When Would my Baby Need a Pediatric Occupational Therapist?

We get it. The term “occupational therapist” is a bit confusing when it comes to kiddos.  Given that we’re used to the term “occupation” meaning “job”, it can seem like a misnomer.   

With occupational therapists, the definition of “occupation” is simply “whatever occupies your time”.  In the case of infants and babies, they spend their time growing, learning, playing, eating, sleeping, learning to crawl and walk, learning to communicate, and more.  With older children, it may also mean learning to cope with schoolwork and the demands of school, homework, social interactions, dealing with sensory issues, and more.  

Occupational therapists work with babies and kiddos and their families from infancy right through to college to facilitate participation, appropriate growth and development and encourage independence. Occupational therapists are experts at coming up with functional strategies for each family’s unique needs.  

Here are some ways that an occupational therapist can help

Read some of the most commonly asked questions below:

When would an occupational therapist work with a baby or child?

Occupational therapists work with caregivers and other professionals (speech-language pathologists, physiotherapists, etc.) to identify and meet the needs of babies and children who are:

  • Experiencing delays in one or more areas of development
  • Encountering barriers with their activities of daily living
    • things like starting solids or feeding in general, toileting, moving around, getting dressed or undressed, handling schoolwork, motor skills like writing or sports…basically anything you can think of
  • Needing a bit of extra support in learning new skills 
  • Developing perfectly normally but could use some assistance in establishing new routines
  • Autism assessments
  • And more!

My baby isn’t crawling yet. How can an occupational therapist help?

An occupational therapist would conduct a comprehensive developmental assessment, which would include:

  • Ethnographic interviews
    • Assessing the child in their natural environment
  • An occupational profile
    • Finding out what the baby is doing every day.  
  • Standardized assessments if necessary
    • Assessing how a baby is developing in other areas
  • Skilled observation to explore reasons for any delays or challenges with development.  

Based on the results of those evaluations, the occupational therapist would then work with the family to design an intervention program that fits with their family life consisting of therapeutic activities for the child.  

Each child’s specific program would be designed with the goal of promoting and enhancing development by addressing cognitive, physical, or environmental deficits that may be barriers to your child’s development.

My toddler isn’t potty-trained yet. Can an occupational therapist help?

Yes, an occupational therapist can definitely help with potty training. After talking with you and spending some time with you and your toddler, the occupational therapist would create a plan for you including practical solutions that can help with reducing the stress and increasing the success of the potty training process.

I’m planning to start my baby on solid food. Can an occupational therapist help?

Starting solids can be an exciting and sometimes stressful time for both parents and babies.  The most critical thing to remember is that this is a learning experience not only for your baby but for you too!  Creating a fun and positive experience for your baby to explore new foods can facilitate a lifetime of good habits.  

If starting your baby on solids isn’t going as smoothly as you hoped, or if you’re just not sure that you’re “doing it right”, working with an OT can help identify barriers and provide evidence-based strategies to help your little one be more successful!

Can an occupational therapist assess a child for Autism?

Occupational therapists can help assess children for autism using ethnographic interviews, standardized assessments, and skilled observation in the child’s natural environment to assess functional abilities and identify any indicators of autism.  

My kiddo likes to chew on pencils and their hair and always needs to have their hands busy. Can an occupational therapist help? 

Occupational therapists are skilled in assessing sensory processing through standardized assessments, ethnographic interviews, and observation of the child. 

After the assessments are completed, the occupational therapist would collaborate with the family, teachers, and any other caregivers to create a unique sensory diet of prescribed activities and practical interventions to address your child’s specific sensory profile. 

Depending on each child’s unique needs, practical interventions for sensory processing disorder may include using activities that provide deep pressure input, such as:

  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Crawling through an obstacle course
  • Sitting in a peapod
  • Drinking a milkshake through a thin straw
  • Wearing weighted or compression garments
  • Chewing gum
  • Plus strategies for how to cope at school and outside of the home

Feel free to contact us with any further questions or book an appointment with a pediatric occupational therapist today.

We can help your child meet their milestones.

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Teddie Buchner

Teddie Buchner (she/her)Adult & Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Teddie is an Occupational Therapist with a focus on pediatric and maternal health. She is currently working towards her PhD in Occupational Therapy, focusing her research on maternal and infant...

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