How an Occupational Therapist Can Help Your Child

Climbing monkey bars before Physical Therapy in Southington

“My passion is working with children, seeing their progress and seeing them benefit from our therapy. What a child learns in therapy also affects the family, getting the whole family involved in the process,” said Katie Johnson, MOT, OTR/L, MOTION pediatric occupational therapist.

Johnson has been working in the field of pediatric occupational therapy for several years, after graduating from a dual Bachelor of Science and Master of Occupational Therapy program at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

“I was very open to experiencing all clinical areas of occupational therapy, but pediatrics was definitely my route,” she said. “Children are super fun, and a lot of the therapy is based around play. You still have goals to complete, but it’s more encouraging and rewarding for children when they are playing and don’t even realize they are participating in therapy.”

Johnson’s typical day may consist of working with children with autism and developmental delays as well as those with various neurological disorders. They work on motor-planning activities, sensory integration, strengthening exercises and improving activities of daily living (ADL), like tying shoes and getting dressed.

Why Would a Child Need Occupational Therapy?

Why might your child need help from an occupational therapist? Some of the skills a therapist can work on with your child are as follows:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Sensory processing
  • Activities of daily living
  • Strengthening
  • Motor-planning skills

Pediatric Therapy at MOTION

MOTION offers a fun and safe setting for pediatric therapists to evaluate and treat their patients. All of MOTION’s pediatric gyms are equipped with a variety of games and equipment to facilitate the best treatment for every child.

“I get a lot of information about children from their parents,” Johnson said. “Parents can tell me how their children act at home and at school, what they struggle with, what their hobbies are and what they enjoy doing. That helps a lot, in addition to observing them and conducting any needed tests.”

A customized treatment plan and goals are determined with the therapist and the child’s family, and updates to the plan are made based on the child’s progress. Family participation is an essential part of the treatment.

“Continued practice of new skills and treatment techniques in the child’s natural environment at home is crucial in order for the child to master the skills and then generalize them into their daily routines,” Johnson said.

And one thing there’s a lot of play.

kid training with cones at Physical Therapy in Southington

“Children naturally learn when they are playing, especially outside,” Johnson said. “From building their sensory system through climbing and the motion on the swings to running around and strengthening their gross motor skills, play is an important part of a child’s day.”

In “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children” from the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report, the authors report that “play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function, which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.”

In a world that seemingly continues to focus more on scores and less on play — especially in young children — Johnson said, “Play helps children build on social skills as well as body spatial awareness. How they navigate the playground in addition to developing relationships with their peers and improving communication skills is all intertwined in opportunities for play.”

For more on MOTION’s pediatric occupational therapy services, visit: