Pediatric Occupation Therapy: Creating a Blueprint for Parents
Pediatric occupation therapy is a booming area of practice and offers unique opportunities to collaborate as a team with key adult players in a child’s life. This can also generate challenges that are specific to familial psycho-social factors. No child exists as an island, but rather as an individual within a social context.
Roles and dynamics need to be clearly addressed at the onset of treatment plans and reinforced throughout the process for the sake of child, parent(s) and therapist. It’s highly advisable to utilize best practice documents to maximize clarity and benefit for everyone involved.
“Children are part of a family unit; parents and caregivers are the ones that spend the most time with their child,” points out Krystal Vermeire, OTR/L in her article “The Role of Parents in Occupational Therapy Intervention.”
“To elicit positive and lasting changes in a child’s developmental trajectory, I would argue that you must not only treat the child directly, but you must also work with the parent or caregiver to change the interaction patterns and set up the environment in the most optimal way,” writes Vermeire. “Professionals are armed with the knowledge base to guide parental interactions and direct parents to effectively manage their child’s development. The goal of therapy should not solely be to progress the child’s development through continued direct therapy.”
Fortunately, when it comes to streamlining your communication with parents of children receiving therapy, there’s no need to recreate the wheel. Resources for guiding parents through their roles in the occupation therapy process abound online, and can be easily tailored for your specific area of practice and circumstances.
“A main focus also needs to be on the progression of the child’s development through educating and training the parents,” advises Vermeire. “By engaging parents in the process of intervention, they will become empowered to be the central organizer in their child’s ‘complex and grossly uneven maze of assessments and services.’”
She advocates that OTs need to move beyond therapeutic intervention to form a collaborative partnership with the child’s best interests at the center, because actively engaged parents make the best treatment managers.
Taking the time to create a well-organized, documented blueprint for parents is worth the effort and immediately builds a bridge of engagement between you as the therapist and the family who’s involved in your little patient’s life every day. There are numerous templates online, and OT Connection provides a great example.
It may be beneficial to give this document prior to meeting parents and their child, so as to set the tone and address common questions and issues up front.
A detailed blueprint may include the following topics for parents:
- Initial FAQs
- Can I bring my other children to the first visit or evaluation?
- What do I need to bring with us when my child comes for the initial evaluation?
- How should my child dress for an evaluation?
- What happens after the evaluation?
- Do you involve the parents in the treatment process?
- What are the benefits of Co-treatment?
- What happens during a typical therapy session?
- What will my child need to do at home to continue his/her therapy?
- Parent Roles and Responsibilities
- Regular attendance (Example: a minimum of __% of appointments must be kept)
- Supportive and safe home environment
- Parent participation in home programs
- Notifying you of changes in important information
- Provide accurate and complete health information (insurance, past medical conditions, diagnoses, therapeutic interventions and/or services, allergies, medications, etc.)
- Adhere to the developed/updated plan of care
- Understand and accept consequences of non-compliance
- Treat therapist and property with respect
- Payment obligations
- Re-evaluation procedures
- Therapist Roles and Responsibilities
- Links to all the Guidelines for Responsible Conduct set by the State Boards
- Details of All Best Practices regarding services, treatment plans, equipment, etc.
- Details of what’s provided
- Details of client education plan
- How to report a concern or complaint
- What constitutes a supportive environment
- Attendance and tardiness policy details
- Illness policy details
- Therapist-cancelled appointment policy details
- Substitute therapist policy details (if applicable)
- Insurance policy details
- Non-covered services
- Refund policy details
- Emergency information policy details
- A list of a required documents
- Parent Acknowledgement and Consent Forms
These are some of the valuable factors in a well-defined blueprint for parents. You may also want to include fun, colorful supplemental information to keep the tone positive. FriendshipCircle.org shares an article “12 Posts with Advice for Parents from Occupational Therapists” that provides helpful insight into the types of toys, activities and situations parents might encounter on their journey. Sharing the sage advice of others who’ve navigated therapy can reduce anxiety and feeling isolated, which ultimately benefits the child.