Treating your child includes examining, evaluating, and assessing the areas in which your child may have difficulty functioning and then incorporating activities to address these areas. After examining your child, the therapist will make an evaluation of his findings using any combination of standardized tests, observations, and/or clinical expertise. Once an assessment has been reached, your therapist will discuss his or her findings with you and educate you on your child’s needs; educating caregivers (and your child when possible) on the nature or extent of injury, disability, and the prognosis is an essential component of pediatric physical therapy and helps to keep the caregiver involved and informed of the child’s progress. You will also review the plan of care with your therapist, which will entail a discussion of the number of visits, frequency, duration of physical therapy, prognosis, and home activities you must do with your child to help him/her excel. Together, you will then create an individualized program specific to your child’s goals and/or the family’s goals. Activities in the form of play are provided to help your child be better motivated to reach his or her goals. Your role as a caregiver and your compliance with your child’s home program are extremely important for a successful plan of care.
The work of a pediatric occupational therapist involves analyzing and treating skeletal, neuromuscular or cognitive restrictions of their young patients. It also includes helping them in developing their interaction and communication skills, refinement of fine motor skills and educating them in self-care. Kids can benefit from occupational therapy if they have poor coordination, decreased balance (“clumsiness”), low muscle tone or strength, difficulty with handwriting, awkward grasp or clumsy use of crayons, pencils, scissors, or other tools and utensils, have been diagnosed with a learning disability, difficulty completing tasks that seem easily attained by peers, decreased attention or ability to participate in age appropriate activities, decreased visual skills including visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, sensory processing difficulties or difficulties with feeding including food aversions or a limited diet.
Infants and toddlers often have trouble with pronunciation and difficulties putting sentences together. A child between the ages of 18 months and 3 years will generally mispronounce many words. For example, many substitute an “f” or “d” sound for “th” (“I’m taking a baf”) or a “w” sound for an “l” or “r” (“The wion wawed” = “The lion roared”). What you want to watch for is that your toddler’s speech is improving over time. By age 3, most of what your child says should be pretty understandable.
If the problem is not pronunciation but rather that your child isn’t talking or is talking very little, you should act a more quickly. Warning signs are things such as your child not reacting normally or consistently to sounds, being overly sensitive to sounds such as vacuums or hair dryers yet seem indifferent at other times when people call her name, doesn’t learn “bye-bye” or react to games like peek-a-boo, talking using mostly vowels or single words only — no sentences, omitting whole consonants, saying “a” for “cat.” Others could be that they use one catch-all sound or syllable to name most things (“duh” or “duh-duh” is a popular one). They may use a word once and then not use it again frequently or at all. Your child may not point to common objects in books. Or they may answer a question by repeating part of your question. (If you say, “Do you want milk?” responds by saying “Milk!” instead of a head nod or “yes” response — this is called echolalia, and may be an early sign that lots of work is ahead. As with all our disciplines, it is imperative to have the commitment and support of the family throughout the therapy process, which is why home programming is a staple of any successful outcome at MST. This home programming will educate and reinforce specific skills and behaviors which will be used to improve and facilitate the child’s performance and long term functioning.