Frequently Asked Questions
What is Occupational Therapy?
What is Sensory Integration (SI)?
How do I know if my child has a sensory integration disorder?
What should I do if I suspect that my child has a sensory integration disorder?
Will these problems go away on their own?
Can't they just practice?
How long does my child need this type of therapy?
What will happen during therapy?
We began therapy, but are they just "playing" with my child?
As a parent, what is my role in my child's therapy program?
What items do I need to have available for my child's first therapy session?
                                                     Who will pay for therapy?
 

What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational Therapy is a profession devoted to helping individuals function optimally in their daily occupations or activities. The occupations of children include play, self-help skills, learning and social interactions. Pediatric Occupational Therapy facilitates the development of age-appropriate sensory and motor functions to promote a child's ability to play, learn and interact in his/her environment.

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What is Sensory Integration (SI)?
Sensory integration enables a child to feel, understand, and organize sensory information from his/her body and the environment. Such information is received through the sensory systems, which include vision, touch, smell, taste and hearing, as well as systems for understanding gravity, position of body parts and movement. The brain processes and integrates sensory information to enable a child to make adaptive motor responses. Through the use of sensory integrative techniques, occupational therapists increase the brain's ability to receive, interpret, organize and respond to sensory information. This results in improved posture, muscle tone, attention, ocular skills, perceptual skills, fine and gross motor coordination, body awareness, safety awareness and behaviors.

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How do I know if my child has a sensory integration disorder?
It is often a cluster of observations about a child that lead us to suspect a sensory integration problem. These may include developmental, behavioral, and emotional responses to a variety of situations. For example, a child may have an unusual need to seek certain types of input (ex: touching everything) or he may avoid touching many things (ex: paint, glue, finger foods). He may also have a very strong need to move and have a great deal of trouble sitting still. Another example would be if a child seems interested in a task, but always has trouble organizing himself to actually perform the task. Frustration, tantrums and meltdowns are common in children with sensory integration difficulties as information from their senses is not processed as quickly or accurately as expected. This leads in inconsistent and/or uncontrollable behaviors.

Sensory Integration International has the following list of concerns that may suggest sensory integration problems:

  • Shies away from touch or wants affection only on his or her own terms.
  • Dislikes getting hands dirty and avoids messy materials, or seeks out messy experiences.
  • Hits and pokes others, bumps into objects and people.
  • Is easily distracted by visual or auditory stimuli - covers ears and complains about loud noises or makes excessive noises.
  • Avoids eye-contact, especially when being reprimanded.
  • Has language processing problems (gives answers unrelated to questions, has difficulty following directions).
  • Has poor balance (sits in "W" position, leans against others); avoids gross-motor activities requiring balance.
  • Runs, swings, spins, paces excessively, or flaps hands when excited.
  • Has difficulties interacting and playing with peers (play is often immature) so may prefer to play alone or with adults.
  • Is restless, inattentive, and disruptive, may not participate in group activities.
  • Has immature grasp; switches hands during a task, avoids visual motor tasks.
  • Is hyperactive or under-active; exhibits anger; falls apart or loses control easily.
  • Has difficulty with transitions.
  • Objects to changes in routine; falls apart during transitions.

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What should I do if I suspect that my child has a sensory integration disorder?
If you suspect that your child has a sensory integration disorder, contact our office and our director will discuss your concerns with you. If we mutually agree an evaluation should be completed then you should obtain a prescription from your child's physician for an occupational therapy evaluation. Then you will need to set up an appointment for your child's initial evaluation, which will last approximately one hour. A packet of information will be sent to you along with the paperwork that needs to be completed in advance, before your scheduled appointment. Your therapist may ask you questions regarding your child's medical history and previous experience with therapy programs. The therapist will evaluate your child's skill level in a non-threatening manner. The therapist will then provide recommendations regarding the frequency of future visits and suggestions for other home activities.

Your therapist will discuss concerns and goals with you in order to set up an individualized treatment plan. The plan is then sent to the child's primary physician for authorization. Once the plan is signed and returned to the therapist, then regular therapy sessions may begin. Your therapist will contact you to setup dates and times for your child's therapy sessions. You will receive your formal evaluation results on the day of your first therapy session.

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Will these problems go away on their own?
Many families recognize some of the sensory behaviors identified during evaluations as something another family member has had all their life. We all have a different sensory make-up and in general, sensory preferences do not interfere with developmental skills, social and emotional development, or result in behavioral problems. When these sensory differences are at the point when they interfere with these performance areas it is unlikely that they will resolve spontaneously. It is more likely they will become more significant and interfere with daily activities and routines with age. The sooner sensory integration difficulties are detected and addressed through therapy, the quicker progress will be made. This eliminates problems that may have arisen or become more severe with age. Frustration and avoidance behaviors are commonly more significant, the longer they go untreated.

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Can't they just practice?
We are sure that the family and teaching staff have tried to "teach" the child skills that appear difficult. Unfortunately, unless a child has the underlying ability to "be taught" the skill, it will not be mastered. It is important to remember that not all types of learning, particularly motor learning, can be mastered by practicing. No matter how many times children practice a wrong pattern, it won't make it right. Until they have the internal ability to do it correctly, they will be unable to correct the problem. Behavioral modification programs are often unsuccessful, as the child's body is not processing information correctly, therefore they cannot "perform" as requested. When the child's body is better regulated, s/he will want to explore and learn on their own, verses being forced to "learn" or "perform" when not able.

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How long does my child need this type of therapy?
Intervention may be required for several months, to a year or longer, depending on the severity of your child's condition. All children are expected to make progress within the first few weeks of therapy. Since sensory integration treatment techniques are used to make neurological changes in our clients, once they make progress, they will not "lose" their new skills or regress in their behaviors. Throughout the child's course of therapy, positive changes will be noticed and recorded by the family and the therapist. Together, the parents, therapist and any other professionals involved will determine the need for further interventions and estimate an approximate time frame before the child is "discharged", no longer needing therapy.

All children are made different; therefore, they all process information and make progress at different rates. It is hard to estimate the total length of treatment required before a child can be discharged, due to the uniqueness and complexity of each individual.

Our therapists pride ourselves on establishing extensive home programs and treatment plans to help our clients reach their maximum potential in the shortest amount of time. We work consistently with the child, family, teachers and other professionals to make sure we are providing the "best opportunities" for making the most significant amount of change.

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What will happen during therapy?
An important component of sensory integrative therapy is to tap into the inner drive and motivation of the child. This plays a crucial role in the election of the therapeutic activities. The therapist, based on your child's evaluation results, will utilize their specialized knowledge to analyze the tasks your child needs to master for successful involvement in life's roles. The therapist will customize the activities during the session based on your child's needs. Simply put, the therapist will set up the treatment room with the types of activities that the child needs in order to have more efficient processing of sensory input. This allows the child to guide the session and capitalize on his/her inner drive. This active involvement and exploration enables the individual's nervous system to become a more efficient organizer of sensory information. The intention of intervention is to provide the child with a physically and emotionally safe environment, so they can make neurological changes through play experiences to promote more functional and efficient skills.

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We began therapy, but are they just "playing" with my child?
A sensory integration treatment approach uses a variety of activities that are interesting and motivating to children to address underlying problems. Although it is very play oriented, the therapist will set up the play to include different types of activities your child needs to process sensory input more effectively. Within those activities the therapist will constantly work to increase the challenge and to encourage the child to master new skills, learn new ways of responding, and to work through areas that are uncomfortable for the child.

Our therapists are highly skilled in finding and adapting activities to facilitate a "just-right" challenge. Each child is gently guided into activities of their choice, making them enjoy their sessions and want to come back on a consistent basis.

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As a parent, what is my role in my child's therapy program?
Pediatric Potentials strongly encourages parent involvement in their child's therapy program. Our therapists collaborate with the parents on an on-going basis to discuss progress, develop future goals and offer suggestions for activities that can be done outside of the child's therapy sessions for optimal results.

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What items do I need to have available for my child's initial evaluation?
1. Insurance card(s) (if applicable)
2. A prescription for therapy from the child's primary care physician
3. All forms completed in the "Welcome Packet" (received by mail)
4. Any school or psychological reports and any other recent test results regarding your child's development

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Who will pay for therapy?
The aim of therapy is to improve your child's underlying skills to achieve more normal performance. Most insurance companies will pay for therapy if it is considered "medically necessary." Standardized tests are used during the evaluation to assess the child's current level of functioning. Measurable goals are devised from the child's evaluation results. Progress is measured in sessions and at the time of re-evaluation (usually every 6 months) to objectively show progress. It is important for the services provided to be documented as occupational, physical or speech therapy, not sensory integration therapy as that is an approach to therapy.

Our experienced and insurance savvy office staff will verify your child's health insurance benefits and inform you in advance of what your insurance plan will cover and approximately how much you will be financially responsible for. Please contact our office for more details at (407)-322-3962.

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