Skip to content Skip to footer

Occupational Therapy Definitions 

Wondering what those terms mean in your child's occupational therapy report?

Adaptive response – an appropriate action in which the individual responds successfully to some environmental demand; requires good sensory integration and advances the sensory integration process
ADL/ADLs – Activities of Daily Living, also known as “self-care”.  Examples: zipping, buttoning, & feeding.
Dyspraxia – deficient motor planning that is often related to a decrease in sensory processing
Eye-Hand Coordination (“Visual Motor Integration” – the efficient teamwork of the eyes and hands, necessary for activities such as playing with toys, dressing, and writing
Fine Motor Skills – the skilled use of one’s hands – the ability to move the hands and fingers in a smooth, precise and controlled manner. Fine motor control is essential for the efficient handling of classroom tools and materials – may also be referred to as dexterity.
Gravitational Insecurity – extreme fear and anxiety that one will fall when one’s head position changes
Gross Motor – movements of the large muscles of the body
Gross Motor Skills – coordinated body movements involving the large muscle groups; for example, running, walking, hopping, climbing, throwing and jumping
Hypersensitivity – oversensitivity to sensory stimuli, characterized by a tendency to be either fearful and cautious, or negative and defiant
Hypersensitivity to Movement – a sense of disorientation and/or avoidance of movement that is linear and/or rotary
Hyposensitivity – under-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, characterized by a tendency either to crave intense sensations or to withdraw and be difficult to engage
Midline Crossing- the ability to spontaneously move a body part to the opposite side of the body. Example: touching right hand to left toe.

Motor Control – the ability to regulate and monitor the motions of one’s muscle group to work together harmoniously to perform movements
Motor Coordination – the ability of several muscles or muscle groups to work together harmoniously to perform movements
Motor Planning – the ability to conceive of, organize, sequence, and carry out an unfamiliar and complex body movement in a coordinated manner, a piece of praxis
Muscle Tone – the degree of tension normally present when one’s muscles are relaxed, or in a resting state
Perception – the meaning the brain attributes to sensory input
Postural Adjustments – the ability to shift one’s body in order to change position for a task
Postural Insecurity – a fear of movement/head/posture changes due to poor control of one’s trunk or posture
Postural Stability – being able to maintain one’s body in a position to efficiently complete a task or demand, using large muscle groups at the shoulders and hips
Praxis – the ability to interact successfully with the physical environment; to plan, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions, and to do what one needs and wants to do. Praxis is a broad term indicating voluntary and coordinated action. Motor planning is often used as a synonym for praxis.
Proprioception – the unconscious awareness of sensations coming from one’s joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments; the “position sense”
Rotary Movement – turning or spinning in circles
Self-Help Skills – competence in taking care of one’s personal needs, such as bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, and studying. Also referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Self-Regulation – the ability to control one’s activity level and state of alertness, as well as one’s emotional, mental or physical responses to senses; self-organization
Sensorimotor – pertaining to the brain-behavior of taking in sensory messages and reacting with a physical response
Sensory Defensiveness – child’s behavior in response to sensory input, reflecting severe over-reactions or a low threshold to a specific sensory input
Sensory Diet – the multisensory experiences that one normally seeks on a daily basis to satisfy one’s sensory appetite; a planned and scheduled activity program that an occupational therapist develops to help a person become more self-regulated
Sensory Discrimination – the ability to perceive various aspects of sensation (light, touch, texture, smell, taste, etc.)
Sensory Input – the constant flow of information from sensory receptors in the body to the brain and spinal cord
Sensory Integration/Sensory Processing – the normal neurological process taking in information from one’s body and environment through the senses, of organizing and unifying this information, and using it to plan and execute adaptive responses to different challenges in order to learn and function smoothly in daily life
Sensory Integrative Dysfunction – the inefficient neurological processing of information received through the senses, causing problems with learning, development and behavior
Sensory Integration Treatment – a technique of occupational therapy, which provides playful, meaningful activities that enhance an individual’s sensory intake and lead to more adaptive functioning in daily life
Sensory Modulation – increasing or reducing neural activity to keep that activity in harmony with all other functions of the nervous system; maintenance of the arousal state to generate emotional responses, sustain attention, develop appropriate activity level and move skillfully
Sensory Processing Skills – the ability to receive and process information from one’s sensory systems including touch (tactile), visual, auditory (hearing), proprioceptive (body position) and vestibular (balance). Behavior, attention and peer interactions are greatly influenced by the child’s ability to process sensory stimuli.
Sensory Registration – initial awareness of a single input; assigning value and emotional tone to a stimulus.
Tactile – refers to the sense of touch and various qualities attributed to touch, including detecting pressure, temperature, light touch, pain, discriminative touch
Tactile Defensiveness – the tendency to react negatively and emotionally to unexpected light touch sensations
Vestibular – refers to our sense of movement and the pull of gravity, related to our body
Vestibular Sense – the sensory system that responds to changes in head position and to body movement through space, and that coordinates movements of the eyes, head and body. Receptors are the inner ear.
Visual Discrimination – differentiating among symbols and forms, such as matching or separating colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and words
Visual Figure-Ground – differentiation between objects in the foreground and in the background
Visual Motor – referring to one’s movements based on the perception of visual information
Visual Motor Skills/ Visual Motor Integration / Eye Hand Coordination – the ability to visually take in information, process it and be able to coordinate your physical movement in relation to what has been viewed. It involves the combination of visual perception and motor coordination. Difficulty with visual motor skills can result in inaccurate reaching, pointing and grasping of objects, as well as difficulty with copying, drawing, tracing and cutting.
Visual Perception – the ability to perceive and interpret what the eyes see
Visual Perceptual Skills – the ability to interpret and use what is seen in the environment. Difficulties in this area can interfere with a child’s ability to learn self-help skills like tying shoelaces and academic tasks like copying from the blackboard or finding items in a busy background.  The subparts of visual perception are:  visual discrimination, visual memory, visual spatial relations, visual form constancy, visual sequential memory, visual figure ground and visual closure.
Visual-Spatial Processing Skills – perceptions based on sensory information received through the eyes and body as one interacts with the environment and moves one’s body through space. Including: Depth perception, directionality, form constancy, position in space, spatial awareness, visual discrimination, and visual figure-ground.

Learning of children by offering unique and creative strategies for cognitive, sensory, and motor development.    

The material on this site is for your information and education only and should not be interpreted as medical or professional advice. You should never treat yourself for a medical condition based on the information provided here. Likewise, you should never decide that you do not need treatment based on this information. All medical information, from this or any other source, needs to be reviewed carefully with your own doctor and other medical professionals before you act upon it in any way.

© 2024 – Learning Charms, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Our Policies

Go to Top