What to expect from an occupational therapist's visit with your child

An occupational therapist needs to have a 4-year university degree and be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). The Occupational therapist will then work from various frames of references or approaches to assess and treat clients. It is therefore not set in stone exactly what the therapist will do. 
The following is a guideline as to what you could expect from your occupational therapist:

  1. After a brief telephonic discussion with the parents, the therapist will make an appointment to meet. This interview session will be the opportunity for the parent to get to know the therapist and to learn more about the occupational therapy approach that the specific OT follows. The therapist would also like to know more about the parent and the child and would therefore ask specific questions to guide this information gathering process.
  2. An appointment for the assessment is then made. During the assessment the therapist will spend anything from 1,5 to 3 hours with your child. Various standardised and non-standardised assessment tools will be used. These are individually selected to give the most relevant and appropriate information required to determine the areas of difficulty as well as the strengths of your child.
  3. Following the assessment the therapist will score the tests, interpret the results and compile a written report. The findings and the possible treatment plan will then be discussed with the parents. Referrals to other professions will also be recommended if necessary.
  4. After this discussion, parents can decide whether they want their child to receive therapy or not. The therapist will inform you what the advantages and disadvantages of receiving and not receiving therapy are. Read more about how to support your child's academics.
  5. Therapy will then start. The frequency and time frame will depend on the facility, the difficulties the child has and the funding available. Newest research and developments show the effectiveness of shorter more intensive therapy. This could be anything from one week to four weeks of 3-6 hours of therapy per day (including various fields of therapy e.g. occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy etc.). You can discuss this with your therapist, as there are only a few therapists in South Africa following these developments. 
  6. Occupational therapy is usually fun and enjoyable as therapists use play as a toll to achieve goals.
  7. Therapists could give you some exercises to do with your child in between therapy sessions.
  8. Formal feedback on the progress made and future planning usually happens at 3-6 month intervals (if the child receives weekly therapy). A short discussion on what was done in the specific session is provided after every session.
  9. Effectiveness of therapy depends on teamwork (the child and the parent form an important part of this team). It is important to realise that therapy is not a quick fix. It takes hard work from all the different team members to achieve the goals set for your child.
  10. ​Enjoy your journey with the occupational therapist.

Click here to read about the signs that could indicate that your child should visit an occupational therapist.