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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

What is Occupational Therapy?

June 2020 | Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational Therapist, Adult Down Syndrome Center

Occupational therapy is a health profession concerned with how people function and perform meaningful activities in their respective roles. "Occupation" is any activity in which one engages throughout the day. Occupational therapists (OTs) can help a person perform expected, needed, or desired activities by: 

  • Teaching or re-teaching a skill, 

  • Providing accommodations, and/or

  • Modifying the environment 


OTs can address: 

  • Fine motor skills and coordination 

  • Life skills

  • Physical activity

  • Puberty

  • Self-care skills

  • Sensory processing

  • Social skills and relationship development

  • Transitions and routine


You may want to consider consulting an OT for an adolescent or adult with Down syndrome if: 

  • You notice self-stimulatory behaviors (rocking, hand flapping, etc.). 

  • Your loved one has strong preferences or sensitivities (to light, texture, taste, smell, sound, or movement). 

  • Your loved one is a picky eater.

  • Your loved one has poor fine motor and coordination skills.

  • Your loved one is having difficulty completing basic activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, showering, and toileting. 

  • Your loved one is overweight.

  • Your loved one needs to learn job skills.

  • Your loved one has questions about healthy relationships and sexuality.

  • Your loved one needs to learn or practice appropriate social skills.

  • Your loved one has difficulty transitioning between activities. 

  • Your loved one needs assistance establishing a routine.

  • Your loved one has anxiety towards medical procedures, dental visits, haircuts, blood draws, or other activities that need to occur periodically. 

To find an occupational therapist, I recommend contacting local Down syndrome organizations, pediatric or adult Down syndrome clinics, or adult day or service programs. These groups may be able to provide recommendations of occupational therapists who have worked with adolescents and adults with Down syndrome. If you are interested in pursuing occupational therapy services, you will need a referral from your primary care provider. I also recommend checking with your insurance provider to ensure OT services are covered.

For residents of Illinois, I am available for evaluation and treatment with a referral from a health care provider. Please call the Adult Down Syndrome Center at 847-318-2303 for more information.



Activities of Daily Living (videos)

Daily Tasks to Improve Fine Motor Skills (article)

Fun Activities to Improve Fine Motor Skills (article)

Physical Activity Resources

Self-Care and Hygiene Resources

Sensory Processing and Down Syndrome (article)

Social Skills Resources

Tips for a Sensory-Friendly Haircut (article)

Visuals for Medical Appointments and Procedures

Find More Resources

We offer a variety of resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers and the professionals who care for and work with them. Search our collection of articles, webinars, videos, and other educational materials.

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.