of reasons. But there are lifelong conditions that impact motor skills starting in early childhood. One of them is developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

While adults with DCD may benefit from OT, it’s most effective with kids. And the earlier OT starts, the better.

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About the author

About the author

Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Keri Wilmot has worked with children, teens, and young adults for more than 20 years in a wide range of pediatric settings. Her teenage son has been diagnosed with ADHD.


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