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The Role of the Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Posted by Brian Spence on Dec 4, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Pediatric OT, Occupational Therapist, OT, Physical Therapist, Allied HealthAn occupational therapist is tasked with assisting individuals perform the activities of daily living. These include things like feeding themselves, dressing, bathing and basic hygiene. OTs often work in concert with both speech therapists and physical therapists. They may see patients for rehabilitation after a stroke or traumatic brain injury or for habilitation which applies to most children referred for OT.

To be a licensed occupational therapist requires a master's degree and is denoted by OTR/L (occupation therapist registered/licensed) following the person's name. Pediatric OTs see a wide range of patients with underlying diagnoses like autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and developmental delay due to premature birth.

Learn more about common OT tasks and environments:

  • Some OTs, especially those participating in a state's Early Steps or Birth to 3 program, see patients in the home setting. This practice has some advantages because most of the ADLs are performed in the home. The therapist can work with the child in comfortable surroundings using his own utensils, clothing and familiar toys.

  • Other OTs have a hospital or clinic based practice. This setting allows for use of larger equipment in therapy. Clinics may have platform swings hanging from the ceiling, a bicycle or scooter board lane and several trampolines. These items may seem better suited to physical therapy and gross motor development, but help build the core strength that kids need to have fine motor control.

  • Tasks like tying shoes, snapping pants, threading a zipper, holding a crayon, using a spoon and washing hands are all the bailiwick of an OT. These self help skills are not all OTs do though. Other less familiar goals that OTs include in treatment plans have to do with sensory regulation. Some patients have sensory defensiveness and cannot tolerate having their hair combed or teeth brushed. OTs work with families on strategies to desensitize these kids so that they will allow a dentist to look at their teeth or a barber to trim their hair without a battle.

  • Sensory regulation also includes proprioceptive input. This term relates to balance and body awareness. Some kids seem clumsy because they have proprioceptive dysfunction. They may be under or over sensitive to external stimuli. Occupational therapists can assign tasks that help kids feel their bodies. Jumping, swinging and pushing or pulling a loaded wagon are usually signs a patient is trying to regulate their senses.

If you are a licensed therapist and want to expand your practice or are interested in switching the focus of your practice then contact us. We have opportunities across the spectrum.

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