Occupational therapy – the misunderstood therapy

It’s Occupational Therapy Week and to mark the occasion we thought we’d shed a spotlight on our newest member of the team Sophie Stockwell. Sophie graduated from university just over a year ago and is keen to share her experiences as an occupational therapist. The 22-year-old works in our Children and Youth Services team and is passionate about the work she does. We dug deep to find out why she loves her role and what makes her tick.

Sophie, VisAbility Occupational Therapist holds a cup and sifts sand from a sand tub
Why did you become an occupational therapist?

I’d like to say it was a lifelong ambition of mine but that’s not true. Like many teenagers I only started to think about my career when I was finishing school. I knew I liked helping people. A friend of mine had developed meningococcal disease as a baby and she used to tell me about the occupational therapy services she’d received. It meant her bones didn’t fuse properly but this therapist helped her to achieve everyday things and she was grateful for the support she’d received.

My sister was training to be a physiotherapist but I wanted to help people in a more personalised way to achieve specific goals.

You work with children, why did you choose that line of work?

I like to have fun and so do children – it’s the perfect career match for me! I’m helping them in a way which gets results but is also entertaining. You can definitely see quicker outcomes when you work with children. They are more flexible in many ways and parents are always so grateful.

I work with children between the ages of 0 to 18. Our therapy is individualised for each child. For example last week I was working with a young child with vision impairment and we wanted to improve his fine motor skills.

We asked him to sort out some pop-sticks into different coloured holes. Not only was he improving his fine motor skills, but he was also learning about colours. The game also encouraged him to use a single finger in isolation. Play based learning can be so effective.

Do you have any advice for parents?

Sophie holding a toy used in her therapyYes, sometimes they don’t realise the importance of involvement. I provide therapy but I spend less than 1% of time with their child.


Some parents are reluctant to get involved, but they can easily incorporate therapy into daily activities as part of play. I always encourage parents to speak to their child in easy to understand language – so that’s short sentences.

Let them know what’s happening for example;

“First we’re going to pick up your shoes, then we’ll put on your coat to go outside.” Be positive never say “don’t run” but “we’ll be walking” instead.

Why is occupational therapy misunderstood?

That’s a good question. People struggle with what occupational therapists do. Many people think it’s physiotherapy and social work rolled into one. I like to define it as helping someone with a particular task or looking at how an environment can be better adapted to suit that person.

A mug which says 'An occupational therapist is someone who solves a problem which you didn't know you had, in a way you don't understand.It could be ensuring an elderly woman can stay in their own home by installing stair rails. It may also be assisting someone who’s been in supported living to be able to cook for themselves in their own home.>

What are your interests outside of work?

I am a big fan of sport especially water polo and swimming. I’ve helped to establish a new club called Stirling Raiders. It’s for water polo enthusiasts who have been away from the sport for a while and are keen to start playing again.

Tell us something which no one knows about you?

I was born on the same day as my brother and my grandma and I’m really close to both of them. What are the chances of that?

Find out more information on the Occupational Therapy Services we provide or our services for children and young people.