April 12, 2024
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Jewish Link RoundTable With The Therapy Place: Occupational Therapy for Children’s Anxiety

How can occupational therapy help a child who is suffering from anxiety?

Anxiety in the pediatric population can greatly impact a child’s overall function and performance. Children’s anxiety often shows through symptoms such as excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, muscle tensions, fatigue, irritability, restlessness, and poor sleep. Diagnosable anxiety will require these symptoms to be present for six months or more. It is important to note that often, many children experience anxiety without being officially diagnosed. Whether or not a child is diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), occupational therapy can help. An OT will examine all factors of a child’s life: their personal preferences, the environment and the child’s activities. Before beginning intervention, an OT will often get to know the child by:

Conducting an in-home or outpatient evaluation to assess the child’s needs and daily routine

Developing rapport with the child to help him or her feel comfortable during sessions

Discussing the child’s personal goals, what anxiety is keeping them from doing, and how they would like to succeed

Consulting with primary physicians, psychiatrists, school counselors, and other relevant professionals in the child’s life

Getting to know the child’s parents to better understand the child’s life at home

Once this is accomplished and the OT has a full picture and understanding of the child, they will choose to intervene in ways they believe are most beneficial for the child. Some common interventions that are successful for children include:

Mindfulness, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques

Education in coping strategies and learning to identify triggers

Social skills training to interact with peers and adults

Play therapy to increase self-awareness, emotional regulation, and verbal expression

Techniques to boost self-esteem and validation

Why should someone consider occupation therapy for their child who is experiencing anxiety?

Parents should be aware that research has shown that occupational therapy can be very effective in reducing anxiety in children. Occupational therapy can be used as a stand-alone intervention or be applied in conjunction with other treatment approaches depending on the child’s needs and the severity of their anxiety symptoms. Anxiety/anxious behavior in children is more common than we think. Fortunately, occupational therapy is an effective treatment tool for children and their families in managing and reducing anxiety. Children can learn to succeed in academics, home activities and social interactions.


Leah Gross, OTR/L, founded The Therapy Place for OT and Speech Therapy in 2012. The Therapy Place has three private practice clinics throughout New Jersey all medically approved. In 2020 Leah also founded CircleCare, a therapy clinic for ABA therapy. For information, visit The Therapy Place at www.therapyplacenj.com.

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