I had an interesting conversation with a parent this past week regarding occupational therapy for his child. We had evaluated his son and were recommending clinic based therapy. He commented that they would like to find the clinic closest to their home for weekly therapy. While I told him I would try to find them a clinic, if that was what they decided to do, it would likely be different that what they would experience at Emerge. And in fact their child had received OT when he was younger at a nearby clinic, but they stopped after awhile because it did not seem to be making a difference and they really didn’t know what the therapist was doing, beyond ‘playing’ with their child.

The reality is that the vast majority of what we do as pediatric occupational therapists specializing in sensory processing and integration (SPD) was learned after we completed our degree. Therapists become skilled in understanding and addressing SPD through participating in continuing eduction and working in a clinic with experienced therapists where they can be mentored. SPD is complex to diagnosis and treat. The intervention needs to be highly individualized, because every child’s presentation is a little different, as is their response to therapy.

At Emerge, we feel very strongly about parent education. When we do a comprehensive sensory processing evaluation, we meet with the child’s parents about a week later and discuss the findings, implications for their child, and recommendations for intervention. At the end of each therapy session, we talk with the parents about what we did in the session (and why) and what they can be doing to support their child at home.

It is so frustrating when children come to us who have had (sometimes years) of therapy at other clinics, but the parents have no understanding of their child’s sensory needs and how to meet them. Parents who have no idea why the therapist was doing what they did with their child. Or when we hear about clinics, where every child is brushed and then spun upon arrival (potentially dangerous) and then put thru a standard set of movement routines.