About occupational therapists
Occupational therapists are university-trained health professionals who help people improve their ability to do the everyday things that they want or need to do.
Occupational therapists help people to:
- improve their ability to look after themselves – for example, eat, dress or complete personal hygiene tasks
- take part in activities at work, school and preschool or in the community
- take part in leisure activities
- move around more easily in physical environments – for example, with ramps.
Occupational therapists work with people who might have difficulties because of injury or illness, psychological or emotional problems, developmental delay, intellectual disability or physical disability.
OTs work with children in groups or individually, depending on children’s needs and goals.
If your child has a disability or health or development concerns, allied health professionals like occupational therapists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Why your child might see an occupational therapist (OT)
OTs will focus on your child’s strengths and work in a family-centred way. This means they consider the unique needs of your family when working with your child.
You don’t need a GP referral to see an occupational therapist, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. Your GP can help you decide about seeing an occupational therapist and help you find someone who’s right for your child. You could also ask your child’s teacher or use Occupational Therapy Australia’s find an OT service.
Before going to an occupational therapist
If your GP or child and family health nurse refers your child to an occupational therapist (OT), it’s a good idea to talk with your GP or nurse about the following things:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see an OT and what goals your child wants to work on.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment or will the GP make it for you?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the OT?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment?
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the OT cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you’re eligible for Medicare, private health insurance, TAC, WorkCover or another rebate. OTs often provide services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the occupational therapist – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs. Some OTs might also come to you at home or to your child’s school.
- Qualifications: OTs must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This means they have met all the standards to work as an OT in Australia.
You can talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP before you go to the occupational therapist. You could also ask the occupational therapist’s clinic when you make your appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.