What is the Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?

Boy swinging while being pushed in pediatric occupational therapy by his therapist

Author: Circle of Care

When it comes to helping children develop new skills and reach their full potential, pediatric occupational therapy (OT) and pediatric physical therapy (PT) are two beneficial treatments that can offer the support they need. Both of these therapies use different approaches when treating children with disabilities or developmental challenges.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on helping children with physical, developmental, social, and emotional delays by providing therapeutic activities to improve their ability to perform daily tasks. Occupational therapists work with children to help them become as independent as possible in daily tasks. They also help children develop skills needed to function in the school environment, such as writing and social skills.


What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy focuses on improving a child’s physical strength and mobility, such as walking, running, swimming, and jumping. It also helps to improve balance and coordination by using exercises, stretches, and massages. Physical therapists can work with children to help them gain the skills necessary for independent movement in daily activities.


Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

Occupational therapy and physical therapy are two types of therapies used to help children reach their developmental milestones. Both OTs and PTs work to address children’s physical, mental, emotional, and social needs in order to help them lead successful lives. While the goals of both OTs and PTs may overlap, they have distinct differences that make them each important to helping children reach their full potential.


When it comes to approaches used, occupational therapy will typically involve the use of exercises and activities that are designed to help a child develop their skills in self-care, play, and school activities. Physical therapy is more focused on stretching, strengthening, and flexing exercises that are intended to improve a child’s mobility and coordination. Both physical and occupational therapists may also use specialized equipment such as scooters or balance boards during sessions.


The benefits of occupational and physical therapy are different, though they may sometimes seem similar. Occupational therapy is focused on helping a child develop their skills in daily living activities such as dressing, grooming, and eating. This type of therapy also helps with fine motor coordination and sensory processing.

Physical therapy focuses on improving a child’s gross motor skills and balance. Physical therapists also work on strengthening a child’s muscles and improving their endurance, while occupational therapists concentrate more on developing skills necessary for day-to-day activities.

When Does a Child Need Occupational or Physical Therapy?

Children may need occupational or physical therapy if they are having difficulty reaching developmental milestones, have difficulties with physical movement or coordination, need assistance to improve activities of daily living skills, or if they have medical problems that affect their ability to learn. A doctor or qualified therapist can assess a child’s needs to determine if occupational or physical therapy is necessary.

Physical and Occupational Therapy at Circle of Care

At Circle of Care, we understand the importance of providing comprehensive care to children. Our qualified therapists are dedicated to helping children reach their goals and achieve success in all aspects of life. We offer both occupational therapy and physical therapy services that are tailored to each child’s individual needs. If you would like more information about our services or to schedule an appointment for your child, please contact us today.



Learn More About Our Pediatric Therapy Services at Circle of Care