Occupational Therapy

Advice for Parents

After a serious injury your child may have changes to their physical function, cognition (thinking), personality, behaviour and way they communicate. One of the professionals they may need to see to help maximise their recovery is an Occupational Therapist.


An Occupational Therapist (OT) enables children to take part in the everyday things they do to occupy themselves. We give children and young people the opportunity to develop or relearn any skill, increase independence and enable fuller participation in activities, after a traumatic event.

We do this through assessment and observation of your child’s strengths and needs, for all their everyday thinking and functional skills.  We provide various interventions such as exercises, cognitive therapy, therapeutic play, building confidence, equipment provision, making hand splints or adapting the environment.


In a trauma centre, an OT may see your child either on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and/or on one of the Paediatric Wards. When you leave the hospital your child may be referred to local services close to home/school or they may need transferring to an inpatient rehabilitation unit. 


Sometimes after an injury, especially if your child has had a brain injury, your child may have a period of being in a coma (being unconscious), or they may be drowsy, confused or agitated. In the later stages, they may experience weakness, difficulty communicating, poor coordination, fatigue and cognitive problems. Cognitive problems can include difficulty with attention and concentration, poor memory, or problems in planning and organisation.

Depending on the severity of your injury, an OT will work with your family in the early stages to learn all about your child’s personality and interests. They will also look at:

  • Postural management to ensure comfort, maintain skin condition and prevent muscle contractures
  • Finding the best position for your child to participate in everyday activities, using equipment if needed, like wheelchairs, seats and arm splints
  • Assessing your child’s cognitive level and consciousness. These assessments are important to monitor recovery and use to guide therapy provision
  • Your child’s sensory functions (e.g. vision, hearing, touch, body awareness) to understand likes and dislikes, in order to guide therapy and develop skills
  • The impact of fatigue and how to minimise its impact on physical and cognitive functions

Once your child is ready, the OT will promote your child’s participation in ‘real life’ self-care activities such as washing, dressing, toileting, eating, drinking, or making breakfast / snacks. They will monitor any equipment or hand splints your child may have, and work with you around strategies that may be required to support and develop your child’s thinking skills.

The OT will work with you and the rest of the team to identify what is needed to support your child to return to home and school, or provide a detailed handover to therapists if your child’s care is transferred out of trauma centre.


The rate of recovery is different for each individual. If your child has had a brain injury, recovery usually continues for several years but is usually most rapid in the early weeks to months afterwards.

What we do know is that early intervention and on-going support from therapy does make a difference to recovery.

After you leave hospital, the OT may have referred your child to local services, so they can continue to work on their occupational therapy goals.


Therapy goals are best when made jointly with you, your child and other professionals who are caring for your child. The aim is to help provide each child and family with the input and support that facilitates optimum recovery of skills. You will be encouraged to attend therapy sessions in hospital and supported to be able to continue on with therapy programs with your child outside of therapy sessions.


Occupational Therapy  Advice for Children

After you have been hurt, you may need to see lots of different people, including an Occupational Therapist to help you get better.

Occupational Therapists are sometimes called OT’s. OT’s can help you to get back to doing your school work, playing with your friends and looking after yourself.

We come to play games with you and talk with you and your family. 

OT’s may need to help you eating your dinner, getting dressed, writing, or anything else that you normally like to do, so you can do them the best you can.

Occupational Therapy Advice for Teenagers

An Occupational Therapist is one of the professionals that can help you if you have had an injury. A injury can damage some parts of the brain or body that help with your thinking, walking, using your arms and doing things for yourself, like making breakfast or having a shower.

The main reason an occupational therapist will see you, is to find out what things you find tricky and then start working on these skills together to get them as good as we can.

Our main aim is to get you doing all the things you need to do in your day, as safely and as good as possible.

Images courtesy of Boardmarker