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My Child Is Not Talking, How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

Occupation therapists target foundational skills that are necessary to the development of language. Below you will find out how OT goal areas can help build communication skills.

Motor Skills

Occupational therapists target motor skill development due to its critical effect on daily participation and independence. Motor skill development allows for exploration to find meaning in and make sense of, the environment. The more a child explores their environment, the more likely they learn, make associations, and finally place words to objects and actions. In recent studies, it has also been found that motor skill development correlates with the development of language. Recent studies have found an association with the onset of walking and the development of language (Walle and Campos, 2014; He et al., 2015). Sitting has also been found to be a milestone that is correlated with increases in receptive language. For more information you can refer to this article from the National Library of Medicine.


A child's ability to think of new ideas can greatly affect their language skills. Ideation is the foundational skill that promotes a child’s ability to not only think of a new idea during solo play, but to also think of new ideas that sustain interaction with others during reciprocal play. Occupational therapists are skilled in promoting regulation, which then helps develop play skills, so that children can more readily and easily think of new ideas. This is because a child’s ability to self regulate highly impacts the development of ideation. If your child is upset, or seeking sensory input from their environment, they are much less likely to be able to think creatively and add any new ideas within play.

Sensory Regulation

Occupational therapists are well known for their knowledge of sensory processing. Sensory modulation, for example, is your child’s ability to process the sensory information they receive from their environment, then either respond to or adapt to it, while remaining balanced in a just-right arousal state. If your child is having difficulty maintaining a balanced and regulated emotional state due to an environment that is overstimulating or understimulating, engagement with anyone else will become difficult. This, in turn, means language will be difficult to produce as well.

Motor Planning and Sequencing

Motor planning & sequencing support gestural communication, a precursor to verbal communication. Many speech language pathologists evaluate language development among children and will often ask if the child gestures while communicating, in order to provide insight into how well a child is learning and behaving socially in their environment . We underestimate how many movements and sequences are involved in making a gesture, which in fact, is still considered communication. Motor planning and sequencing can highly affect a child's ability in pointing to show/communicate something, tugging at your arm to communicate for help, or coming to find you when they are hungry. Until a child understands these patterns and becomes more purposeful with gestures, it will continue to be difficult for them to find the words they are attempting to express.


Occupational therapists can also guide in making the environmental changes necessary to improve engagement and interaction with others within the home. OTs are trained to observe which sensory inputs in the environment are distracting and are preventing a child’s ability to focus on interactions with others. Once a Greenspan Floortime therapist makes necessary changes, or makes recommendations, such as organizing toys up high, and removing overstimulating inputs, they are then able to focus on maintaining regulation and engagement that will aid in the development of language.

The DIR/Floortime model trains therapists and providers on how to target these foundational skills to build language. As a trained Greenspan Floortime therapist, language and interaction is a priority in every therapy session. Call us for a free 15 minute consultation to understand how we target these foundational skills to help build your child’s engagement, language and communication skills.

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