Occupational therapy for cancer patients at Westmead

Childhood is a time of rapid development where new skills are learnt. This can be interrupted by treatment for cancer which can include long periods of feeling unwell, hospital stays, and side effects which leave children unable to participate in daily activities. 

Occupational therapists focus on supporting babies, children and adolescents to participate fully in the activities of their everyday life. This can include self-care, play, school, leisure and rest.

Your child’s energy levels and ability to engage in activities will change throughout the treatment of cancer. This can lead to generalised weakness and can make it harder for your child to participate in their usual activities.

How OT helps

Occupational therapists work with you and your child to help them participate in tasks that they want to do (e.g. play) and need to do (e.g. showering and dressing) throughout the day.

  • changing the way tasks are completed 
  • using special equipment
  • seating and positioning
  • upper limb management including hand therapy and splinting
  • skills acquisition including handwriting and computer access
  • fatigue management
  • education for schools, parents and other children's services or community groups 
  • linking your child with local services to continue to support you at home

When to see an OT

An Occupational Therapist should be seen if your child:

  • cannot do tasks as well as they used to prior to treatment
  • is not moving much in bed, or is spending long periods in bed
  • needs additional support or help in activities such as showering, going to the toilet and dressing
  • is not reaching developmental milestones as expected;
  • experiences pain or changes in sensation (tingling, burning, tightness) in their hands and arms (see information  on chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) in the physiotherapy section of this handbook).


Your child’s specialist doctor or another team member can refer your child to occupational therapy when assessment and management may be required.

An occupational therapist can visit you and your child on the ward, in the Oncology Treatment Centre, or organise an outpatient appointment.

If you have concerns and think your child would benefit from an occupational therapy, please speak with your child’s medical team.

Contact us

(02) 7825 3369, please ask for the Oncology occupational therapist

Occupational Therapy, level 2, The Children's Hospital at Westmead


Last updated Wednesday 26th June 2024