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The Difference Between Habilitation and Rehabilitation

Nov 14th, 2018 | by Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC

Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC

November 14th, 2018

Although they are often used in conjunction, there is a difference between habilitation and rehabilitation. Physical, occupational, and speech therapies utilize both habilitative and rehabilitative approaches to enable persons with disabilities to attain and maintain maximum independence, in all aspects of life.


Habilitation refers to a process aimed at helping individuals with disabilities attain, keep, or improve skills and functioning for daily living.  For pediatric patients, habilitative therapy often aims to help a child develop motor skills that they have yet to accomplish.

For example, a child with cerebral palsy may require the assistance of a physical therapist to learn how to sit.  Or another child may need speech therapy to learn how to say their R sounds. Because both of these are skills that the children have yet to accomplish, the aim of the therapy is habilitation.  


Rehabilitation refers to regaining skills, abilities, or knowledge that may have been lost or compromised as a result of illness, injury, or acquiring a disability.

For example – a 30-year-old man who is an active runner trips over a rock and injures his ankle. Due to his injury, this man is unable to walk or run without limping and seeks the help of a physical therapist to be able to walk and run as he did before. The aim of this therapy is considered rehabilitation, helping this man regain a lost skill.  

We hope you found this quick habilitative vs. rehabilitative overview helpful. If you are interested in learning more about rehabilitation or habilitation therapy for your child or loved one at NAPA Center, contact our team to learn more.

Find Additional Resources in the NAPA Blog:

Early Childhood Habilitation Services at NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs early childhood habilitation, habilitative therapy, or rehabilitation therapy, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

TAGS: Blogs, OT, PT
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