Occupational therapy (OT) allows individuals of all ages to participate in activities they want and need to do in daily life. A child's occupations may include play, school, sleep, leisure, and social participation. OT provides a unique perspective to the interdisciplinary team in order to promote occupational engagement.
A mental health pediatric occupational therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation in order to assist in determining underlying issues such as motor planning, body awareness, adaptive responses, self-regulation, co-regulation, primitive reflexes, interpersonal skills, and sensory integration strategies that are affecting your child’s ability to complete their occupations and gain skills in order to participate in school, play, and social situations. I utilize a family-centered, child-led, strengths-based approach in treatment sessions in order to facilitate an optimal level of arousal for successful participation in functional activities.
Children with sensory differences experience sensory overloads that may cause meltdowns and display challenging behaviors. When sensory differences are the cause of these behaviors, occupational therapy can be used to evaluate and determine in-need areas as well as create a program to improve self-regulation. Additionally, children with diagnoses such as Autism and ADHD or present with deficits in attention, arousal, body awareness and coordination may also benefit from sensory treatment. Sensory consultation, as well as self-regulation programming based upon the Zones of Regulation, can be customized to meet the needs of your child. The program allows for children to flourish under a simple color-coded behavioral program that has been proven to pair with sensory strategies and help children return to a regulated state after periods of dysregulation.
Often, retained primitive reflexes can play a role in a child's inability to gain sensory motor, academic, self-care, and social-emotional skills. The retained reflexes can overshadow additional academic intervention as well as traditional therapy services. With occupational therapy, these reflexes, which can inhibit normal motor milestones as once useful reflexes, are no longer age appropriate and can cause reactions that are detrimental to the development of the child. When the correct strategies are applied and the reflexes are implemented, children will begin demonstrating improved development of motor skills, academic scores, behavioral regulation, and attention.
Additionally, children who experience childhood trauma for any reason, are left with lasting impacts. These experiences have limited the opportunity for children to experience “play” which is the primary occupation of a child. Children acquire and learn many of their skills through play and thus when limited can be hindered. Trauma can also put children in a safety-oriented “flight, flight or freeze” mode when limited learning occurs. This perpetual state which the body uses as a defense mechanism limits the amount of time a child can actively play and limits connections between other children and adults. These limitations can lead to the aforementioned retained reflexes again creating incongruency in the development of behavioral, sensory, motor, and social-emotional skills. Occupational therapy can work to integrate these reflexes, encourage play and help the child develop skills needed to find success.
Based on the need of the child, services and frequency will vary to meet individualized needs after an occupational therapy evaluation has been completed. Options may include individual sessions as needed or more consultative and family education sessions providing you with strategies to carry throughout your child’s day to day life.
Typical Process: Caregiver to complete intake form and return to office OT will call caregiver to discuss questions/concerns Initial comprehensive evaluation completed Followup meeting to provide evaluation assessment conclusions and determine plan of care.
In NY, no script or referral is required for OT evaluation, therapy, or consultation unless a child requires OT as the result of an illness or injury (NYS Occupational Therapy: Practice Guidelines: Prescriptions (nysed.gov).
Written by: Avery Hill, OTR/L