Assessing physical literacy with school-aged children in occupational therapy practice: An exploratory qualitative study

Emma Clark, Amber Elliott, Alethea Gabriel Jerebine, Lisa M. Barnett

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Introduction: Physical literacy (the physical, psychological, social and cognitive capacities needed for movement and physical activity) is arguably important to occupational therapy yet is not explicit within current practice. This study aimed to understand how occupational therapists can engage with the physical literacy concept. Method: Eight paediatric occupational therapists were recruited by purposive sampling. Participants completed up to three semi-structured interviews to understand perspectives on physical literacy, introduce a novel pictorial assessment and to seek feedback on the assessment after trialling. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: Sixteen interviews were conducted. Four themes were identified: ‘Foreign tongue’ (occupational therapists have an understanding of physical literacy but used different terminology); ‘Sounds very OT oriented’ (illustrating the connection between physical literacy and occupational therapy); ‘We need the child’s voice’ (measure highlights the child’s perspective); and ‘Contemporary, useful BUT not for all’ (measure had utility for some children but was dependant on child’s condition). Conclusion: Occupational therapists can apply the physical literacy construct to traditional models and core concepts. The assessment can be used in paediatric occupational therapy practice supported by clinical reasoning, although future tool iterations may need to accommodate some children with disability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Early online date5 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jan 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (


  • Assessment
  • clinical practice
  • paediatric
  • physical activity


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