Happy Occupational Therapy Month! 

By Erica Gliga MOT, OTR/L

April is here and with that, we celebrate all the wonderful things about occupational therapy and occupational therapy practitioners. This post is intended to provide a very brief glimpse into the history of occupational therapy.

OT Over the Years

Over 100 years ago, in 1917, occupational therapy was founded. Two architects, a psychiatrist, a social worker, a teacher, and a nurse all came together to lay down the foundations of what would become occupational therapy. 

The emergence of the field was influenced by the therapeutic use of arts and crafts and a more optimistic view of rehabilitation. Specifically, after World War II, occupational therapy was established as an integral part of the support for those returning home. This created a space for occupational therapy practitioners to individualize treatment, collaborate, and create possibilities. Engaging in occupations began to be connected with health and later on, with health promotion. 

Over the next several decades, occupational therapy evolved and shifted to meet the needs and demands of our constantly evolving world. OT was influenced by frameworks such as the medical model, and the rehabilitation model, along with socio-cultural changes such as the establishment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. Significant for children was the establishment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which established early intervention programming and public-school services for children that are differently abled. 

OT Today

When it was founded, “occupation” was chosen as the word to describe what humans engage in and the things that occupy our time. “Occupation” is really a word that we use to describe all of the things that are important to us and the activities that we need and like to do. As you may or may not know, occupational therapy practitioners can work with individuals of any age, supporting strengths and addressing needs. Even as it evolves, a holistic and humanistic approach remains fundamental to OT today.

OT Month & You!

Whew! You made it through the very brief history of occupational therapy.  

For this year’s occupational therapy month, we encourage you to think about all the occupations you get to do with your child. While play might be one of your child’s main occupations, caregivers frequently engage in play too, making it a co-occupation. Perhaps this month, you can try out a new co-occupation together!


Pendleton, H. M., & Schultz-Krohn, W. (2018). Pedretti’s occupational therapy: Practice skills for physical dysfunction. Elsevier Inc.


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