Occupational therapy service for children and young people

What we do                    

Occupational therapists support children and young people who may experience difficulties carrying out and participating in activities of everyday life, for example their self-care, school work or play.

Our occupational therapists carry out an assessment of need and provide treatment including coping strategies for children, young people and their families to make sure they get the support they need.

This video explains the role of Occupational Therapy (OT) for children with additional support needs. This will give you an idea of what to expect if your child has been referred to Occupational Therapy, but please bear in mind that Occupational Therapy services will vary in different areas.


Occupational Therapy treatment

Our Occupational Therapy treatment plan can include one or more of the following:

  • One-to-one specialist support from an occupational therapist to help develop skills in areas like bathing, toileting, feeding, dressing, as well as play and hand skill development.
  • A program of agreed targets and goals for the child or young person, in collaboration with parents or carers who support them.
  • Coaching and education for parents/carers and professionals working with your child or young person. This may relate to your child’s specific difficulties in carrying out activities of daily living.
  • Assessment and recommendation for making minor or major changes to the home environment. 
  • Assessment and recommendation for providing specialist equipment at home, as well as nursery or school e.g. seating for positioning and play.
  • Advice on moving or handling your child comfortably and safely.
  • Assessment for housing needs in relation to the child’s or young person’s difficulties.
  • Working closely with Physiotherapists and Speech and Language Therapists within the local Children's Therapy Service as well as other professionals and agencies involved in the care of the child or young person.

Who is if for

Occupational Therapists work with children and young people from birth to 19 years old (if still receiving secondary or special education input). Occupational Therapy is offered to children/young people who are having difficulty joining in with the activities they need and want to do every day e.g. dressing, using cutlery, completing jigsaws, riding a bike, writing. These difficulties may be due to the child having a complex health and neurological condition, poor co-ordination skills, poor core stability or muscle control, poor movement planning skills, and sensory difficulties. We also support children following a hospital admission or moving into adult Occupational Therapy services for the first time.

Who provides it?

Our team includes occupational therapists and occupational therapy technical instructors. The Children’s Occupational Therapy Service in Redbridge is joined with health and social care, which means we can also provide assessment and advice on adaptations and/or equipment to your home environment.

Appointment system

Our Occupational Therapy service offers a range of approaches to provide you and your child with support depending on their needs. This may include:

  • Due to coronavirus, face-to-face appointments are not routinely available. We will continue to support you and your child by using virtual appointments – these will happen on a web-based platform that helps us offer video calls via your phone, tablet or computer.
  • Face-to-face appointments will be offered when appropriate and in line with trust and government coronavirus guidelines. This will be carried out either in clinic, nursery, school or at home.
  • The Occupational Therapist will talk to you and your child depending on their age, and ask questions about your child and your concerns. The OT may also carry out specific assessments to identify what is affecting your child’s ability to do their daily activities and observe the child carrying out activities such as handwriting, playing games, using a knife and fork or fastening buttons. The therapist may want to see you again for further assessment or review if required.

Referral criteria and process

The Occupational Therapy service will see:

  • Children and young people aged 0-18 years (or 19 years in full time education in special schools) with a Redbridge GP or school.
  • The referral form must identify at least two functional concerns, such as difficulty using a knife and fork, organising books for school, dressing, riding their bike, making breakfast/light snacks, participating in PE lessons or sporting activities, handling play items (e.g. building with Lego) or using school tools (such as scissors and pencils).
  • For children who have been referred again, there must be evidence of a new problem or a change in the previous identified problem.
  • If you are unsure if you meet our criteria, please contact us to discuss.

Referrals to the service can be made by a parent or any person who supports the child. Referrals are accepted via filling in a written or electronic application. You can also contact us at:

Specialist Community Health Services for Children and Young People
The Grove
Grove Road
Chadwell Heath
Tel: 0300 300 1618  
Email: SPAreferrals.redbridge@nelft.nhs.uk

Depending on your child’s needs, we aim to see all children and young people within 6-18 weeks, and we operate a priority system for all new referrals.  Any urgent referrals, e.g. supporting children discharged from hospital or those with a complex neurological condition and palliative care needs, will be seen within 6 weeks.


When children are referred and accepted to the Occupational Therapy service they are placed on one of our pathways. These are:

  • Early Years Sensory (EYS) pathway
  • Early Years Physical (EYP) pathway
  • Mainstream School age pathway
  • Special School pathway
  • Social Services Occupational Therapy

We also have Social Care Occupational Therapists in our team for needs around housing, equipment and making changes to the home, so you may be seen by two different Occupational Therapists.

Early Years Sensory pathway

Parents are invited to attend a group workshop (video call) to learn about sensory processing and strategies to help their child manage their needs.

Early Years Physical pathway

Families are offered an initial assessment that can take place on the telephone, video call or face-to-face at clinic. At this assessment we will discuss your concerns about your child and spend some time observing their various abilities. If needed, following this we will work out together with you the best way to meet your needs. This could be by providing you with advice and activities for you to carry out with your child, advising on equipment to help your child, or through a series of therapy sessions. We may also talk to your child’s nursery.

Mainstream School age pathway

Families are offered an initial assessment either by telephone, video call or face-to-face at clinic. Advice and strategies are given to the child, caregiver and other professionals, school staff where appropriate. After the assessment the Occupational Therapist can liaise with the child’s school to explain any recommendations relevant to school. The child will then be closed to the service. A new referral can be made in the future.

Some children have an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) or are going through the process to obtain an EHCP. Occupational Therapists contribute to these when the Redbridge Special Educational Needs department requests our input. Children who have an Occupational Therapist on their EHCP will be seen in school as identified on the plan.

Special Schools pathway

Specific members of our team work at Hatton, Little Heath, Newbridge Gresham Drive and Newbridge Barley Lane special schools. Therapists work there on certain days of the week during term time. They work closely with school staff and other professionals in teams to share knowledge.

Social Services Occupational Therapy pathway

Social Services Occupational Therapists can help if your child is having difficulties around the home or using facilities in the home. This may include aids, adaptations (changes) and equipment (toileting, bathing, and seating). The Occupational Therapist will arrange a home visit to assess your child’s needs and apply for disabilities facilities grant if adaptations are required. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/disabled-facilities-grants for more information.

Social Services Occupational Therapists can also assess the suitability of accommodation (living space) for the child’s needs. If a child’s accommodation does not meet their health needs, the Occupational Therapist may write a report to the housing options team.  Prior to this assessment, you will need to be listed on the housing register.

The funding for aids and adaptations comes from different sources. We are responsible for the assessment of your child’s needs, but we are not responsible for the decision about whether the funding will be agreed.

Resources for parents, early years settings and schools

  • Local Authority – Children with Disabilities social team
  • Redbridge Wheelchair and Specialist Pushchair Services
  • Children’s car seat clinics: www.rdac.co.uk     
  • Purchasing websites for equipment
  • Sensory: Teaching the child about their own sensory needs and level of alertness and awareness can help them develop independence in self-regulation. Here are some useful resources to support children’s understanding:
    • The ALERT® Programme – supports parents to understand a child’s sensory needs and teach self-regulation by discussing their sensory systems as an ‘engine’ https://www.alertprogram.com/parents/
    • The Zones of Regulation ® is a sensory-based curriculum designed by Occupational Therapists that can be delivered by teaching staff to support children in developing skills in self-regulation and emotional control http://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html
    • The Kids' Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses
    • Sensitive Sam: Sam's Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending               
  • Therapy fun zone is a website set up by an Occupational Therapist to share activity ideas, and encourages you to share yours in order to help stimulate creativity if you are helping your child to develop their skills.
  • ERIC is a site to improve the quality of life for children, young people and their families in the UK who suffer from the consequences of wetting and soiling (pooing) difficulties, to help them manage or overcome these problems.