Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Our experienced occupational therapists specialize in helping children develop or improve the skills they need for activities at home, school, play and work. Providers across North Texas and nearby states send us their patients because we offer comprehensive services, both inpatient and outpatient, for children of all ages. We work with providers from other specialties, including speech-language pathologists, physical therapists and neuropsychologists, to help your child become more independent and active.
What is Pediatric Occupational Therapy?
Pediatric occupational therapy helps children build skills and abilities for self-care (such as feeding and dressing) and daily activities (such as learning and playing). Our occupational therapists help children become more independent as they improve their abilities in:
- Fine motor skills, such as handwriting and buttoning clothes
- Sensory processing (response to information coming in from the five senses)
- Behavioral and social skills
- Cognitive (learning) development
Our team helps children from infants through young adults meet developmental milestones that are appropriate for their age. We work with children to help them overcome development challenges caused by health conditions or injuries.
What are the benefits of Pediatric Occupational Therapy?
At Children's Health℠, our occupational therapists have advanced training and years of experience, and many specialize in hand therapy, electrical stimulation and other therapies. Whether your child needs inpatient or outpatient care, our occupational therapists can help them:
- Improve fine motor skills so they can grasp toys and develop good handwriting
- Address hand-eye coordination to improve play and school skills, such as hitting a ball or copying from the board
- Learn basic self-care such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and feeding themselves
- Maintain positive behaviors in all situations by developing strategies for regulating feelings such as anger or frustration in positive ways
- Improve attention, concentration, communication and other abilities to support learning
- Build social skills to foster development of interpersonal relationships
- Learn to use adaptive equipment, if needed, such as wheelchairs, bathing equipment, dressing devices or communication aids
What to expect with Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Our pediatric occupational therapists help many children who are receiving care in the hospital to build or regain important skills before they go home. We also provide ongoing specialized inpatient care for children who stay in our Children’s Health Integrated Therapy A Panda Cares Center of Hope program, our rehabilitation facility. Our therapists offer outpatient occupational therapy for children who need less intensive therapy on an ongoing basis.
Our team evaluates your child’s current skills related to play, school performance and other activities. We compare their skill level with the skills that are developmentally appropriate for their age group. We use therapies and activities to help your child master the skills they need at each stage of development.
What to expect before Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Our process is slightly different depending on whether your child is having inpatient or outpatient occupational therapy:
- Inpatient (in our hospital or Integrated Therapy A Panda Cares Center for Hope). Our whole team will meet with you and your child usually the day after they’re admitted.
- Outpatient. Someone from our team calls you to schedule the first visit with the team.
During the first visit, we evaluate your child to fully understand their abilities and needs. We also ask you about:
- Your child’s overall health
- Specific challenges that you’ve noticed
- Their school and home environment
We also answer your and your child’s questions and discuss your family goals for therapy. With the information we’ve gathered, we work closely with you to develop a treatment plan for their inpatient therapy.
Our Child Life specialists are available to help children feel comfortable and understand what to expect with occupational therapy. Here are some ways you can help your child or teen prepare for the first visit:
- Explain to them that the therapist will work together with them to help solve problems.
- Develop a list of questions that you and your child have for our team.
- Discuss and make notes about specific problems your child is experiencing and the activities your child is having difficulty with.
What to expect during Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Whether your child is recovering from an injury or managing a long-term health condition, we develop a personalized care plan, based on your family goals. Then we work one-on-one with your child in activities and exercises that target the skills they want to improve.
For inpatient therapy:
- Programs usually include 1 to 1.5 hours of occupational therapy in each session, with five daily sessions per week. They usually also have a 30-minute session on Saturdays.
- An average stay is two to three weeks.
- Our team and your child’s doctors meet with your child every two weeks to evaluate their progress and decide on discharge.
For outpatient therapy:
- Your child comes in usually one to three days per week for 1-hour sessions.
- A typical outpatient program lasts a few months but could go for a year or longer, depending on your child’s needs and your family’s goals.
Some of our therapies and programs include:
- Constraint-induced movement therapy
- Concussion therapy program
- Hand therapy program with a certified hand therapist
- Specialized activities for transition to adulthood, including job and driving readiness
- Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and functional electrical stimulation (FES), which incorporates devices that deliver mild electrical pulses to muscles along with activities to improve skills ranging from brushing teeth to riding a bicycle
- Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) to help children be more independent
- Sensory processing activities to help children interact more successfully with their environment
- Infant massage to help with a wide range of skills from growth to learning
- Ventilator/tracheostomy program to help children with safe movement and play
Our occupational therapists can recommend ways that your child’s school can accommodate their needs so they can participate fully. We also can help educate other family and community members, including teachers, coaches and caregivers.
What to expect after Pediatric Occupational Therapy
For both inpatient and outpatient occupational therapy, we recommend discharge when your child has met your family goals for treatment. Your child will also receive a handout for their activity program to do at home, and we can show parents what to do.
If your child was an inpatient, we will order any at-home medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or shower chair. The equipment will be ready when your child is discharged. We may refer them to outpatient therapy, if needed.
Sometimes, children come back in a few months to a year for an evaluation of their progress, and they may do more therapy. Children sometimes return to occupational therapy for different types of therapy.
What questions should I ask my provider about Pediatric Occupational Therapy?
If your child’s provider has recommended occupational therapy, here are some questions you can ask the therapist:
- How many children have you worked with?
- What kinds of activities would be best for my child?
- What medications should my child stop taking before Pediatric Occupational Therapy?
- Will my child go home with any special equipment after Pediatric Occupational Therapy?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why might a child need pediatric occupational therapy?
If you notice that your child is experiencing any of the following difficulties, you can speak to your child’s doctor about a referral to our occupational therapists:
- Delayed developmental milestones
- Poor fine motor skills for their age, such as difficulty holding a pencil
- Difficulty with self-care skills, such as managing buttons and zippers
- Decreased hand-eye coordination
- Difficulties in school with visual-motor or visual-perceptual activities, such as copying from the board or completing assignments accurately
- High or low muscle tone such as tight or stiff muscles
- Weakness in the arms or trunk
- Difficulty with coordination, such as using both hands together
Children can benefit from occupational therapy if they have certain health conditions, such as:
- Birth injuries or congenital (present at birth) conditions
- Sensory processing disorders, such as over- or under-reactivity to sounds or touch
- Traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries
- Learning difficulties
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Developmental delays
- Post-surgical hand conditions
- Spina bifida
- Cerebral palsy and other chronic illnesses
Who helps children with developmental delays?
If you believe your child may have developmental delays, our occupational therapists can help. To provide comprehensive care, we work with other providers at Children’s Health, including: