Private occupational therapy is a great opportunity that can truly help your child thrive! While occupational therapists work in a wide range of settings, private practice or clinic-based occupational therapists can help children improve their independence with play, learning, and self-care.
What do occupational therapists do?
While we don’t often think of children as having occupations, children need to be able to participate in important activities such as play, learning, and self-care in order to grow and develop. These activities are more complex than they seem and require coordination of motor movement, vision, and sensory integration. Pediatric occupational therapists help children participate and be independent in all of their daily occupations, or activities by focusing on the development of fine and visual motor skills, sensory processing, and emotional regulation. They can help children gain independence with things such as tying shoes, following routines, and tolerating a range of sensory input from their environment. Occupational therapists often work closely with other allied health professions such as physical therapy and speech therapy.
Where does private occupational therapy take place?
Occupational therapists may see children in private clinics, homes, schools, or hospital settings. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, some children may qualify for free therapy services through early intervention or school systems. Early intervention provides therapy to children 0-3 years of age in their home or community. Early intervention may include multiple forms of therapy and children must show a substantial risk of delay to qualify.
In the school setting, children may qualify for occupational therapy services to support their learning objectives. Children must be eligible for an individual educational plan and show a need for educational support. While school therapy can be an important feature of your child’s education, goals are limited to education-related areas and may not fully address the needs of your child.
Unlike school-based occupational therapy, private practice is free to use various types of occupational therapy to address a broader range of challenges your child may face. In most private settings, occupational therapists will look at areas such as sensory processing, self-regulation, fine motor and visual motors skills, and how these may be impacting your child’s development. Services are often covered by health insurance or private pay.
Private occupational therapy is a great option for kids who need support but don’t qualify for services through the school or early intervention, who have aged out of early intervention, or have needs beyond those provided in these settings. Some private occupational therapists will appear more clinic or medical-based such as outpatient clinics. Some specialize in sensory processing integration and work at sensory-based clinics, however, these clinics can still address a wide scope of children’s needs.
What skills does occupational therapy work on in private practice?
The ability to coordinate and move our body in both large movements such as walking (gross motor skills) or smaller movements such as buttoning a button (fine motor skills) are required for many of our daily activities. Delays or difficulties in one or both of these areas can cause children to struggle to meet important developmental milestones.
Sensory Processing Skills and Self Regulation
Every day we are bombarded with sensory input from our environment. From the feel of your shirt tag on your neck to the sound of a dog barking outside, we need to be able to filter out certain sensory input and focus on others in order to get through our day. Sensory integration looks at our ability to process input from vision, touch, sound, taste, and hearing, as well as proprioception (awareness of the body in space), vestibular input (sense of movement), and interoception (awareness of internal body processes such as hunger).
Visual-Motor and Visual Perceptual Skills
Visual-motor skills allow us to coordinate our hands and eyes together. Tasks such as handwriting or catching a ball require these skills. Visual perceptual skills are how our brain makes sense of visual input. These skills help us make sense of our environment and are crucial for learning tasks such as writing and reading.
Self Help Skills
Increasing independence with self-care tasks such as brushing teeth or getting dressed is important for a child’s development. Occupational therapists can help teach children these skills as well as evaluate the need for adaptive equipment to increase a child’s independence.
What does a private OT session look like?
During the first visit, your occupational therapist will assess your child’s strengths and develop a plan for treatment. Many pediatric occupational therapy clinics are full of fun equipment such as swings, mats, climbing equipment, or crash pads. While this may look like just a fun play gym, this equipment can help your child improve their sensory processing skills and increase their strength.
Most therapy sessions are 45-60 minutes and often occur weekly or bi-weekly. Depending on your child’s needs, sessions may focus on many things such as motor skills to sensory processing. An important part of the session should include home programming and home activities to increase your child’s progress toward their goals.
How do I know if my child needs occupational therapy?
Does your child:
- Appear extremely clumsy or struggle to manipulate small items?
- Have difficulty sitting still or moving around excessively in the classroom?
- Have slow or messy handwriting that is difficult to read?
- Have trouble regulating their energy (either too low or too high)?
Occupational therapy can be beneficial for both children who present with developmental delays or disabilities as well as those who are typically developing but have difficulty with a specific skill area. For example, children who are reactive to certain textures or noises, extremely clumsy, have difficulty focusing, are always moving, use too much force or have trouble with self-regulation may be showing signs of difficulty with sensory processing and would benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation. Children with visual-motor or fine motor delays, or who are unable to complete age-appropriate self-help skills, and have difficulty following routines or making transitions may also benefit from occupational therapy.
Finding a private occupational therapist near me
If you are planning on using health insurance, your insurance company should have a listing of covered providers. Alternatively, utilizing google search or google maps and searching for “private occupational therapy clinics”, “pediatric therapy clinics” or “sensory clinics”, will help you locate private practice occupational therapists near you.
If you are still unsure about whether private occupational therapy is right for your child, reach out for more information. At The Therapy Place, our occupational therapists are highly trained and would be happy to answer any of your questions. Feel free to check out more of our blog posts, read more about our services or sign up for our newsletter.