“But my baby doesn’t have a job, what are you going to do for my child?” I think all pediatric OTs have heard a comment similar to this one at some point. Today, I’d like to focus on the role of OT in early intervention. This is based on my experiences working in early intervention in the state of California. I’m sure it varies by region.
Occupational therapists working in early intervention (birth to three) provide services under IDEA Part C to children with developmental delays. Occupational therapists work with the family and infant or toddler in the natural environment to promote function and engagement in everyday routines, such as mealtime, play and social development. The natural environment may include home, daycare and community settings. In my experience, services typically take place in the home or daycare setting. Services do not always occur in the natural environment. The company I work for also has a clinic, with a great therapy gym, which is used for some clients for a variety of reasons (e.g. parent preference, access to specialized equipment, shortage of OTs). To give you an idea of what occupational therapy addresses in early intervention, I’m including a breakdown of a typical day for me.
Here’s a breakdown of a typical day for me:
8:00 – Check and respond to email; check voicemail/text messages for cancellations (I primarily use email and text messages to communicate with parents about scheduling/questions)
8:15 – Travel to first home
8:30-9:30 – Provide treatment to 2 ½ year old child with global developmental delays, focusing on gross motor acquisition and pretend play skills
9:30 – Travel to second home
9:45-10:45 – Provide treatment to 10 month old with motor delays/high muscle tone. He shows off his new skill of crawling all over the place!
10:45 – Travel to third home
11:15-12:15 – Provide treatment to 20 month old child with a genetic syndrome and cortical vision impairment, focusing on locating toys by sound and sitting independently
12:15 – Grab a quick bite (usually in my car) and travel to next home
1:00-2:00 – Provide treatment to 18 month old with a chromosomal disorder, focusing on eating skills, especially chewing/accepting solid and textured foods
2:00 – Travel to fifth home
2:30-3:30 – Provide treatment to 16 month old with a global developmental delays, focusing on sitting independently and developing postural righting reactions
3:30 – Travel to last home
3:45-4:45 – Provide treatment to nearly 3 year old with autism. Lots of discussion with parent about community resources (e.g. gymnastics classes) and various preschool options (e.g. public school, Montessori, Kumon Learning Centers) as the child transitions out of early intervention services at age three. He has worked hard to increase the number of foods he will eat and he shows me his new food for the week: avocado!
This is a full, but smooth day (when no one is sick or cancels). I either do paperwork in the evening or on another day (when I have time built into my schedule to do so). I absolutely love working with families and their children in early intervention. Each child and family is unique and I always have new and exciting challenges each day.
I would love to hear about the experiences of other occupational therapists working in early intervention! Or the experiences of families receiving occupational therapy through an early intervention program!