Occupational Therapists Support

The Most Common Conditions Occupational Therapists Help With

Published by The OT Centre 3rd July 2024

Thoughtful Occupational Therapist


Occupational Therapists play a crucial role in healthcare, assisting individuals across all ages to perform daily activities and improve their quality of life.

This article explores the most common conditions that OTs can help with, the techniques OTs can employ and the practical ways Occupational Therapy impacts and improves a patient's life.

Occupational Therapy for Stroke Rehabilitation


Stroke often leads to significant physical and cognitive impairments, affecting daily activities.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, often leading to difficulties with movement, sensation, cognition, and communication. This can have a profound impact on an individual's ability to perform daily activities and participate in life as they once did.

Common Issues

Individuals may experience a range of issues following a stroke which present challenges in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), often arising from:

OT Approaches for Stroke

Rehabilitation Exercises: OTs design individualised exercise programs and tasks to improve a patient's strength, coordination, and range of motion in daily activities. These may target specific muscle groups or functional movements needed for daily activities like dressing, bathing, and eating. OTs can also incorporate assistive devices such as splinting (supporting and imobilising joints to promote healing and prevent contractures), orthotics (devices like braces or shoe inserts that support weak muscles or joints), writing aids (pen grips, weighted pens, and slant boards can help improve handwriting) or other assistive devices to promote proper movement patterns and prevent complications.

Adaptive Techniques: For individuals who have difficulty performing daily tasks due to weakness, pain, or cognitive challenges, OTs can recommend adaptive techniques and assistive devices. This may involve using dressing sticks (which assist with putting on and taking off clothing), reachers (extend a person's reach, making it easier to pick up objects from the floor or high shelves), grab bars (offering support and stability when getting in and out of the shower or bathtub, or using the toilet) for safety, or specialised utensils for eating including built-up or weighted utensils, Rocker Knives, Plate Guards and Nosey Cups. OTs can also train individuals on compensatory strategies, such as using their stronger side to complete tasks or breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.

Cognitive Rehabilitation: Stroke can affect a person's thinking skills, memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities. OTs can develop cognitive rehabilitation programs to address these specific challenges. These programs may involve memory exercises, attention training activities, and strategies for improving organization and planning skills. OTs can also help individuals develop compensatory strategies to work around their cognitive deficits, such as using calendars, planners, and visual cues to stay organised.

Home Modifications: A safe and accessible home environment is crucial for stroke survivors to regain independence. OTs can recommend modifications to the home, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom, widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, and lowering countertops in the kitchen. OTs can also work with the individual to practice navigating their modified home environment safely and efficiently.

Education and Support: Education and support are essential components of stroke rehabilitation. OTs can educate stroke survivors and their families about the recovery process, potential challenges, and available resources. They can also provide emotional support and guidance throughout the rehabilitation journey. This can empower individuals and their families to actively participate in the recovery process and achieve their goals.

Occupational Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


ASD and ADHD are neurodevelopmental disorders that can affect an individual's social interaction, communication, behaviour, and attention. These challenges can impact their ability to participate in school, work, and social activities.

Common Issues

Individuals with ASD may experience difficulties with:

Individuals with ADHD may experience difficulties with:

OT Approaches for ASD

Sensory Integration Therapy: focuses on helping individuals with ASD process sensory information more effectively. Many individuals with ASD have sensory sensitivities or challenges, either being over- or under-responsive to stimuli like light, sound, touch, or movement. OTs use activities that integrate different senses to promote a more organised sensory experience. For example, playing with Play-Doh while listening to calming music can provide a combination of tactile and auditory input that can be stimulating yet calming for some individuals. Activities like splashing in a water table or jumping on a trampoline can provide deep pressure input, which can be helpful for individuals who seek out these types of sensory experiences. Dedicated Sensory-rich environments help individuals regulate their responses to sensory input; A calming sensory room with dimmed lighting, soft music, and comfortable beanbag chairs for relaxation; A movement obstacle course with tunnels, climbing walls, and balance beams to provide proprioceptive input (body awareness) and vestibular input (sense of balance); A sensory bin filled with rice, beans, or other tactile materials to allow for exploration and self-regulation.

Social Skills Training: helps individuals with ASD understand and respond appropriately to social cues, develop conversation skills, and navigate social situations. OTs employ a range of techniques to equip individuals with ASD with the social skills they need to thrive. Role-playing allows individuals to practice social interactions in a safe and controlled environment. The therapist can act as a social partner, modeling appropriate behaviors and responses. Social stories are short narratives that illustrate social situations in a clear and predictable way. They can help individuals with ASD understand what to expect in different social settings, how to behave appropriately, and how to identify and respond to social cues. Group activities provide opportunities to practice social skills with peers in a supportive environment. OTs may design activities that focus on initiating conversations, taking turns, cooperating, and managing emotions. They can also help individuals develop friendships by teaching them how to approach others, share interests, and resolve conflicts.

Behavioral Interventions: address challenging behaviors that can arise due to sensory overload, communication difficulties, or anxiety. OTs use a positive reinforcement approach to encourage desired behaviors and reduce challenging ones. This means rewarding positive behaviors with praise, stickers, or other tokens of appreciation. OTs can also implement visual schedules and structured routines to provide predictability and help individuals with ASD understand what is expected of them throughout the day. For example, a visual schedule might use pictures or symbols to show the order of activities in a morning routine, such as getting dressed, eating breakfast, and brushing teeth. These visual cues can help individuals with ASD stay on track and reduce anxiety associated with transitions. Additionally, OTs can teach self-regulation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation, to help individuals manage their emotions and behaviors. These techniques can help individuals with ASD calm themselves down when they are feeling overwhelmed or upset, and can also help them improve focus and concentration.

Environmental Modifications: create a predictable and sensory-friendly environment can reduce anxiety and sensory overload, promoting a calmer and more focused state.  OTs can suggest a range of environmental modifications to create a sensory-friendly space. This might involve reducing visual clutter by minimizing unnecessary decorations or organising toys and materials on shelves. Using calming colors, such as light blues or greens, on walls and furniture can create a more soothing atmosphere. Providing quiet spaces for retreat, like a reading nook or a tent, can offer individuals a place to go when they feel overwhelmed by sensory input. Adjusting lighting to create a more subdued or brighter environment can cater to individual preferences. For example, some individuals with ASD may find bright overhead lights to be overstimulating, while others may benefit from increased lighting levels. OTs can also recommend using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to block out distracting sounds. Weighted vests, which apply gentle pressure to the body, can be helpful for some individuals with ASD by providing a sense of security and reducing anxiety. Fidget toys, such as stress balls or spinners, can help individuals channel their energy and improve focus by providing a non-disruptive outlet for movement.

Assistive Technology: can be a powerful tool for individuals with ASD, providing support with communication, organization, and focus. Visual schedules on tablets, communication apps that use pictures or symbols, noise-canceling headphones, and apps that help with time management and task organization.

OT Approaches for ADHD

Cognitive Strategies: improving attention, focus, executive functioning (planning, organizing, problem-solving), and time management skills. OTs might teach techniques like breaking tasks into smaller steps, using visual reminders and checklists, creating organised workspaces, and using timers to stay on track. They may also work on strategies for prioritizing tasks, managing time effectively, and reducing distractions.

Sensory Strategies: while not as common as with ASD, some individuals with ADHD also have sensory processing challenges. Sensory strategies can help them regulate their arousal levels and improve focus. Similar to those used for ASD, OTs might incorporate sensory activities, weighted vests, or fidget toys into therapy sessions to promote self-regulation and attention.

Environmental Modifications: similar to ASD, creating a structured and supportive environment can help individuals with ADHD stay focused and organised. OTs might suggest minimizing distractions, using visual cues and reminders, creating a consistent daily routine, and establishing clear expectations and consequences.

Social Skills Training: some individuals with ADHD may struggle with social skills due to impulsivity, difficulty reading social cues, or challenges with emotional regulation. Similar to ASD, OTs can use role-playing, social stories, and group activities to practice social interactions and teach appropriate communication skills.

Assistive Technology (AT): can be a game-changer for individuals with ADHD, helping them improve focus, organization, time management, and productivity;  

Time Management & Organisation Tools

Note-Taking and Learning Tools

Focus and Attention Aids

Other Assistive Technologies include Smartwatches, Dictation Software and Voice Assistants.

Occupational Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury


A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be a life-changing event. It can result from a variety of causes, such as falls, car accidents, sports injuries, or assaults. The severity of a TBI can range from mild concussions to severe brain damage, with a wide range of possible consequences. TBIs are a leading cause of disability and death in adults, and they can have a significant impact on a person's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being.

According to NICE, each year, over 1 million people attend emergency departments in England and Wales with a recent head injury. Between 33% and 50% of these people are aged under 15. About 200,000 people are admitted to hospital with a head injury every year. Of these, about 40,000 have evidence of Traumatic Brain Injury.

Common Issues

The impacts of a TBI are often highly complex and multifaceted, affecting various aspects of a person's life.  Here's a closer look at some of the most common Physical, Cognitive and Emotional and Behavioural challenges:

Physical Impairments:

Cognitive Impairments:

Emotional and Behavioural Changes:

OT Approaches for TBI

Occupational therapists are essential partners in the journey of recovery for individuals with traumatic brain injuries, helping people regain their independence and adapt to their new normal. OT's specialising in Neurorehabilitation take a comprehensive approach, tailoring interventions to each person's unique needs and specific achievable goals.

Cognitive Rehabilitation

To improve cognitive skills such as memory, attention, problem-solving, and executive functioning. Cognitive rehabilitation is not about "curing" a TBI, but rather about empowering individuals to regain their cognitive skills, develop new strategies to compensate for any remaining impairments, and ultimately improve their overall quality of life. This can involve learning to manage daily tasks more independently, returning to work or school, and engaging in meaningful activities and social interactions.

Physical Rehabilitation

The aim of physical rehabilitation is to help individuals regain strength, coordination, balance, mobility, and overall physical functioning after a TBI.  Elements of Physical Rehabilitation, such as Therapeutic Exercise, may be led or undertaken by a Physiotherapist but OTs can use a variety of supporting techniques to address these goals, tailoring them to the individual's specific needs and abilities. Incorporating Physical Rehab into a comprehensive rehabilitation plan helps individuals with TBI regain their physical abilities, improve their functional independence, and ultimately enhance their overall quality of life.

Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory integration therapy aims to help individuals with TBI better process and integrate sensory information from their environment and their own bodies. By addressing these sensory processing difficulties, occupational therapists can help individuals with TBI improve their ability to function in daily life, reduce anxiety and stress, and enhance their overall quality of life.

After a TBI, the brain's ability to interpret sensory input can be disrupted, leading to a variety of challenges, such as Sensory Over-Responsivity/Hypersensitivity (feeling overwhelmed by sensory input like loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures), Sensory Under-Responsivity/Hyposensitivity (needing more intense sensory input to feel sensations or stay alert and engaged), Sensory-Seeking Behaviors (actively seeking out sensory input through repetitive movements or actions) and difficulty with Sensory Discrimination (struggling to distinguish between different sensations or interpret sensory information accurately).

Assistive Technology

The primary aims for the use assistive technology in TBI rehabilitation is to empower individuals to regain independence, improve their functional abilities, and enhance their overall quality of life. AT can bridge the gap between a person's current abilities and the demands of daily living, allowing them to participate more fully in activities they want and need to do. This can be particularly crucial for individuals with cognitive or physical impairments following a TBI.

Assistive technology encompasses a broad range of tools and devices that can be customised to meet the unique needs of each individual. Let's look at some common examples of AT in TBI rehabilitation/neurorehabilitation;

Vocational Rehabilitation

The primary goal of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in TBI is to enable individuals to return to work or pursue meaningful employment after their injury. OTs understand that work is not just a source of income; it's a central part of identity, social interaction, and personal fulfillment.  Therefore, VR is not simply about finding any job, but about finding the right job that aligns with the individual's skills, interests, and post-injury abilities.

Vocational rehabilitation can also be beneficial for those who may not have worked before their injury. For these individuals, VR can help them discover new skills and interests, build confidence, and explore potential career paths.

Psychosocial Support

Traumatic brain injuries often extend beyond the physical and cognitive realms, significantly impacting an individual's emotional and social well-being.  The goal of psychosocial support in TBI is to address these challenges, fostering emotional healing, resilience, and the ability to engage meaningfully in relationships and social activities. This involves supporting individuals in coping with the emotional and psychological consequences of their injury, as well as helping them develop strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and mood changes. By providing this support, occupational therapists aim to enhance overall well-being and facilitate a smoother reintegration into community and social life.

The OT Centre's Approach to TBI Rehabilitation and Neurorehabilitation

At The OT Centre, we take a holistic approach to TBI rehabilitation, focusing on the whole person – their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being.  We work closely with each individual to develop a highly personalised goal-oriented treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and goals, particularly prioritising functional relevance (tasks and activities that are meaningful and relevant to the person's daily life).  We are committed to providing compassionate, outcome driven and evidence-based care to help individuals with TBI achieve their highest level of independence and quality of life.


Occupational Therapy is a powerful enabler for individuals facing specific and everyday challenges which can accompany Autism, ADHD, Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury.

If you're interested in learning more about how Occupational Therapy can help you or someone you care about, get in touch with The OT Centre. We have a team of experienced OTs with expertise in a range of Specialisms including Neurorehabilitation for Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury, Vocational Rehabilitation for support returning to work, Sensory Integration for assessment and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorders, Mental Health & Neurodivergence and Paediatrics for support with Autism and ADHD .

Find out how Occupational Therapy Can Help You. We are here to support you on your journey to a more fulfilling and independent life.

Reviewed and Approved
Helen Spencer, Clinic Director, The OT Centre
BSc Occupational Therapy, HCPC Registration: OT35913