Cognitive Orientation to Daily Occupational Performance Approach

Cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance or CO-OP is defined by Polatajko and Mandich as a  “a client-centred, performance based, problem solving approach that enables skill acquisition through a process of strategy use and guided discovery”.  CO-OP is an evidence based approach that has been successful for children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and autism spectrum disorder (Rodger & Brandenburg, 2008).

According to Missiuna et al. the main objectives of CO-OP are:

  1. skill acquisition in child-chosen tasks
  2. development of cognitive strategies
  3. generalization and transfer of learned skills and strategies.

There steps to the CO-OP approach include client chosen goals, dynamic performance analysis, cognitive strategy use, guided discovery, enabling principles, parent/significant other involvement and intervention format.

Generally, the CO-OP approach is GOAL – PLAN – DO – CHECK.

Step 1:  The child along with the parents determine a goal or task that needs to be accomplished.  The therapist performs evaluations and assessments to determine if the goal is feasible.

Step 2:  Create a plan together to reach the goal.  To begin, the therapist performs a task analysis of the child performing the skill.  The child can explore different strategies such as body position, attention to the current task, modifications, self talk, self monitoring, etc.

Step 3:   Carry out the plan with the child using the planned strategies to accomplish the task.

Step 4:  Check the plan.  How well did it all work?  What was successful? What can I change? What needs improvement?  This can be done through self-interrogation, self-monitoring, self-observation and self-evaluation.

There are many resources to learn more about this cognitive based approach to achieving new motor skills.  The official CO-OP Approach website:

For more informal information check out the Facebook page:

Here is a helpful list of peer reviewed, evidence based articles on CO-OP


Missiuna, C., Mandich, A., Polatajko, H. & Malloy-Miller, T. (2001). Cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance (CO-OP): Part I — Theoretical foundations. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 20, 69–81.

Polatajko, H. & Mandich, A. (2004). Enabling occupation in children: The cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance (CO-OP) approach. Ottawa, ON: CAOT Publications.

Polatajko & Mandich (2010).  Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance

Rodger, S. & Brandenburg, J. (2008). Cognitive Orientation to (daily) Occupational Performance (CO-OP) with children with Asperger’s syndrome who have motor-based occupational performance goals. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2008.00739.x

My Goal Tracker student data collection from


My Goal Tracker:
This is an electronic book of data collection forms for students to track their own progress.  The student can track his/her goals over time, by monitoring the skills over the course of a day, week, month or quarter. This allows the student to get a visual picture of improvement, decline or maintenance of different skills.

Find out more.