Why is My Child Constantly Chewing on His Shirt? A Guide to Oral Motor Stimulation

“Why is my child constantly chewing on his shirt?” There are days where I will have a child enter the clinic with their collar completely soaked with saliva. It is more common than you would think. Although it is an annoying habit, your child is just regulating himself.Oral Motor Stimulation

At an early age, children develop the suck reflex, allowing them to fulfill basic human needs like nutrition. Because this reflex is integrated at such an early age, children learn that oral motor movements are a means to satisfy a basic need so that we may focus our attention elsewhere. Thus, many children seek oral motor stimulation as a means to regulate themselves. When a child places items in his mouth, such as pencils or shirt sleeves, he is seeking oral motor input in a sucking and chewing pattern. These movement patterns provide the child with sensory input that can assist a child to organize their minds and body, allowing him to focus on the task at hand. As a child ages, these motor behaviors can be identified and replaced with chewy tubes or foods. After all, even adults seek oral motor input- think about how you chew gum or chew on pencils when anxious.

Here is a list of possible alternatives to introduce to your child. They can be utilized in a variety of settings to provide the regulating benefits of oral motor stimulation:

  • Chewing gum or hard candy
  • Chewy tubes or chewelry
  • Crunchy foods of different textures
  • An electronic or vibrating toothbrush
  • Playing with whistles, harmonicas, blowing bubbles or blowing up balloons
  • Drinking thick liquids such as applesauce and yogurt through a straw

** be sure to always supervise your child with oral-motor stimulators for safety.

On the other side, oral motor stimulation seeking can be maladaptive. As children age out of the toddler years, these behaviors can be viewed as inappropriate in social settings, with a danger to health and safety as various items are mouthed. These behaviors, if not identified, could lead to behaviors like biting other children or overeating. It is for these reasons that occupational therapists provide suggestions for alternative oral motor input.

NSPT offers Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

holiday gifts: toys to promote age appropriate developmental skills

Holiday Gifts: Toys to Promote Age-Appropriate Developmental Skills

As the holiday season approaches us, so starts the mad dash to buy everyone’s wish-list toys. Toy stores will provide you with a plethora of options from electronic gadgets to doll sets. But remember, toys can also help to improve skills, confidence and overall development! Before you go running to the stores, let’s stop and examine the toys that promote developmental skills from an occupational therapy perspective.

4 Toys for Fine Motor Development:holiday gifts: toys to promote age appropriate developmental skills

  1. Automoblox – Suitable for children 2+ years, Automoblox allow your child to explore their creative side! The interchangeable wheels, rims, tops, and bumpers promote manipulation skills.
  2. Tinker Toys – For ages 3+, this building set offers hundreds of options for creation as your child uses not only their fine motor skills, but their visual motor skills as well!
  3. Pop Beads – Pop them in and pop them out! These beads promote fine motor precision as your child becomes a jewelry designer. In addition, the resistive aspect of the Pop Beads improves fine motor strength.
  4. Spirograph – Your childhood comes back to life as you watch your child create beautiful circular patterns. As popular as ever, the Spirograph’s interlocking gears promote fine motor precision and control. Suitable for ages 5+.

4 Toys for Gross Motor Development:

  1. Rody Inflatable Hopping Horse– For children ages 3-5, this updated hippity-hop encourages posture and balance.
  2. Cat in the Hat I Can Do That Game– Can you tip toe around the Trick-a-ma-stick while balancing a cake on your head? I bet you can! This silly multi-player game encourages gross motor development through various animal walks and balancing activities. Great for ages 4-8.
  3. ALEX toys, Monkey Balance Board – This adorable board is great to practice balance skills, weight-shifting and leg strength. The durable wood is great for indoors and out, so this board will last you well into the next winter season! Great for little feet ages 3+.
  4. Skip-It – This 90’s game is still skipping strong! The Skip-It encourages gross motor coordination, balance, and encourages a child to separate the sides of their body, increasing body awareness skills.

4 Toys for Sensory Play Development:

  1. Lakeshore Scented Dough– Can your child tell the difference between the cherry and the grape? This dough encourages olfactory development as your child kneads, pinches and sculpts the dough into shapes and characters.
  2. Wonderworld Sensory Blocks– These little blocks, designed for children ages 18 months and older, encourage visual, auditory and tactile discrimination skills.
  3. Touchy Feely– A Marbles the Brain Store game, it encourages tactile discrimination for texture, shape, and temperatures.
  4. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Band Set – A mom-approved band for your child to star in! A great way for your child to control the amount of auditory stimulation in their environment and be exposed to various sounds!

4 toys for Executive Functioning Skill Development:

  1. Sequence for Kids– A family-friendly game for ages 3-6, this game is great for attention, problem solving, and as the title suggests, Sequencing skills! The best part, if you love it, you can buy the adult version as well!
  2. Busy Town Eye Found It – Richard Scarry’s beloved children’s book comes to life in an eye-spy inspired game. Race through Busy Town looking for hidden pictures promoting attention, cooperation and visual motor skills! Great for a group of kids ages 3+.
  3. Rush Hour – Help the red car get out of a traffic jam! For your older child (ages 8+), this game promotes problem-solving skills, sequencing, attention and organization.
  4. Simon Swipe– Follow the color pattern and focus on strengthening your attention, sequencing and memory skills! This game is great for solo play or to play with a friend! (ages 8+)

 

These are toys your kids will enjoy now, and they build skills that will last a lifetime! Happy holiday shopping from North Shore Pediatric Therapy!


sensory strategies for a happy holiday season

Sensory Strategies for a Happy Holiday Season

Melodious songs fill your rooms, the aroma of scented candles waft through the hallways, oven timers ding from the kitchen and everyone feels a bit overwhelmed by all the preparations being completed in every nook of the house! The holiday season brings joy, excitement and family time. It also brings with it enough sensory stimulation to last you until next December! Whether it be tactile, olfactory or auditory stimulation, the holidays bring with them a copious amount of sensory information. Holidays can be a tough time for children who have sensory processing difficulties. Just remember, like any other time of the year, there are strategies to help with sensory sensitivities during the holidays.

Prepare your child for a holiday party and other family get-togethers with these sensory strategies:

  1. Create a visual schedule. Include the big details of the event, including dressing up for the get together, thesensory strategies for a happy holiday season commute to the event, expected activities and the friends/family that your child will get a chance to play with. A visual schedule is a great way to prepare your child for the types of sensory experiences they are about to have.
  2. Upon arrival to your holiday destination, help orient your child to the new space. Take a little tour of the venue, pointing out the bathroom, a quiet room and a play space. If you are familiar with the venue prior to arrival, make a map of the space and have your child put their favorite stickers on the areas that seem safe!
  3. If your child is has auditory sensitivities provide him with head phones or ear plugs to help dampen the sounds in his environment.
  4. Holiday parties provide adults with a bountiful feast but can leave children with squeamish looks on their faces. Encourage your child to try something new if the opportunity exists; but if the textures and smells seem overwhelming, have her preferred snacks hiding in your purse.
  5. If your child has tactile sensitivities to clothing, allow them to be comfortable. The holidays can be the time to bring out your best party attire, but that doesn’t mean your child needs a skirt filled with tulle or a bow tie. Allow your child to choose his holiday outfit based on preferences and tolerable textures. Those casual clothes may raise eyebrows, but that’s nothing to worry about as long as you know your child feels safe!
  6. If your child is movement-seeking, encourage a movement break as needed. Use gross motor activities like jumping jacks, dancing or toe touches!
  7. Holiday parties can be filled with the smells of candles, cooking and other guests’ perfumes. Allow your child to bring a comforting object from home, whether it be a familiar blanket or stuffed animal that has the scent of home and provides a sense of safety.

Remember that the holidays are a time for fun, for you and your children! Making the environment more sensory-friendly can enhance your child’s fun and create positive and lasting memories!






potty training and sensory processing disorder

8 Potty Training Tips for a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

“Uh-oh, pee pee in my pants!” will most likely become a joke around your household. Often, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and difficulty in potty training go together like peanut-butter and jelly.

Developmentally speaking, children become ready to be potty trained between the ages of 18-36 months. Don’t let that age bother you or become a source of stress, though.  All children develop at different ages. Children with SPDpotty training and sensory processing disorder might take a little longer to toilet train depending on their sensory needs. 

Remember, the body has five senses: vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste, and each sense is integrated into our bodies differently. In addition, the body has a sensation known at interoception, which refers to your “body centered” functions that require no conscious thought. These are necessary life functions including heart rate, hunger, thirst and digestion, state of arousal, digestion and bowel movements.  Children with sensory processing disorder maybe over-responsive (sensory avoiding) or under-responsive (sensory seeking) to one of more these sensations, leading to different manifestations of difficulties with potty training.

Is can be difficult to determine what is the most efficient way to help your potty training child with SPD. Remember to go at your child’s pace for potty training. Allow your child to develop the skills to become physically and emotionally ready by providing positive reinforcement. Avoid punishing your child or criticizing them in their efforts to learn, no matter if your child is 2 or 6 years old.

Here are 8 tips for potty training your child with Sensory Processing Disorder:

  1. Prepare your child by reading a toilet training book. Children learn well with visual supports. Books like Once Upon a Potty written by Alona Frankel provide humorous visuals for both boys and girls. Sesame Street had made a video titled Elmo’s Potty Time that eases a child’s toileting anxiety with songs and rhymes.
  2. Prepare the bathroom for sensory sensitive children by provide soft lighting, soft toilet tissue, and making the bathroom as quiet as possible. For sensory seeking children, provide bright light with fun music.
  3. Be aware of the techniques that help calm your child. If your child enjoys deep brushing or hugs, provide these prior to sitting him on the toilet seat.
  4. Provide a padded toilet seat for your child to combat tactile sensitivities to cold temperatures as the seasons change.
  5. As your child transitions from pull-ups to underwear, be conscious of seam placements and the material of the underwear.
  6. Give your child a fun experience by allowing him to choose which underwear to buy– after all, clothes (even the ones that are not seen) should be fun!
  7. For a child who has difficulty in feeling the sensations of needing to “go”, encourage him to use the toilet on a schedule (start with every hour). Provide positive reinforcement for your child trying!
  8. If your child is anxious about the automatic flush in public restrooms, cover the sensor with a post-it note to eliminate scary surprises.

As a parent, potty training can be one of the most frustrating times of your child’s development. Just remember, your child is learning from and with you!

Looking to help your child with SPD succeed in school? Register for our FREE Live Webinar | Sensory Strategies for School Success on November 17th.






Dizzy Kids

What Is The Vestibular System

Most kids learn about the 5 basic extrinsic senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Many, however, are not as familiar with two hidden intrinsic senses: the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. The vestibular sense is one of the first to develop in a growing fetus and is stimulated by the movement of a carrying mother’s body. By only 5 months in utero, this system is well developed and provides a great deal of sensory information to a growing fetal brain. This system is very important to a child’s early development. Its role is to relay information to the brain as to where a person is in space, as related to gravity; whether they are moving or still, if they are moving how quickly, and in what direction. The vestibular system gathers that information from a set of fluid filled canals and a sac-like structure in the inner ear. These structures respond to movement, change in direction, change of head position, and gravitational pull.

  4 Ways the vestibular system may impact your child:

1. The vestibular system coordinates eye and head movements. Without this coordination, it may be challenging for children to complete everyday activities such as copying from a white board in their classroom, following a moving object such as a softball through the air; or visually scanning across a page to read. The vestibular system helps the brain to register and respond to whether the object the child is looking at is moving or if their head is moving.

2. The vestibular system also helps to develop and maintain normal muscle tone. Muscle tone is the ability of a muscle to sustain a contraction. Without a proper functioning vestibular system, it may be challenging for a child to hold their body in one position. These children may oftentimes prefer laying on the floor instead of sitting up during circle time or leaning on their elbow or hand while seated at their desk.

3. The vestibular system also impacts a child’s balance and equilibrium. As your child moves throughout their environment, so does the fluid in their inner ear canals. As the fluid in their inner ear moves, your child’s brain is receiving information as to the position of their head in space. Depending on that signal, the brain then sends a message to your child’s body signaling it to move in a way that will help them to respond to and compensate for any planned or unplanned movements.  Without efficient vestibular processing, your child may appear to be clumsy and have trouble staying on their feet during routine play.

4. Finally, the vestibular system helps a child to coordinate both sides of their body together for activities including riding a bicycle, catching a ball, zipping a coat, or cutting with scissors.

If you suspect that your child is having difficulty processing sensory information by way of their vestibular system, do your best to be sure that activities including a lot self-propelled movement are incorporated into their day. Activities may include swinging, sliding, or using other equipment at the park. Do your best to avoid activities with excessive spinning or twirling as movement in these planes can have negative effects including over-stimulation, lethargy, or changes in heart rate or breathing. It may also be challenging for your child to pace themselves during these quick paced movement patterns. Encourage activities in which your child lays on their belly to participate in games or play with toys. Throughout your day, take note to see if your child seems better able to focus after completing physical activity or partaking in activities that get them up and moving.

The vestibular system may be less commonly discussed than other sensory tracts, but its impact on your child’s ability to complete day to day activities are vast.


Travel Tips For Kids With SPD

Seat belts, exit doors, floor path lighting, oxygen masks, life vests, preparation for takeoff, and in-flight rules such as no smoking, follow the directions of the crew, and the appropriate use of the lavatory are all included in the flight attendants’ cadence preceding take-off. While these safety speeches vary slightly between airlines, one commonality rings true for many parents: Instructions are not given for how best to support children who have difficulty processing sensory information.  Below are 5 ways to ease your travels the next time you and your family fly on an airplane.

Discuss what to expect

Discuss the trip in detail in the days and weeks preceding your trip. What will the airport look like? Will there be a lot of people? What are the behavioral expectations for your child? What is the process for checking luggage, the security line, and waiting to board the plane? Then, what will the inside of the airplane look and sound like? How long is the flight? Where will your child sit and who will be seated beside them? How will the flight attendants prepare the aircraft for take-off? What will it feel like when the airplane leaves the ground? What might happen in your child’s ears? What are the rules while you are in-flight? Then, what will it feel like to land? What is the process for getting off the airplane and collecting your baggage?  While some of this information may seem trivial to frequent flyers, for children, especially those with difficulty processing sensory information, the more detail you can discuss before the big event occurs, the easier it will be for them to prepare themselves for the experience. One way to discuss the process of flying on an airplane is to write a short book, inserting your own family as the main characters. Parents can write the storyline of the book, including answers to the questions above, while their kids can create personalized illustrations using markers, crayons, stamps and stickers. Read your family’s travel story every night before bedtime to help your child prepare for the big day. You can even bring the book along to the airport to follow along with the storyline as you progress through your trip.

Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise

Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to self-regulate and more effectively process auditory sensory information.

Prepare a backpack of “travel essentials”

Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time during the flight. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and ipods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, items to include:

      1. Snacks and water. Gum or hard candies (if your child is old enough) may be good options to help your child pop their ears during flight.
      2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
      3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
      4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards

Call the airline ahead of time

Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines have special accommodations for children including the opportunity to board the plane early to get situated in your seats before other passengers.

Expect some ornery fellow passengers

While it is unfortunate, you may come across at least one person on your flight who has a lower tolerance for kids being kids. Prepare yourself for an eye-roll or a muttered complaint hidden under your neighbor’s breath. Depending on your comfort level you could write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that they are doing the best they can to get through the flight. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling with children who have sensory processing disorders can be stressful, with foresight and appropriate preparation it can be done and can even prove to be a fun experience. The most important part of travelling is creating warm and lasting memories with your friends and family. Try your best be prepared for the flight but remember not to sweat the small stuff- after all, you’re on vacation! Safe travels!


 

Book Review: Sensory Integration And The Child

At their last check-up, you mentioned to the pediatrician that your child is having some difficulty focusing and paying attention at school. They seem clumsy and are constantly falling and bumping into their friends on the playground. At home, simple day to day activities such as taking a bath, arts and crafts play, and mealtimes are becoming more and more of a struggle. You are wondering if there may be some physiological explanation as to why your child seems to have such a hard time completing activities in the same way as their friends or siblings. Carefully, your pediatrician listens to your concerns and starts to talk about “Sensory Processing Disorder.”

Your mind starts racing. What does this mean for your child and their future? What can you do to help your child move past this label and be as successful and happy as you know they can be? Parents bring their children to occupational therapy each week with different levels of understanding and different questions about the neurological disorder that inhibits the efficient processing of sensory information. One resource that many have found extremely valuable and that I recommend is Sensory Integration & the Child- 25th Anniversary Edition by Jean Ayres.

In simple and easy to understand language Ayres outlines what a sensory processing disorder may look like in your child’s body and brain. A simple analogy comparing sensory processing to street traffic helps parents, professionals and children put a mental picture around a term that may otherwise seem vague or confusing. Once Ayres explains what a sensory processing disorder is, she details each of the 5 most widely known extrinsic sensory tracts (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste). Ayres also details two other hidden and less commonly understood intrinsic tracts involving the proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Next, she delves into explanations as to how these tracts interrelate in order to allow a child to experience, integrate and react to their environment. The book is jam packed with valuable information as well as tips and tricks that parents can put to immediate use in understanding sensory processing disorders and in helping their child to overcome any sorts of sensory related challenges they may be facing.

The diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder may be scary and daunting at first. It is important for parents and children to remember that they are not alone. Difficulty processing sensory information is extremely common and affects each individual differently. Reading through Jean Ayres book Sensory Integration & the Child- 25th Anniversary Edition or consulting with an occupational therapist are great places to start to get more information.




Relaxation Strategies for Children

How do we teach our children to relax and self-soothe in a society that is inundated with constant stimuli? How do we re-frame the evil term “boredom” into an opportunity to make peace with our inner thoughts and feelings and calm our body? Often times, even adults, need prompting to relax and take a load off.

Here are some examples of activities that both you and your children can engage in to “recharge your batteries” and face the world with a more balanced mindset:

1. Mindfulness—Easier said than done. Mindfulness is the practice of connecting the mind and body to enhance attention and focus to the task at hand.  It means living in the moment and quieting out other “noise” to focus your attention moment to moment. This is a nonjudgmental practice that incorporates all the senses to be fully present. Two of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness are when you are eating or bathing.

  • Eating. We commonly eat in transit, in front of the TV, talking with others, or while multitasking. When we don’t focus on just the act of eating we miss a lot of cues such as satiety, flavor, texture, etc. Practice mindfulness when eating. Prepare your food and sit in a quiet space. Before indulging your food notice your body cues about the food. Are you starving, craving salt, is your stomach growling. Still, before consummation, notice the color of your food, the texture of your sandwich, the way the sandwich smells. We are wanting to eat with all our senses. Take a bite. What does it taste like and smell like? How does the meat and cheese and bread feel in your mouth? How many bites does it take to swallow? What does the sandwich feel like in your stomach? You get the picture. When we focus on the experience of eating in the moment we are more attune to how we feel and our mind and body and in connection.
  • Bathing. The same can be said for bathing. Notice how the water feels on your body, the temperature, the texture. Notice the smells of the product and how it feels to massage your scalp full of shampoo. Remember, use your senses to be present in the experience and try and steer clear of other intrusive thoughts that may enter about your upcoming day.

2. Music—Music can be such a relaxing outlet but make sure that the music matches the mood that you are seeking. Kids commonly want to relax to Top 40 hits, Hip Hop, or other high energy music but this in fact does not aid in relaxation as the body will mirror the energy it is hearing. If you truly want to relax, I recommend jazz or classical in addition to natural noises provided by a sound machine (waves crashing, rain falling, rainforest, etc.). Listening to music can help kids relax in times of transition (after school before homework, after homework and before bed) or when they are emotionally triggered.

3. Deep Breathing and Muscle Relaxation—Relaxing the body and calming our breath can enhance relaxation either when someone is emotionally triggered to be upset or anxious, during transitions, or prior to upcoming stressful events. Deep breathing requires breathing in through your nose for 5 seconds, holding the breath for 5 seconds, and exhaling the breath through the mouth for 5 seconds. Repeat this 5 times. Muscle relaxation includes tightening and then releasing various muscle groups. Sit in a chair or lay down in a quiet space. Start from the bottom of the body and work your way up. Squeeze your feet and toes tightly for 10 seconds and then release. Squeeze your calves for 10 seconds and then release. Squeeze your thigh muscles for 10 seconds and then release. Continue up the body. By isolating each individual large muscle group you are calling your attention to that part of the body and scanning it to release any tension or stress. You can use these strategies when you want to relax or you can make these into habits and incorporate them into a daily routine.

Click here for 10 ways to help your child unwind before bed.



What is Co-Treating?

You may have heard your therapist say, “I think a co-treat would be a great option for your child!” But what does that really entail? Will your child still be getting a full treatment session? Will his current and most important goals be worked on? Will he benefit as much as a one-on-one session? When a co-treatment session is appropriate, the answer to all of those questions is…YES!

What is a co-treatment session?

Co-treatment sessions are when two therapists from different disciplines (Speech Therapy (SLP), Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT), etc.) work together with your child to maximize therapeutic goals and progress.

When is a co-treatment session appropriate?

When the two disciplines share complimentary or similar goals.

EXAMPLE: Maintaining attention to task, executive functioning, pragmatics, etc. Playing a game where the child needs to interact with and attend to multiple people while sitting on a stability ball for balance. [all disciplines]
*When children have difficulty sustaining attention and arousal needed to participate in back-to-back therapy sessions.
EXAMPLE: Working on endurance/strength/coordination while simultaneously addressing language skills. Obstacle courses through the gym while working on verbal sequencing and following directions. [SLP + PT or OT]
*When activities within the co-treatment session can address goals of both disciplines.
EXAMPLE: Art projects can address fine motor functioning as well as language tasks like sequencing, verbal reasoning, and categorizing.
*When a child needs motivations or distractions. [OT + SLP]
EXAMPLE: Research has shown that physical activity increases expressive output. Playing catch while naming items in category or earning “tickets” for the swing by practicing speech sounds.  [PT or OT + SLP]
EXAMPLE: PT’s need distraction for some of their little clients who are working on standing or walking and working on language through play during these activities works well. [PT + SLP]

Why co-treat?

  • Allows therapists to create cohesive treatment plans that work towards both discipline’s goal in a shorter amount of time.
  • Allows for therapists to use similar strategies to encourage participation and good behavior in their one-on-one sessions with the child.
  • Allows for therapists to collaborate and discuss the child’s goals, treatment, and progress throughout the therapy process. Together, they can consistently update and generate plans and goals as the child succeeds.
  • Aids in generalization of skills to different environments, contexts, and communication partners.
  • Allows for problem-solving to take place in the moment. For example, an extra set of hands to teach or demonstrate a skill or utilizing a strategy to address a negative behavior.

Co-treatments sessions can be extremely beneficial for a child. There are endless ways therapists can work together to promote progress and success towards a child’s therapeutic goals.. However, co-treatments may not always be appropriate and are only done when the decision to do so is made collaboratively with the therapists and the parents.

Contact us for more information on the benefits of co-treating in therapy sessions.

What Is the Difference Between Occupational and Physical Therapy for Children?

Many of the parents I meet often ask why very few occupational therapist work with infants, or why an occupational therapist (OT) is seeing their child for toe-walking as opposed to a physical therapist (PT). They often wonder why one child who has balance or coordination issues would see a physical therapist while another with similar limitations would see an occupational therapist instead. Some parents think that occupational therapists only work on fine motor skills while physical therapists only work on gross motor skills.  Physical and occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, neonatal intensive care units, skilled nursing homes, outpatient clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, and doctor’s offices.  Physical therapist and occupational therapist roles differ depending on the setting they work in and the medical diagnoses they work with.

In the outpatient clinic, some of these roles may overlap.  While there are some similarities between PTs and OTs in each setting, there are a few fundamental differences between OTs and PTs in the pediatric setting.

Pediatric Physical Therapy:

In the pediatric outpatient setting, physical therapists are often musculoskeletal and movement specialists. Parents can seek out evaluations when their babies are as young as 1 month old. Physical therapists have in-depth knowledge about human musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, integumentary, and cardiovascular systems. Based on our background in stages of development and biomechanics, we help children with mobility difficulties; whether they are behind on their gross motor milestones, recovering from injury/surgery, or not keeping up with other children.

Through all kinds of hands-on or play techniques, pediatric physical therapist work with children on the following:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Balance and coordination
  • Motor control and motor planning
  • Body awareness
  • Pain relief
  • Flexibility
  • Gait mechanics
  • Orthotics training
  • Wound care

Our focus is for children to be as mobile and as independent as possible, while training their caregivers on all aspects of a child’s physical development. This includes anything that may affect a child’s quality of movement, posture, alignment, and safety.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Outpatient pediatric occupational therapists are trained to improve the quality of children’s participation in their daily functional tasks.  A child’s job is to play and take part in activities at school and at home. These include important endeavors such as paying attention in class, hand writing, dressing, feeding and grooming themselves, and being able to engage in age-appropriate games. Occupational therapists are also trained to help children organize and interpret information from the environment so that they can just be kids. This may include taste aversions that limit their food intake, or texture aversions that affect their clothing tolerance, or sound aversions that affect their mood.

OTs work with children on the following skills:

  • Sensory integration
  • Cognitive endurance
  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand function
  • Visual-spatial awareness
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Attention
  • Social skills
  • Body awareness

Occupational therapists often educate parents and teachers on the best techniques to ensure children participate in learning, self-care, and play tasks.

Why do some children need both disciplines and some only need one?

So many factors can affect a child’s ability to participate in her daily life. A child may be experiencing frequent falls or may have trouble jumping due to a number of reasons.  No matter the diagnosis or underlying medical condition, any child who is having a hard time keeping up with his peers can benefit from a comprehensive evaluation by a pediatric specialist.