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Occupational Therapy

An Occupational Therapist (OT) at SickKids is a health care professional who works with children and their families to help them engage in day-to-day activities.  OTs focus on assessment and intervention of a child’s daily activities (or ‘occupations’) including: self care, school and play.  They also play a significant role in health promotion and education.

Occupational therapy patient

OTs at SickKids work in an acute care environment where the children's  multi-system medical problems and functional outcomes are complex. Due to acuity our  OTs work in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment and have highly adaptable decision making-skills.  The role of the OT in each program is unique and treatments are based on the needs of the child and family. OTs work very closely with other rehabilitation professionals such as Physiotherapists, and the rest of the interprofessional team.  The family is an essential part of the child’s health care team and are often involved in occupational therapy treatment programs e.g. feeding or development.  

The occupational therapy treatment a child receives will evolve as they progress through the acute phase of treatment at SickKids, attend a rehabilitation centre, transition home and/or receive community occupational therapy services. The OT continues to collaborate  with all members of the SicKKids interprofessional team to ensure a seamless transition of care to community rehabilitation services. All Occupational Therapists at SickKids are registered with the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario www.coto.org.

What we do

Acute care/inpatient

  • Baby playing
    Neurodevelopment: Children learn and develop new skills, which they use in their daily life.    A child may be referred to OT for an assessment of their neurodevelopmental skills.  A developmental assessment will look at a child's muscle tone,  movement patterns, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sensory skills (visual, auditory, tactile, vestibular), language, adaptive skills and personal social skills in the context of their diagnosis.  During a prolonged hospitalization, OTs provide intervention to maintain and maximize developmental milestones.  
  • Feeding: Some infants and children may have difficulty feeding when in hospital.  OTs assess oral feeding and swallowing safety in order to provide recommendations and feeding interventions.  A feeding assessment can occur in the hospital room.  If medically necessary, a feeding study can be conducted in conjunction with a radiologist to do a video x-ray of a child’s swallowing.
  • Cognition (or thinking skills): Children use and develop their thinking skills in daily life.  Thinking skills includes memory, attention, awareness, sensation, perception, executive function, etc.  These are the building blocks for school performance and develop over our lifetime.  Some children have changes in their thinking skills while in hospital.  OTs can assess,provide intervention and recommendations for cognition.
  • Splint fabrication: OTs fabricate splints to support and position joints safely to promote healing recovery and function.
  • Engagement:  We all need to engage with others and our environment.  OTs take all the components of a child’s life – the building blocks of development, thinking skills, and use creative ways to allow a child to engage in their daily occupations – self care, school and play.
  • Equipment and Seating: OT  may assess and coordinate proper wheelchair seating, as well as assistive devices such as bathchairs, raised toilet seats, etc.
  • Discharge planning and recommendations: If a child is transitioning home, OT will help make referrals to local community therapists (e.g. infant and child development programs, children’s treatment centres, in home therapy or school health).  They provide recommendations for safety at home based on an assessment in hospital.


occupational therapy feeding

The primary focus of OT at SickKids is the assessment and treatment of acute events resulting in changes of function. However there may be cases in which OT is involved with your child’s care on an outpatient/ ongoing basis. These specialized services may not otherwise be available in the community.

  • Occupational Therapy Referrals are made by a physician or nurse practitioner.
    • All patients require a referral to visit our clinic.
    • If you are a health-care professional, log in to eCHN to submit your referral. From your eCHN account, you will be seamlessly connected to SickKids e-referral platform, EpicCare Link.
    • Learn more about our referral process.
    • For urgent referrals only (same day referrals), contact eCHN’s Helpdesk directly 416-813-7998 or 1-877-252-9900, or by email at helpdesk@echn.ca. On weekends and after 6 p.m. on weekdays, please contact the Fellow on call via SickKids Locating at 416-813-1500.
  • Consultation in clinics – OT may be available for consultation though specialized clinics. You may inquire about an OT consult with your health care team (Doctor, Nurse Practitioner). Consultation may include assessment of needs, initiation of treatment and referrals to community providers.
  • Assessment and Treatment in Rehabilitation Department – you may be referred by your family doctor/ pediatrician for an OT assessment. The common reasons for assessment or treatment include feeding/ swallowing concerns, fine motor/ developmental concerns, scar management, sensory motor dysfunction or changes in cognition/ behavior following a previous traumatic injury or event. Ongoing outpatient treatment at SickKids is limited,  however certain programs may provide these services.