Between 6 million and 9 million children experience mental health
issues severe enough to interfere with daily function (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). Of those children,
only one in five actually receives needed services, resulting in
a significant proportion of children remaining underserved. As a
child grows, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants
are well positioned to identify the factors in the child's functional
performance that result in poor ability to adapt to changing
expectations in his or her home, school, and community. This
expertise in analyzing and breaking down tasks also positions occupational
therapy practitioners to help teachers and care providers
problem solve and adapt the home and school environment to provide
the child with a mental illness a sense of mastery and the ability
to develop a healthy identity, despite his or her emotional disorder.
Recent studies indicate that behavior and social interaction
skills (i.e., social competence), rather than academic skills, are
stronger predictors of academic and lifelong success (Child Mental
Health Foundations and Agencies Network, 2002). Therefore, failure
to address issues related to behavior and social competence can
have long-lasting negative effects on a significant number of persons
as they move from childhood into adulthood.