OccupationalTherapy.com Phone: 866-782-9924

Mental Health of Children: Psychosocial Occupational Therapy for Pediatric Populations

Mental Health of Children: Psychosocial Occupational Therapy for Pediatric Populations
William Lambert, MS, OTR/L
March 8, 2016


What would cause a child to have a mental illness? Mental illness occurs in children in much the way it occurs in adults or any other individual. Much of the time, in current thinking, it is a result of genetics, psychosocial stressors, and often a combination of both of those factors. However, you could have an illness based on genetics alone or psychosocial stressors alone, but the predisposition certainly facilitates a mental health issue.

Diagnoses Usually First Diagnosed in Childhood (DSM-IV-TR)

To start out, we are going to look at some diagnoses first usually diagnosed in childhood according to the DSM-IV-TR, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as noted in Figure 1. This is the fourth edition text revision that was used until the publication of DSM-V in 2013. We will talk about these diagnoses first and then I will also be talking about changes that the publication of DSM-V facilitated in terms of looking at children's disorders. All of these disorders, that I am going to discuss, were initially in a section of the DSM-IV-TR, which are disorders first identified in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. This is why we are speaking about these first. Also, that section of the DSM-IV-TR does not exist in DSM-V, and I will talk about that in a minute. 


Figure 1. Diagnoses first diagnosed in childhoot according to DSM-IV-TR.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

I am sure many of you are familiar with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, characterized by prominent symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsivity. This is the child that cannot stay seated in the classroom, that calls out before a question is even fully posed, has trouble maintaining body space, is fidgety, or, with the inattentive type, cannot follow directions, cannot keep up with school work, and is easily distractable.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder, characterized by a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior. This is a very aptly named disorder. This is a child that opposes adult directions and defies rules that are set by adults and is frequently hostile. They can be very difficult to parent or to have in the classroom due to their inability to follow instructions.

william lambert

William Lambert, MS, OTR/L

William L. Lambert, MS, OTR/L holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology and a bachelor’s and advanced master’s degree in occupational therapy. He has over twenty years of experience working with children and adolescents in inpatient and community settings. Currently he holds the position of Faculty Specialist in the Department of Occupational Therapy at The University of Scranton where he teaches the psychosocial-based courses and conducts ongoing research on current preferred adolescent occupations. He developed the Scranton Adolescent Interest Checklist, © as a contemporary assessment tool for use with this population. He authored chapters on children and adolescents in Cara and MacRae’s 2019 textbook Psychosocial Occupational Therapy: An Evolving Process and on posttraumatic stress disorder in Weiss, Morgan and Kinnealey’s A Practitioners Guide to Clinical Occupational Therapy published in 2012. He was the lead author of the psychosocial chapters in the National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam Review & Study Guide published in 2019 and the National OTA Certification Exam Review & Study Guide, both edited by Rita P. Fleming-Castaldy. He is on the editorial board of the journal Occupational Therapy in Healthcare. Mr. Lambert is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association, and the World Federation of Occupational Therapists He has presented numerous times at state and national occupational therapy conferences.

Related Courses

Mental Health of Adolescents: Psychosocial Occupational Therapy for Adolescent Populations
Presented by William Lambert, MS, OTR/L
Course: #5181Level: Introductory1 Hour
An overview of occupational therapy practice with adolescents experiencing mental health issues, including suicide and the effects of the pandemic will be presented. Common diagnoses, presenting problems, psychosocial stressors and basic concepts used in providing occupational therapy are examined. Occupational therapy programing, assessments, interventions and emerging trends and practice opportunities are identified.

Facilitating Occupational Therapy Groups in Mental Health and Other Practice Settings
Presented by William Lambert, MS, OTR/L
Course: #4146Level: Introductory1 Hour
A variety of groups and group intervention activities will be presented that may be used in mental health, skilled nursing, school-based and a variety of other practice areas. This presentation addresses groups specific to occupational therapy and provides a basic outline of how to facilitate a group.

Animal Assisted Therapy As An Adjunct To OT
Presented by Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA, Phoebe Yam, OTD, OTR/L
Course: #5411Level: Intermediate1 Hour
Occupational therapy practitioners who would like to include or improve their inclusion of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in OT practice will benefit from this course. The speakers will provide a general blueprint for continuing education and skill development regardless of experience for both practitioners and the animals.

Neurodiversity: How to Support Agency and Self-determination
Presented by Joleen R. Fernald, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL
Course: #9514Level: Intermediate1 Hour
It is imperative for clinicians and educators to be aware of the neurodiversity movement in order to better support all human rights. This course discusses what neurodiversity is and the history of the movement, as well as the potential for trauma related to behavioral interventions. Case examples demonstrate how to apply a paradigm shift to clinical practice that seeks to accept and celebrate differences rather than mask them.

Mental Health Promotion, Prevention, and Intervention With Children and Youth: A Guiding Framework for Occupational Therapy
Presented by Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Course: #3380Level: Intermediate2 Hours
The aim of this presentation is to provide a foundation for conceptualizing occupational therapy's role in mental health promotion, prevention and intervention when working with all children and youth -those with and without disabilities and/or mental illness- in schools and community settings. Content reflects a public health approach to occupational therapy services at the universal, targeted, and intensive levels.

Our site uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our site, you agree to our Privacy Policy.