A Survey of Pediatric Occupational Therapists' Use of Play

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Over a decade ago, researchers surveyed pediatric occupational therapists regarding their use of play and concluded that play was addressed inconsistently in the evaluation and treatment of preschool-age clients. Play was primarily used as a modality to achieve a desired performance in another skill area. In the intervening years, a significant body of literature has been published in occupational therapy promoting the use of play as a meaningful outcome of occupational therapy intervention; therefore, practice patterns may have changed. Five hundred pediatric occupational therapists were randomly selected from members of the school system and sensory integration special interest sections of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to be surveyed regarding their current usage of play with children ages 3 to 7 years. They received a mailed survey, adapted from the original work of Couch, Dietz, and Kanny with the permission of the primary author. There were 198 surveys returned (40%). Similar to earlier findings, play was used primarily as a means of eliciting improvement in another area, such as fine-motor skill. Although some therapists assessed play, few focused on play as an outcome of importance, or included goals for play. Minimal changes have occurred in the role of play in pediatric occupational therapy. Despite the profession's promotion of our role in play and the suggestion that play is one of the most important occupations of childhood, practitioners continue to report a limited focus on play as an occupation.




Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention