GUEST POST: What is Occupational Therapy?


“So…what is Occupational Therapy?”Occupational Therapy


Don’t worry if you find yourself asking this question when you first meet an Occupational Therapist (or even several times afterwards!).

Believe me – we understand! Our job title can be hard to understand from our name alone.

Let us provide some clarity…

Occupational Therapy is an allied healthcare profession that focuses on supporting people to participate in their “occupations” at times when these are challenging or not possible, such as through an injury, condition, disability or an undiagnosed problem. For us as Occupational Thearpists (or OTs), the focus is less on what the diagnosis is, but on how it impacts someone’s participation in occupations that are meaningful to them.

As OTs, we see occupation as everything a person

  • wants to do (e.g. ride a bicycle)
  • needs to do, (e.g. eat, sleep, get dressed), or
  • has to do (e.g. go to work)

You’ll find OTs in a number of different settings including hospitals, community centers, schools, private clinics and healthcare-related, not-for-profit organisations.

Whilst the role of an OT can look different in different settings and when working with different populations, the core of Occupational Therapy remains the same – supporting occupational participation!

For the purposes of Look Hear, we’ll be focusing on the role of OTs working with children in the community, meaning the child is not needing the specialist care of a hospital. If we think about the occupations of children in the community, these include:

  • Self-care skills; toileting, washing, dressing, brushing teeth
  • Student skills: writing, attention in classroom, organization
  • Play skills: pretend play, playing video games, riding a bicycle, using musical instrument

…just to name a few! Think about all the things your child does during the day from the second they wake up, until they go to sleep– these are their occupations!


Occupational Therapists can support a child’s participation in an occupation in a few different ways. They can:

  • change or adapt something about the child as a person (e.g. teaching/developing a skill, like the steps to riding a bike, or tolerating a the noisy hairdryer at the shopping centre)
  • modify or change something about their environment (e.g. equipment to help them in the bathroom)
  • change the way they do the task (e.g. tie their shoelaces a different way)

Following an initial meeting and assessment with the child and their parent/caregivers, an OT will then work with the child and their family in supporting them to achieve their goals. Occupational Therapy intervention may look different depending on the:

  • specific difficulties a child has, and challenges they are experiencing with their occupations as a result,
  • the specific approach used by the therapist themselves, and
  • the service the therapy is accessed through, such as public or private services.

Further information:

How do I find an OT?


Occupational Therapy Australia

  • The best way to find out how an OT can help you and obtain a referral under Medicare, speak to your GP.
  • To find a private practice OT, use the private practice directory on the Occupational Therapy Australia website here.
  • To find an OT in your local area via the National Health Services Directory here:

United Kingdom

Royal College of Occupational Therapists here.

Finding an Occupational Therapist

  • Talk to your GP about contacting an occupational therapist locally, through the NHS.
  • Use the online directory on the Royal College of Occupational Therapists website or Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), including independent therapists who work outside of the NHS.

Check out out Occupational Therapy Page here.


Book Review: Retro Toddler – Anne Zachry: Everything Retro Is Cool Again!!

We reviewed Retro Toddler for Anne! See what we thought about it below!!

Book: Zachry, A. H. (2018). Retro Toddler: More Than 100 Old-School Activities to Boost review

First Impressions:

    • One thing I enjoyed about this book was that it was clear and easy to read. The layout really lends itself to this; it does not feel like you are reading a textbook.
    • I love the alternating ‘he’ and ‘she’ throughout the book, which is something I would never have thought to do, but a great way to manage gender bias.
    • There is a clear vibe from the book about getting down on the floor and playing with your child – it doesn’t have to be expensive or have ‘all the bells and whistles’. There is a real focus throughout this book to get back to basics, which I love! Parents can be under so much pressure these days to ‘promote’ development, and this book is a lovely reminder for therapists and families alike that “promoting development” doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.

Information Station:information station

    • There is some great information about childhood development and what to expect for each age group; something parents ask about a lot.
    • Anne explains brain development clearly and in a way that is easy to read for families and parents. This helps set the scene on why she focuses on different skill sets that children develop. Understanding brain development is helpful for families to understand why a toddler might be doing certain things at certain times.
    • I really enjoyed the chapter on play. It was well explained and talks about all things we know as therapists but often forget to communicate to our families. I will be marking this chapter and asking a few of my families to read over it. We often talk about ‘play being the child’s work’, and it is the way children learn and develop their skills.
    • Play is not just running around; it is the creating, making, enjoying, thinking, pretending, imagining, reading, building, playing with each other, drawing, and moving that children do with their time.
    • Anne explains play in much more detail, why it is important, how to do it, activities that are playful and work on specific skills and things that impact play.


    • My key highlight I took from this book was the clear reminder just to get on the floor and play with our children. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, and in fact it is better (for them) when it is not!
    • I also loved the chapter about screen time – always a timely reminder. This is something we talk often about with the families we work with and to have the evidence written out so clearly is a massive help for families and therapists alike.
    • The information about how praise influences a growth mindset was eye opening and something I will be changing tomorrow in my next therapy session.
    • I also love the glossary at the end, as it is super handy and clear to refer back to as a non-therapist.


  • It would have been great to have a few more pictures of the activities, if nothing more to reassure parents (and therapists!) that it these toys and creations do not need to be ‘pinterest’ perfect.

Where to get it:

  • Amazon; for about £15 or  $15

Closing Comments:

    • I loved this book, and it was a pleasure to review it for Anne; I can’t wait for her next book!
    • The important reminder about having fun, playing with your child, using what is around you was something I really connected with. 
    • We can get distracted with all these fancy toy, tablets and games, whereas, in reality, what our children actually need is us; playing with them, at home and in the community with what’s around us. I loved how Anne highlights everyday learning opportunities for parents.
    • The chapters relating to play and screen time were so well written and clear. This will be a key chapter I will be referring parents to immediately.


  • 4.5/5 

Check out our website on play here! 

Bullying – What is the evidence?


Bullying can be defined as a subcategory of interpersonal aggression characterized by intentionality, repetition, and an imbalance of power, often with the element of abuse of power being a primary distinction between bullying and other forms of aggression (Smith & Morita, 1999; Vaillancourt, Hymel, & McDougall, 2003).

Bullying can include direct physical harm (physical bullying), verbal taunts and threats (verbal bullying), exclusion, humiliation, and rumour-spreading (relational or social bullying), and electronic harassment using texts, e-mails, or online mediums (cyberbullying).


Prevalence rates for bullying vary, however research reveals that between 10% and 33% of school children are victimised, and 5% – 12% of children bully others (Cassidy, 2009; Kessel Schneider, O’Donnell, Stueve, & Coulter, 2012; Perkins, Craig, & Perkins, 2011).

Developmentally, peer bullying is evident as early as preschool, peaking during early high school, then declining towards the end of high school (Currie et al., 2012; Vaillancourt, Trinh, et al., 2010).

The World Health Organisation reports that overall peer victimisation has been decreasing over previous years (Currie et al., 2012), however cyber bullying is increasing (Jones, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2013). One reason put forward is that students are often aware of rules prohibiting physical harm to others, but find verbal and social bullying more difficult to identify (Hymel & Swearer, 2015).

Current Research:

Current research reveals that bullies are socially intelligent (Björkqvist, Österman, & Kaukiainen, 2000) and can have considerable status in their peer groups (Vaillancourt et al., 2003). As such, adults may be less able to recognize bullying perpetrated by students who appear to be socially competent, well-functioning individuals. Interventions should emphasise the interaction of individual vulnerabilities, context effects, and experiences with bullying and victimization. This includes understanding and addressing bullying as a systemic problem (Swearer & Hymel, 2015), and having schools implement school-wide, universal antibullying programs (Bradshaw, 2015).


Take a look our top resources on tackling Bullying here.


Björkqvist, K., Österman, K., & Kaukiainen, A. (2000). Social intelligence – empathy = aggression? Aggression and Violent Behavior, 5, 191–200.

Bradshaw, C. P. (2015). Translating research to practice in bullying prevention. American Psychologist, 70, 322–332.

Cassidy, T. (2009). Bullying and victimisation in school children: The role of social identity, problem-solving style, and family and school context. Social Psychology of Education, 12, 63–76.

Currie, C., Zanotti, C., Morgan, A., Currie, D., DeLooze, M., Roberts, C., . . . Barnekow, V. (2012). Social determinants of health and well-being among young people. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: International report from the 2009/2010 survey. Health Policy for Children and Adolescents, No. 6. Copenhagen, Denmark: WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Hymel, S., & Swearer, S. M. (2015). Four decades of research on school bullying: An introduction.American Psychologist, 70(4), 293.

Jones, L. M., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2013). Online harassment in context: Trends from three youth internet safety surveys (2000, 2005, 2010). Psychology of Violence, 3, 53–69.

Kessel Schneider, S., O’Donnell, L., Stueve, A., & Coulter, R. W. C. (2012). Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: A regional census of high school students. American Journal of Public Health, 102, 171–177.

Perkins, H. W., Craig, D. W., & Perkins, J. M. (2011). Using social norms to reduce bullying: A research intervention among adolescents in five middle schools. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14, 703–722.

Smith, P. K., & Morita, Y. (1999). Introduction. In P. K. Smith, Y. Morita, J. JungerTas, D. Olweus, R. Catalano, & P. Slee (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective (pp. 1–4). London, UK: Routledge.

Swearer, S. M., & Hymel, S. (2015). Understanding the psychology of bullying: Moving toward a social-ecological diathesis–stress model. American Psychologist, 70, 344–353.

Vaillancourt, T., Hymel, S., & McDougall, P. (2003). Bullying is power: Implications for school-based intervention strategies. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 19, 157–176.

Vaillancourt, T., Trinh, V., McDougall, P., Duku, E., Cunningham, L., Cunningham, C.,…Short, K. (2010). Optimizing population screening of bullying in school-aged children. Journal of School Violence, 9, 233–250.