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Occupational Therapy vs Speech Therapy 

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Occupational therapists and speech therapists both support optimal health conditions and well-being for children. While professionals from both the healthcare fields share similar responsibilities, there are noteworthy differences as well. Let us glance through some of the benefits, scopes, similarities and differences of occupational therapy vs speech therapy. This helps parents of differently-abled children to make informed decisions as well. 

Overview of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a type of scientific approach that helps people of all ages participate in the things they want and need to do every day. OT helps individuals to adapt and overcome disabilities or challenges. Occupational therapy enables you to complete household work, and school work and participates in sports confidently. It gives them back some control over their lives.

OT can show people new ways to:

  • Do everyday tasks
  • Communicate with others
  • Solve problems
  • Cope with changes

Occupational therapists work with people who have physical, developmental, mental, or emotional disabilities. They also do rehabilitation therapy and help to rehabilitate and strengthen people who have just been injured or who are recovering from surgery.

Signs To Determine If A Child Needs Occupational Therapy 

Occupational therapy can help children with a wide range of developmental delays and conditions. A child may need occupational therapy if they have problems with any of the following: 

Fine motor skills

These are the smaller movements of the hands, wrists, fingers, and feet. If a child reflects problems related to handwriting, colouring, eating with silverware and other regular activities, occupational therapy may be required. 

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skills refer to the larger movements of the arms, legs, and trunk. It allows the child to crawl, walk, run, play, tie shoelaces, catch a ball and do other activities independently. 

Self-care skills

There are the everyday tasks that we do to take care of our bodies, like eating, nail-cutting, grooming, bathing and dressing. If your child has a problem performing more than 1 of these tasks, OT assistance may be needed. 

Visual perceptual skills

This is how well children understand what they see. It includes being able to sort, put together puzzles, copy shapes, draw, and understand colour differences. Problems with more than 1 of the mentioned abilities is an alarm bell. 

Sensory processing

It allows children to process information through their senses. Sensation includes touch, smell, hear, taste and sight. If a child highlights problems in any 1 area, consult an OT with any delay. 

Occupational Therapy for Children

Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that helps children with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities to participate in everyday activities. occupational therapists work with children to develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and sensory processing skills. They also help children to develop cognitive skills and social skills.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Children

Child with cerebral palsy painting, mental physical disorders sensory therapy

There are many benefits of occupational therapy for children. Occupational therapy can help children with a variety of developmental disabilities, including:

Occupational therapy can also help children with sensory processing disorders, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more.

Overview of Speech Therapy 

Speech therapy is a type of therapy that helps people of all ages communicate better. It can help people with problems with their: 

  • Speech 
  • Language 
  • Swallowing

A speech therapist can also help people with social skills. This is how well they interact with others and how they understand what other people say to them.

Signs To Determine If A Child Needs Speech Therapy

A child may need speech therapy if they have any of the following:

Articulation Disorder

If a child faces difficulties in forming certain sounds and pronouncing letters, articulation disorder may be a problem and requires speech pathology. 

Fluency Disorder

Disrupted speech, stutter, and repetition of words are some of the common signs of a fluency disorder. This can develop confidence issues in your child and have a negative mental impact. 

Voice/Vocal Disorder

If a child’s voice sounds nasal, harsh, heavy, or breathy then vocal or voice disorder can be the core problem. 

Language disorders

Some of the signs of language disorder in children include trouble comprehending words or sentences, trouble framing and saying words, and inability to express thoughts. This can lead to reading and writing problems that can have a negative academic impact on children. 

Speech Therapy for Children

Speech therapy is a type of therapy that helps children with speech and language problems. A speech therapist will work with a child to help them improve their communication skills. 

Speech therapists can help children with a variety of speech and language disorders, including articulation, fluency and language problems. 

Speech therapy can help children to improve their communication skills and reduce any difficulties they may be having with speech and language. 

Therapists will work on strengthening the muscles used for speech and teach children how to use them correctly. They will also work on improving a child’s understanding of language and helping them to use words correctly. Speech therapy can be done in individual or group sessions, and it can be done in a child’s home, school, or clinic.

Benefits of Speech Therapy for Children 

There are many benefits of speech therapy for children. One of the most important is that it can help a child to improve their communication skills. Speech therapy can also help a child develop better social skills, and it can also help them understand and use language more effectively. In addition, speech therapy can also help a child develop better motor skills, and it can also help them improve their memory. Lastly, speech therapy can also help a child to develop better problem-solving skills.

Occupational Therapy vs Speech Therapy Key Differences 

Focus of Therapy 

The primary distinction between speech therapy and occupational therapy lies within their therapeutic scopes. Occupational therapy encompasses a broad range of activities designed to enhance and promote the functional abilities of individuals, focusing on the improvement of daily living skills.

This form of therapy is structured to help individuals overcome physical, cognitive, or sensory challenges that may interfere with their participation in everyday activities. For instance, an occupational therapist (OT) working with an autistic child would identify the primary barriers hindering the child or patient’s ability to to engage in activities like playing, learning, and socializing, and then develop a holistic treatment plan to address these issues.

On the other hand, speech therapy primarily focuses on addressing communication difficulties, which may include problems with speech, language, and swallowing. For example, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) working with an autistic child would primarily aim to teach the child language skills, helping them to form sounds, pronounce words, and construct sentences accurately.

While OTs can provide support for certain aspects of swallowing difficulties through exercises that enhance overall body strength and stability, it’s the SLPs who possess specialized training to manage and treat dysphagia (swallowing disorders).

Furthermore, both OTs and SLPs have knowledge of the neuromuscular systems as per their fields of expertise. While OTs do possess an in-depth understanding of the neuromuscular systems of the human body to facilitate functional abilities, SLPs, on the other hand, aren’t confined to addressing “throat-related problems”.

They have an extensive understanding of the complex neuromuscular systems involved in communication and swallowing, including the brain, muscles of the face, tongue, larynx, and throat.

Field of Education & Training 

Occupational therapists and speech pathologists have to select different courses in their final semester of the undergraduate program. Speech pathologists need to have authentic and mandatory licensed programs to comply with the terms for all 50 US states. Occupational therapists should be licensed in most states.

Nevertheless, a strong certificate also works where state licensure is not mandatory. Operational therapists seek Operational therapy developmental programs and Post Professional Doctors of Occupational Therapy as degrees of education. Contrarily, speech pathologists want to get a clinical doctorate in speech therapy practice. 

Outlook for Job 

Both speech therapy and occupational therapy careers offer rewarding work, are in demand internationally, and offer handsome payouts. It is completely a personal choice if an individual wants to become an occupational therapist or speech pathologist depending on your career objectives.

Patient care is at the foreground of the above-mentioned career path, so if you have an issue with getting involved in people’s basic life skills then these career paths may not be for you.

Neither profession is better than the other & depending on where you are located either could earn more or less. Occupational therapists and speech pathologists can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, private practices, schools, and more.

They both have opportunities to work with individuals from all age groups, providing therapy services according to their needs.

It should also be mentioned that if your career path aligns with allied health you may be interested in physical therapy. Physical therapists help the same patient progress but with more physical therapy style treatment plans.

Occupational Therapy vs Speech Therapy Main Similarities

Some of the similarities and duties that overlap in both types of therapies include: 

Trajectory of Treatment 

Some of the common treatment plans for occupational and speech therapy include patient condition evaluation, treatment plan design, patient progress monitoring, education and training. Professionals from both fields come together to resolve issues related to mental health, physical rehabilitation, environmental modification, pediatrics, gerontology and other daily activities. 

Educational Requirements 

Occupational and speech therapists have to study for medical degrees to get through the examinations. Both types of professionals require high-level or national licenses or certificates to practice. 

How OT and Speech Therapy Help Children 

There are some key differences in the way that OTs and speech therapists help kids.

Let’s break it down:

How Occupational Therapy Helps Children

Occupational therapy (OT) plays a crucial role in assisting children to fully engage and participate in daily life activities or “occupations”. These occupations may include self-care tasks like getting dressed, academic skills needed for school such as handwriting, or social skills important for making friends.

Occupational therapists work with children who face various challenges, whether they’re physical, sensory, cognitive, or a combination. By understanding the child’s individual strengths and difficulties, occupational therapists devise a personalized treatment plan to help the child develop necessary skills, adapt tasks, or modify their environment to improve their function and participation.

Occupational therapists can assist children with a range of issues, including:

  1. Fine motor skills: These involve smaller movements of the hands, fingers, and wrists, essential for tasks like writing, buttoning clothes, or using utensils.
  2. Gross motor skills: These are larger movements involving the arms, legs, and trunk, crucial for activities like walking, jumping, or climbing stairs.
  3. Sensory processing skills: This refers to how children process information from their senses like touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Children with sensory processing issues may overreact or underreact to sensory stimuli, affecting their interaction with the environment.
  4. Self-care skills: These involve tasks necessary for personal care, such as dressing, grooming, eating, and toileting.
  5. Social and behavioral skills: OTs can also help children who struggle with interacting with others or managing their behavior, particularly important for school and community participation.

How Speech Therapy Helps Children

Speech therapy, led by Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), is focused on improving a child’s communication abilities, making it easier for them to express and understand language. Speech therapy also deals with the mechanics of producing words, such as articulation, pitch, fluency, and volume.

Speech therapists can assist children with a variety of speech and language disorders, including:

  1. Articulation disorders: These involve difficulties in making sounds and pronouncing words correctly.
  2. Fluency disorders: This encompasses problems such as stuttering, where the flow of speech is interrupted.
  3. Voice/Vocal disorders: This refers to problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice.
  4. Language disorders: These include difficulties understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas.
  5. Pragmatic or social communication disorders: This involves challenges with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication.
  6. Cognitive-communication disorders: This includes difficulties with communication skills that involve memory, attention, perception, organization, regulation, and problem solving.
  7. Swallowing/feeding disorders: SLPs also address issues related to eating and swallowing.

It’s worth noting that the goals of speech therapy can range from improving spoken language to learning nonverbal communication skills such as signs or gestures, or even learning to use an alternative communication device.

Should my Child see a Speech Therapist or Occupational Therapist?

This is actually a bit of a trick question because we often recommend that parents have an initial consultation with family doctors or pediatricians will give you a better understanding of your child’s condition.

From there your pediatrician will recommend an appointment with an OT or speech therapist.


(2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from 

Occupational Therapist vs. Speech Therapist: What’s the Difference?. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from 

Speech Therapy for Children: What are the Benefits? – NAPA Center. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from 

What’s Occupational Therapy? Make Work or Play Easier to Do. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from 

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