Occupational therapy helps people when a health problem affects their ability to function. Therapists help people learn how to perform tasks of daily life such as eating, bathing and writing. Our occupational therapists focus on upper body strength and muscles that make small movements used in fine motor skills. If your child had an injury, we work with them to restore their previous level of function. We also provide specialized therapy for lymphedema.
Why choose Seattle Children’s occupational therapy?
The experts you need are here
- Seattle Children’s has the largest group of occupational therapists in the Pacific Northwest dedicated to working with infants, children, teens and young adults.
- We are a regional center for the treatment of infants through young adults who have trouble eating and swallowing.
- Our therapists have extensive experience evaluating and treating children who have problems using their muscles to eat, speak, draw or write (fine motor skills).
- In addition, we provide splints and other positioning devices to children throughout the region who need help to keep their bodies in correct alignment.
We tailor care to your child and family
- Our occupational therapists see children with a wide range of conditions and abilities. We develop a plan of care made just for your child or teen and work closely with their doctors and surgeons at Seattle Children’s.
- To help your child get the most from their therapy, we create a fun, inviting and playful atmosphere, while also safely pushing them to overcome their current limits.
- As part of your child’s comprehensive evaluation, the occupational therapist will work with you and your child to set treatment goals. We offer brief courses of therapy — usually over a few months — aimed at very specific, short-term goals. Research shows this approach is the best way to get results for your child. As your child’s goals evolve, we may provide additional brief courses of therapy or refer you to occupational therapists in the community for ongoing care.
We’re advancing occupational therapy for children
- We're advancing therapy for children.
- In 2016, we greatly expanded the rehabilitation therapy space at Seattle Children’s hospital campus. The new facility includes 4,000 square feet of indoor space, 1,500 square feet of outdoor space and equipment the right size for working with growing children.
- Our therapists offer specialized care that families typically cannot find in the community, such as feeding therapy, complete decongestive therapy for lymphedema, constraint-induced therapy to improve arm function and custom hand splinting.
Conditions We Treat
We treat babies, children, teens and young adults with a wide range of conditions, including these:
- Brachial plexus palsy
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delay
- Feeding and swallowing problems
- Neuromuscular diseases, such as muscular dystrophy
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
We also work with patients who are recovering from surgery.
Services We Provide
Feeding and swallowing evaluation and treatment
We evaluate young people who range in age from newborns to 21 years old on their ability to take foods and liquids safely (oral motor skills). Based on your child’s unique needs, our occupational therapists recommend ways to make eating and swallowing safer and eating more successful. We provide training for children who:
- Are reluctant or refuse to eat
- Cannot swallow due to safety concerns
- Are making the transition from getting nutrition through tubes or an intravenous (IV) line to eating
Some of the children we see have complex feeding concerns and receive care through the Pediatric Feeding Program at Seattle Children’s Autism Center.
Training in activities of daily living
Our occupational therapists work with your child to help build skills for daily activities, such as dressing, grooming, bathing and toileting. We help children learn these skills for the first time or relearn them after injury or illness. When appropriate, we use adaptive equipment and assess the physical spaces where your child spends time (ergonomic assessment) to help your child master these life skills.
Fine motor skills evaluation and training
Our occupational therapists evaluate your child’s fine motor skills and provide training to improve control of the muscles that make small movements, for example, during handwriting. Our therapists help your child work on dexterity, strength and function. When appropriate, we provide training in techniques that require the use of only one hand.
Upper body motion and strength training
When children are weak or have limitations due to injury, illness or a period of not being able to move, our occupational therapists use stretching, strengthening and conditioning techniques to help children get stronger and improve range of motion. We also use casting and splinting to maximize function.
Splinting and positioning
In some cases, splints or other equipment can help your child achieve or maintain a position that helps with function. Our occupational therapists are experienced in designing and making splints and equipment tailored to your child.
Newborn and infant therapy
Our occupational therapists evaluate and treat the youngest patients – newborns to 1-year-olds – who are in the hospital or who visit our clinic as outpatients. We provide positioning equipment, developmental treatment, feeding therapy and training for parents.
Complete decongestive therapy (CDT)
CDT is used to manage swelling that occurs because of a problem in the lymph system (lymphedema). There are 4 parts to this therapy:
- Skin care
- Manual lymph drainage
- Compression therapy
Seattle Children’s has certified lymphedema therapists on our Occupational Therapy team and Physical Therapy team to provide CDT. They also teach you and your child to manage lymphedema at home. Read more.
Constraint-induced therapy (CIT)
CIT is a motor therapy program for children with limited motor function in one of their arms. The program provides intensive training of the arm with limited motor function. This is done while the nonaffected arm is in a long arm cast so your child cannot use that arm. Read more. (PDF)
Scheduling an Appointment With Occupational Therapy
- If you would like a referral to Occupational Therapy, talk to your primary care provider. If you already have a referral, please call to schedule an appointment.
- If you already have an appointment, learn more about what to expect and how to prepare.
- Learn about Occupational Therapy resources such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.
Participate in Research
You can help us answer questions about childhood health and illness and help other children in the future. Learn more about clinical trials and research studies at Seattle Children’s.