(Featured above is Matt, co-founder & CEO of Rahoo Baby providing OT to one of his favorite kiddos)
What is pediatric occupational therapy?
In our own words, pediatric occupational therapy is a scientific approach to helping children develop the skills needed to function across all environments. Let’s unpack this a bit:
The scientific approach
To help a child of any age overcome any challenge, an occupational therapist must first understand the characteristics of early childhood development through each stage of development. Knowing this is what allows a therapist to appreciate the baseline skills a child should even be expected to possess at any given age. Next, a therapist must also possess a baseline understanding of all the various systems which make up the human body (ex. central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, musculoskeletal system).
Helping children develop the skills needed to function
Understanding the scientific approach mentioned above is what allows therapists to first recognize specific deficits in any particular area of functioning (evaluation), followed by the creation of a particular set of therapeutic exercises or activities designed to improve or compensate for those areas (treatment). But remember, without first having the baseline understanding of where, for example, a 3-year-old is developmentally, a therapist would have no way of creating a treatment plan that both challenges the child therapeutically, but also engages them cognitively – in other words the treatment plan must not only help a child develop certain skills, it also needs to be fun and motivating for the child! Because I think we all know what it’s like asking a 3-year-old to do something they don’t want to do…exactly.
Across all environments
Occupational therapy can is aimed at helping a child develop the skills needed at school, home, and the community.
If pediatric occupational therapy is designed to help infants and children develop the baseline skills required for well-being, why is it that only about 2% of children receive occupational therapy. Well, about 4 million babies are born in the US each year. Compare that with 600 OT programs, each producing on average of 40 new OT’s each year. So essentially it would be impossible for each child to receive therapy services.
Fortunately, not every baby needs OT. But that’s not to say that every baby wouldn’t benefit from OT, because they would. In fact, it’s our opinion that every baby should have the opportunity to access the benefits of OT. This realization is what lead us the create baby products in the first place.
Every baby product we design is completed using the same scientific approach a therapist uses during a session, meaning every feature of every product is intentionally designed to help a baby or child develop a certain skill they will need to develop at that particular stage of their development. Let’s take the Learn & Lounge for example. Look at all of the things this lounger is designed to help infants do:
- bring their hands to midline to play with & mouth their own fingers (which is so important it could have its own blog)
- visually scan their environment to promote curiosity and learning
- enjoy and therefor master tummy-time so they can learn to sit, crawl, walk etc.
- overcome acid-reflux so they can develop a fondness for mealtimes
Here’s the thing - these are some of the same skills that a therapist would be helping a baby develop if they were to see them for an individualized session in the home or at a nearby clinic.
Instead of “Does my baby need occupational therapy?”, parents should be asking themselves “Can my baby benefit from occupational therapy?”; because with 85% of brain development occurring between birth and three years old, the answer is absolutely, yes.
Of course we love to see parents using the Rahoo Baby newborn lounger (keep tagging us on instagram! #rahoobaby), but there are other plenty of other ways that parents can play an active role in their child’s development. For example, apps like Kinedu and Babysparks are available for parents who want to learn about fun, OT recommended activities they can do at home with their baby, while companies like Lovevery are taking the guesswork out of which toys children should use at each age.
The point is this – parents today are in-the-know. Today’s moms and dads understand how crucial learning and development is during birth to 3 years old, so it’s understandable that they are desperate for products and apps for support in this area of parenting. Five or ten years ago it would have been fair for a parent to claim that finding support from child development experts like occupational therapists is hard to access, but not anymore. Today’s parents are demanding the best for their baby, and companies like Rahoo Baby, Lovevery, Kinedu and Babysparks are offering just that.