Abstract

Child abuse is a major public health concern in the United States, one that has negative consequences on abused persons’ productivity and mental health throughout their lives. Occupational therapists who work with preschool-aged children are in a strategic position to screen for physical abuse and aid in the rehabilitation of children and families engaged in abuse. This article provides a review of the literature and accounts of clinical experience with children and families in a variety of settings. It offers an overview of behavioral risk factors that have been shown to correlate with physical abuse, including how these factors can be observed within the context of an occupational therapy evaluation. Guidelines for interacting with child protective services via reporting suspected cases of child abuse and working collaboratively with such agencies are provided. Strategies for occupational therapy intervention with abused children and their parents are described. These strategies include using activities to facilitate positive parent–child interaction, educating parents regarding child development and management techniques, and facilitating children’s psychosocial development.

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