What is pediatric occupational therapy?

i-hhfkspg-x3Play is the work of children. It is through joyful exploration and meaningful interactions that we learn and develop throughout childhood. Pediatric occupational therapy fosters children’s ability to reach their maximum physical, social, and cognitive potential through the use of play.

Some children who may benefit from occupational therapy include those with:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Down Syndrome
  • ADHD
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • other developmental disabilities
  • low tolerance for sound, touch, or movement
  • difficulty with changes in schedule or routine
  • decreased or increased pain tolerance
  • decreased independence with self help skills
  • delayed developmental milestones
  • feeding difficulties
  • increased activity level
  • immature muscle development of the hands and/or body
  • poor handwriting
  • poor motor coordination or difficulty learning new skills
  • poor interactive play skills


What is sensory integration/processing?

i-txnqjhr-x3At any given moment we must interpret everything we sense and respond to it appropriately. If we detect a dangerous touch or smell, we must react and protect ourselves. If there is no reason to respond, we must be able to ignore sights, sounds, and smells that are irrelevant so that we can focus on the task at hand. Sensory processing is a complex, neurological process that allows us to alert to, interpret, ignore or react to sensory information.

There are 8 major senses that our nervous system must alert to and interpret correctly in order to have both appropriate behavioral and motor responses.

  • Tactile
  • Auditory
  • Gustatory/Taste
  • Olfactory/Smell
  • Visual

Our less well-known sensory systems are:

  • Proprioceptive

Provides information about body position using information received from the muscles and joints.

  • Vestibular

Provides information relating to movement. The vestibular sense combines with proprioceptive input to contribute to postural reactions, ocular pursuits, arousal level, muscle tone, and coordination of both sides of the body.

  • Interoception

Provides sensation from inside the body about the physiological state of the body.  The interoceptive sense helps maintain homeostasis and impacts the ability to feel hunger, thirst, urge to have a bowel or bladder movement, pain, and affective touch.

In order to complete tasks such as getting dressed, playing a basketball game, handwriting, or paying attention in a classroom, a child must be able to process information from all systems efficiently.  If there is a breakdown in sensory processing, a child may face significant challenges in socialization and daily life.


What is speech therapy?

“Speech therapy” is a general term used to apply to the treatment of a wide range of communication disorders.  A more accurate term is “speech-language therapy” which includes all aspects of communication both verbal and non-verbal.  These encompass spoken language comprehension and expression (oral language), the physical aspects or “mechanics” of speech production, the comprehension and use of written language and the use of language for social interaction. 

Pediatric speech therapy may be needed due to: a delay obtaining developmental milestones for speech and/or language [link below], a specific language or learning disability, hearing impairment, genetic syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, motor speech disorder such as apraxia or dysarthria, stuttering, vocal nodules or issues producing voice or myofunctional issues such as tongue thrust.  

Without accurate diagnosis and treatment unresolved challenges with speech and language skills can lead to frustration, impacted self-esteem, and hinder opportunities to develop and maintain friendships using social communication skills.  

Children who benefit from speech therapy include those who need support developing their:  

  • ability to understand the words spoken to them (receptive language skills) 
  • ability to formulate and combine words for self-expression (expressive language) 
  • ability to plan and execute the motor movements for speech production (motor speech) 
  • ability to mechanically produce speech using the articulators and adequate breath, volume, fluency, and pitch (articulation, voice and fluency) 
  • ability to understand and use written language (reading comprehension and written expression) 


How does speech therapy help with social skills?

In speech therapy, children may work on social language or communication which is foundational to successful social interactions. 

Social communication or “pragmatics” are how we use language to effectively communicate with others in order to connect with them. We use these skills in many ways, a few of which are to make requests for our needs, share information with others, exchange information with others and share our intent in order to play and interact cooperatively.  

Social language skills are dynamic and require us to shift how we use language depending on our conversational partner or setting. We may shift our language use to accommodate a young child, a partner with different topic knowledge, or adjust how we use it in different settings such as indoors or outdoors and professional versus social settings.  We also filter our language by editing out extraneous information or information that may be inappropriate depending on our conversational partner or the setting.  Most of us do this naturally, because we understand that social language has rules.     

In addition to all of the verbal linguistic social rules, non-verbal language is taking place simultaneously when we are communicating.  We adapt our language in response to the facial and body cues of those around us and adeptly shift our communication to match what we are observing.  

For children who struggle with these skills, the consequences are devastating. If you can’t follow the rules or understand intent, how can you play with others? How can you have a conversation? Children with social learning challenges are often avoided or ignored by peers or, at the worst, teased and bullied. Social isolation and negative self-esteem are direct consequences of the struggle children with social challenges face.  

“Studies suggest that our experiences shape our neural architecture—and that our social relationships are one of the most important forms of experience that literally form who we are.  And the very essence of a relationship is communication. Communication is what connects one person to another, or one person to many.”  

Dan Siegel, PhD, M.D. 

We are fortunate that these skills, like other communication skills, can be directly taught.  While many of the language rules and skills may seem hidden to children with social communication disorders, we now have tools and curriculums to teach and demonstrate these skills explicitly.  

For Parents:


i-kqj8sjk-x3Understanding SPD

  • Love, Jean: Inspiration for Families Living with Dysfunction of Sensory Integration A, Jean Ayres, Zoe Mailloux
  • Sensory Integration and the Child: 25th Anniversary Edition Jean Ayres
  • Sensory Integration: Answers for Parents Gina Geppert Coleman, Zoe Mailloux and Susanne Smith Roley
  • What’s Eating Your Child? Kelly Dorfman
  • Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration Ellen Yack, Shirley Sutton, Paula Aquilla

Living with SPD

  • Sensational Kids: Hope and help for children with Sensory Processing Disorder Lucy Jane Miller and Doris Fuller
  • No Longer A Secret: Unique Common Sense Strategies for Children with Sensory or Motor Challenges Doreit S. Bialer and Lucy Jane Miller
  • The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • Raising a Sensory Smart Child Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske
  • Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World Sharon Heller

Speech and Language Development

  • Beyond Baby Talk: From Speaking to Spelling: A Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Parents and Caregivers – 2nd Edition Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP and Julie J. Masterson, PhD, CCC-SLP

Early Intervention Resources Speech and Language Delay

  • Talking on the Go (Birth to 5) Dorothy P. Dougherty, MA, CCC-SLP, Diane R. Paul, PhD, CCC-SLP
  • It Takes Two to Talk 5th Edition, Weitzmen, 2017
  • Baby Sign Language Made Easy: 101 Signs to Start Communicating with Your Child Now Lane Rebelo

ASD Early Intervention

  • More Than Words 2nd Edition, Sussman


Supplies & Materials



Web Resources

For Children:


  • Arnie and his School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions that Build Success Jennifer Veenendall
  • The Goodenoughs Get in Sync: 5 Family Members overcome their Sensory Issues Carol Stock Kranowitz,
  • The Way I Feel Janan Cain
  • When My Worries Get Too Big Karl Dunn Buron
  • My Mouth is a Volcano! Julia Cook
  • Superflex Takes On Rockbrain And The Team of Unthinkables … A New Beginning… Stephanie Madrigal
  • The Incredible Flexible You 5 Storybooks Ryan E. Hendrix, Kari Zweber Palmer, Nancy Tarshis, Michelle Garcia Winner
  • Breathe, Chill: A Handy Book of Games and Techniques Introducing Breathing, Meditation and Relaxation to Kids and Teens Lisa Roberts
  • Whole Body Listening Larry at School/ Whole Body Listening Larry at Home Kristen Wilson & Elizabeth Sautter


Fine Motor:

  • Willy’s Wiggly Web Peaceable Kingdom
  • Stack Up Peaceable Kingdom
  • Tricky fingers Edushape
  • Mancala Multiple Manufacturers
  • Cube Burst Magnif
  • Operation Hasbro

Gross Motor:

  • Footloose International Playthings
  • Yoga Kit for kids None
  • Twister Hasbro
  • Cat in the Hat: I Can Do That Wonder Forge
  • Feed the Woozle Peaceable Kingdom

Tactile Processing:

  • Ruff’s House Learning Resources
  • What’s in Ned’s Head? Ideal
  • No Peeking Ravensburger


  • My Feelings Game Sensational Learners Inc.
  • Give Me 5 Social Skills Game The Developmental Garden

Ready Set GO Therapy, Inc. • 350 Gate 5 Road, Sausalito, CA 94965

415-339-8800 • Fax 415-963-4243 • info@readysetgotherapy.com