What is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist?

What is an occupational therapist?
Chances are, if you’re a newcomer to the world of allied health and behavior analysis, that you’re at least somewhat unfamiliar with the role of an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist (also known as an “OT”) works with patients of all ages to improve the functioning of their daily skills.

Who do occupational therapists work with?
This field is unique, as OTs work with patients throughout the span of their lifetime, from very young children to elderly adults. OTs may help patients who have a variety of needs, ranging from children with an autism diagnosis to adults who may have lost motor functions in an accident. As OTs can treat a diverse population of individuals, they can work in many different settings, including clinics, hospitals, private practices, and schools. In order to treat such a wide range of patients, OTs receive extensive training and earn a Master’s of Science, in addition to becoming certified and licensed in the state where they practice.

How do you decide if your child should see a pediatric occupational therapist?
A child may benefit from the services of a pediatric occupational therapist if they are experiencing delays in their fine and gross motor skills, ability to pay attention, activities of daily living, as well as many other occupational skills. Once a parent determines that their child may benefit from occupational therapy, there are different ways to seek out these services. If the child is younger than school age, they may receive treatment at a private clinic or through in-home sessions. If the child is already attending school, their school may have an occupational therapist who can provide treatment during school hours. In either case, there will be open communication between the OT and parent/caregiver to determine the best course of treatment.

How do you get started with a pediatric OT?
One of the first steps in pediatric occupational therapy is outlining a treatment plan for the patient, as every individual has unique therapeutic needs. For children, the family and caregivers will likely play a large role in the development of the treatment plan and therapy process, along with the pediatric occupational therapist. If the child is already attending school, the primary teacher will likely be involved in the occupational therapy process and stay up-to-date with the unique educational needs of that student.

What do pediatric OT sessions look like?
Every OT session can look different, depending on the skills that are being targeted for the child. For younger children, OTs typically incorporate play therapy into sessions, in order to keep the patient engaged throughout the session. Some examples of therapeutic methods include playing with Play Doh or using sensory toys, which can help to improve motor skills and coordination. Pediatric occupational therapists also utilize deep pressure and strenuous exercise to help develop the sensory input abilities of children.

Chicago Occupational Therapy provides services to fit the unique needs of every child, including in-home treatment and a therapeutic preschool. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns. We are happy to help!