Assistive Tools in Pediatric Therapeutic Interventions

Assistive Tools in Pediatric Therapeutic Interventions

Occupational therapy practitioners play a vital role in helping children overcome challenges.

Developmental delays in children can significantly impact their daily activities, communication, and overall quality of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 children in the United States has a developmental delay. Occupational therapy practitioners play a vital role in helping children overcome these challenges through various therapeutic interventions, including using assistive tools. These tools are valuable aids in therapy sessions, facilitating improved communication and functional abilities.

Recommended course: Creative Occupational Therapy Tools for Kids

The role of assistive tools in therapy

Assistive tools are essential for therapy sessions for children with fine motor, sensory, and cognitive delays. They serve multiple purposes and offer numerous advantages for the child and therapist. Here are some key reasons why these tools are used in therapy:

  • Improved communication
  • Enhanced therapeutic engagement
  • Motivation through gamification
  • Make therapy child-centered and accessible
  • Support for home and school carryover

Improving skills has a positive effect on a child in many ways.

  • Self-esteem
  • Self-confidence
  • Increased social network
  • Increased life opportunities

Recommended course: Pediatric Occupational Therapy Module 1: Theory, Practice & Frames of Reference

Improved communication

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices can enhance communication between the therapist and the child, particularly when the child faces difficulties with verbal communication or executive function skills. Low-tech options include pointing to pictures, gestures, and drawing, while high-tech options involve speech-generating devices such as tablets and electronic applications. These tools provide alternative methods of expression, enabling the child to convey their thoughts and needs during therapy sessions.

Enhanced therapeutic engagement

Children with motor, sensory, and cognitive skill deficits may find it challenging to engage in therapy activities. Assistive tools can bridge this gap by making therapy activities more accessible and enjoyable, leading to increased active participation in therapeutic activities.

Motivation through gamification

Many assistive tools, such as apps and technology-based solutions, incorporate gamification elements. These engaging features can motivate children to participate actively in therapy exercises, making learning more enjoyable. Adapted keyboards and computer controls can improve a child's ability to use a computer, catering to their specific motor needs.

Make therapy child-centered and accessible

Assistive tools can be tailored to accommodate various learning styles. Therapists can choose tools that align with a child's specific preferences and needs, fostering a more effective therapeutic environment.

Individualized picture schedules can be used in therapy, at home, and in school to aid with task sequencing and understanding daily routines. Visual cue cards and timers can complement these schedules for additional support.

Support for home and school carryover

In pediatric therapy, assistive tools play a crucial role in helping children with fine motor delays express themselves effectively. Some examples of these tools include:

  • Electronic pens, talk to text programs, and typing: These tools offer alternatives to traditional handwriting for children who struggle with fine motor coordination or strength. They enable children to convey thoughts without the constraints of manual writing.
  • Adapted scissors: These specialized scissors help children complete cutting tasks, promoting fine motor skill development. Types of adapted scissors include auto-recoil scissors and electric scissors.
  • Weighted utensils: Designed to increase independence with self-feeding, weighted utensils provide sensory feedback for children with hyposensitivity. It is important to note that sensory interventions should not be administered without an evaluation by a qualified occupational therapist. The Choosing Wisely initiative tenet number two supports this. Weighted utensils are also helpful for children who have tremors and upper body coordination.


To ensure the effectiveness of assistive tools, occupational therapists must evaluate a child's strengths and challenges to make recommendations tailored to their unique circumstances. With the right tools and expert guidance, children can overcome skill set deficits and thrive in their daily activities.

Assistive tools can be integrated into the child's daily life beyond therapy sessions. Caregivers can be trained to use these tools at home, ensuring consistent practice and skill development in the child's natural environment.


This article was written by Tasha Holmes, MOT, OTR/L, BCP

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