Parents should understand therapy options for kids
Anna Kalashnik, OTR/L
MedCentral Pediatric Therapy
When a child needs therapy - physical, occupational or speech - parents can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Not only do they need to understand available services, they also need to know which are best for their children. Pediatric therapies can be provided in a variety of settings, each of which is unique:
Early Intervention: This free program is available for babies and children under age 3. Physical, occupational and speech therapy are usually provided to children in a consultation model through a home- or center-based program. This means therapists educate parents and teachers, who are then expected to carry out therapists' suggestions. An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is written annually to establish both the family and professional's goals for the child.
School-based therapy: Once children are 3 years old they are no longer eligible for Early Intervention. If they meet certain criteria, however, they may receive therapy services through a special needs preschool. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is written annually to establish the child's strengths and deficits, as well as the goals all professionals involved with the child will work toward.
If they qualify, children can receive therapy services through their public school when they reach kindergarten age. All therapy goals must be educationally based. School therapists work closely with teachers to ensure carryover into the classroom. The frequency and length of the therapy sessions depend on the child's needs and the resources available in the school district. Services are usually just provided during the school year, but some districts offer them in the summer.
Children who are home schooled may qualify to receive therapy services through an outpatient clinic but paid for by the home school agency. Services provided still follow the requirements and protocols for school-based therapy.
Outpatient therapy: Outpatient therapy through a hospital or clinic uses a direct, "hands-on" approach. The necessity and frequency of therapy is based on the child's needs, not a set of norm requirements. Most children are seen 1-2 times per week. The therapy may address any goals related to the child's development, not just those that are educationally based. Ongoing teaching is provided to the family for follow-through at home. The services are billed to the family's insurance. Some clinics offer financial aid to families who do not have insurance or cannot afford to pay the entire cost of therapy.
In summary, there are several different types of settings that provide therapy services. Which is best depends upon the child's particular situation. Some children receive therapy in two settings simultaneously, and ideally the therapists coordinate and work together.
If you have a child with special needs and are not sure of where to turn for help, speak with your pediatrician or contact Med Central Pediatric Therapy at 419-520-2386.