Last updated: 19 April 2024

Next review: 19 April 2025

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy enables children and young (CYP) people to take part in daily life to improve their health and well-being. Daily life is made up of many activities (or occupations).

For children or young people, this may include:

  • self-care (getting ready to go out, eating a meal, using the toilet)
  • being productive (going to nursery or school, playing, volunteering, doing chores) 
  • leisure (socialising, playing, or doing hobbies)

Occupational therapists assess and advise on how environments, relationships, and parts of a task (e.g. throwing a big or a small ball)?) influence the child or young person’s ability to participate in daily life activities.  Occupational therapy aims to promote the child or young person’s ability to do the activities that are important to them and their families. This promotes health and well-being.

 It also helps the child or young person feel like a valued member of their community, regardless of physical, learning, and mental health needs.

Who Occupational Therapy can help

We see children and young people with various difficulties or conditions. These include developmental delay and /or neuro-motor conditions such as Cerebral Palsy; Autism Spectrum Syndromes and Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or difficulties.

Our Occupational Therapy (OT) team is split into 2 main teams and then has several different pathways in each.

The Social Services OT team covers home equipment and adaptations. 

The Health OT team covers therapy and hand splinting. 

Both teams work together to provide and review specialist postural support seating. Occupational Therapy covers a broad range of intervention, which means you may need to see more than one Occupational Therapist at the same time.

Some children may experience sensory differences due to their disability. They may find it hard to process, and act upon, information received through their senses. This can create challenges in everyday tasks. Children with different disabilities may experience different challenges in everyday tasks.

We can support children and young people to manage the impact of these challenges on their daily experiences.

Here are some of the things our OTs do:

  • assess the needs of the child, their carers, and their home so they can advise on the most appropriate way of helping each individual.
  •  advise schools on the most appropriate equipment and adaptations needed for a child in school.
  • provide advice to school and parents on ways of supporting the child or young person in specific tasks
  •  recommend the loan of specialised equipment or adaptations to the home of children with physical disabilities, e.g. grab rails beside the toilet to help with their independence. Carers may need to be loaned specialised equipment to move their children safely or to help them have a bath or sit comfortably.
  • Recommend changing the environment for those who are not independent in their toileting or give advise on how their skills can be developed

Occupational Therapists may

  • support the child and family in problem-solving and developing strategies for children to help them manage their own needs.
  • recommend changing the task the child is attempting 
  •  support the child in developing skills if appropriate

All of the above may be needed if a child has sensory differences that affect their function

Read about the Royal College of Occupational Therapists' view on Sensory Integration and Sensory based interventions.

Read Waltham Forest’s FAQs on how sensory differences affect children (PDF).

How to get referred to our services

Your child’s school, nursery, GP, or Health Visitor can use the referral form (PDF) to refer your child to the service. Once your child's referral is accepted, you should be seen within 18 weeks.

The reason for referral must relate to an identified functional concern. For example, equipment needs, difficulty with using cutlery, organising their books for school, dressing, riding their bike, making breakfast/light snacks, participating in PE lessons or sporting activities, handling play items (e.g. building with Lego) or using school tools (such as scissors).

See our service criteria (WORD)

Goals for your Occupational therapy Intervention

Once referred we may ask parents and children to complete a questionnaire which is sent to you by the service. This helps us understand what goals you want to achieve through your Occupational Therapy appointments. 

On some pathways, parents will be sent videos to watch before the appointment, to try and answer some of your questions before you and your child attend your appointment. 

This package of videos is knowns as our ‘Building Blocks’ collection of videos. 

Some parents may decide they do not need an appointment if the videos provide enough information.

Assessment and intervention

An Occupational Therapist will usually see you and your child at Wood Street Health Centre and complete a case history and functional assessment. They will talk and play with your child to find out the best way for them to develop in the areas you have chosen to work on e.g. toileting, using cutlery.

Following this assessment, you and your child may be offered further sessions at Wood Street, or at home depending on the complexity of their needs. They may be seen at school by the Occupational Therapist to provide advice and support to your child’s teachers. 

Parents and school may also be invited to online training workshops for specific skill development areas.

If the OT feels your child may have developmental co-ordination difficulties, the Occupational Therapist will discuss referring your child to a Paediatrician at Wood Street. This is for diagnosis of developmental co-ordination difficulty. 

Once the intervention, which may include a block of therapy, comprehensive advice, and recommendations, is completed your case will usually be closed to the OT service. However, you can call and request another appointment without a new referral any time over the next year. We aim to help parents and young people become independent and thrive by delivering our services in this way. 

You may meet one of our Occupational Therapists as part of a social communication clinic, or during a CAMHS autism or ADHD appointment

Assessment and prescription for home equipment

An Occupational Therapist will usually see you and your child at your home and complete a case history and physical assessment. They may discuss with you the best types of equipment to meet your child’s needs e.g.  a specialist chair. Sometimes one or two are trialled with your child before the right equipment can be found. The Occupational Therapist will order and fit the equipment for your child. Please do call on the number below if there are any issues with your equipment. 

Education Health and Care Plan Assessment and annual review

If your child is known to Occupational Therapy, and undergoing an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan assessment, a report will be provided from Occupational Therapy as part of that assessment. This report outlines their needs and any interventions required.

 If your child is not known to Occupational Therapy, you will need to complete a referral form giving consent and your reasons for needing an assessment. 

The Occupational Therapists will usually provide a report at the end of any period of intervention involving therapy that can be used as part of your child’s EHC annual review. 

Further information

There are excellent examples of resources and advice on

NHS GGC has very kindly agreed to let us share with you the information on their parent's carers website:

KIDS- Independently Developing Skills

Advice for parents and children as developed by NHSGGC

Advice for children with sensory differences as developed by Northumbria

This website has questionnaires and support for children getting ready to start school, or move from primary to secondary school. 

Downloadable resources

Occupational Therapy Team

Opening times

9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm