What to Expect When Visiting a Pediatric Occupational Therapy Program

Pediatric Occupational Therapists are trained professionals who are experts in working with children with developmental disorders that may affect their fine and gross motor skills and/or cognitive skills. The therapy they provide can help children improve their ability to participate in everyday activities, such as writing with a pencil, getting dressed, jumping, and climbing. Occupational therapy can be critical in helping children participate fully in school activities and social play.

As important as occupational therapy may be for children with motor difficulties, the process may be intimidating to a child who has not previously received therapy services. Similarly, it can be overwhelming for a parent who is unfamiliar with the process and how it all comes together. Understanding what to expect prior to starting therapy can reduce anxiety and open up a more receptive family.

Before any therapy begins, your child will undergo a full evaluation of his or her skills to determine their areas of strength and areas of need. Evaluations may include both standardized tests and informal observation of your child’s self-help skills, play skills, relationship skills, fine and gross motor skills, handwriting, visual perceptual skills, and other areas. These evaluations will be conducted by a licensed occupational therapist, who will determine if treatment is necessary. For age-appropriate deficits, the OT may suggest activities you can do at home with your child to help develop their skills. For areas of greater need, they may suggest intervention to strengthen these skills.

Treatment Program Development:
After an occupational therapist conducts an evaluation and determines that therapy is indicated, he or she will develop an individual treatment plan that will best suit the needs of your child. As occupational therapy covers a range of physical, sensory, and social-emotional areas, there are a wide range of treatment methods that may be used in your child’s therapy. Some occupational therapists may also be trained and/or certified in specialized areas, such as aquatic therapy, DIR/Floortime, and sensory integration. Each occupational therapist will use their experience and high level of training to determine the best path for your child’s therapy.

Therapy Sessions:
Actual treatment will commence after your child’s occupational therapist has determined the optimal course of action to meet their needs. Therapy may occur in a variety of settings. In the school, your child may be pulled from their regular class to complete therapy, may work with them during recess, or during special classes like gym or art. In this setting, therapy is often done in a small group setting. Private therapy is often conducted individually. You may bring your child to a clinic, or the therapist may come to your home. Toys and games are often incorporated into therapy sessions to make them fun and engaging for your child while also accomplishing specific goals. The frequency and duration of sessions will depend on your child’s needs, the setting, and the recommendations of the occupational therapist.

Occupational therapy can be a hugely beneficial process for your child’s well-being and overall life participation. Pediatric occupational therapists are accustomed to working with a variety children and their families, and can be a great resource for any specific questions or concerns you may have!