Ask an Expert: All About Pediatric Occupational Therapy with Shira Netter, OTR/L, MBOT
February 12, 2024
Shira Netter, OTR/L, MBOT lends us her expertise as a pediatric occupational therapist who is also trained in mindfulness based occupational therapy. She is the founder of Sensational Play OT.
Although many people are familiar with the concept of physical therapy, occupational therapy is a somewhat lesser known but no less important branch of health care that improves quality of life for people of all ages—-including children. While physical therapy helps with pain, strength, endurance, and gross motor skills, occupational therapy helps with fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory processing issues. Occupational therapy focuses on improving the ability to perform everyday activities, and can make a big difference for children who are recovering from a brain injury, children who’ve had a stroke, children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), children who have developmental delays of varying degrees, and others. To learn more about OT and its benefits, we spoke to Shira Netter, a pediatric occupational therapist, who answered our questions so we could share her wealth of knowledge with you.
Q: What exactly is pediatric occupational therapy and why might a child benefit from it?
SN: Pediatric occupational therapists help children meet their developmental milestones, overcome sensory challenges and improve their self-care, fine motor, play and self-regulation skills. If your child is having any challenges in these areas, or in their daily routines, they may benefit from occupational therapy!
Q: How can I tell if my child needs pediatric occupational therapy?
SN: If your child is having difficulty in any area of their life that’s impacting their ability to be fully engaged in their activities or daily routines, it may be time to look into getting some extra support from an occupational therapist!
Q: Is pediatric occupational therapy only for children of a certain age? Can babies also benefit from OT?
SN: Pediatric OTs work with a wide variety of children from premature newborns to 18-year-olds. Babies can definitely benefit from receiving OT services! Working with premature and young babies is one of my specialties 🙂
Q: How does occupational therapy differ from pediatric occupational therapy?
SN: Occupational therapists help people of all ages and pediatric occupational therapists work specifically with babies and children up until the age of 18 years old. Because of this, the skills and interventions will look different depending on which type of occupational therapy someone is receiving.
Q: What causes sensory issues in children?
SN: Our sensory systems are very complex and we are still learning a ton about what causes sensory issues. Sensory issues can be caused by many different factors, such as environment, physiology and neuroanatomy, etc. Every person's sensory system is unique and we see people of all ages, not just children, experience challenges!
Q: How can sensory issues affect a child’s development?
SN: Sensory issues can affect a child’s development in many ways. If your child is having sensory challenges, they may have difficulty participating in texture play at school or at home, eating a variety of foods, with their emotional regulation, and more.
Q: How does occupational therapy address those issues?
SN: Every child’s sensory system is unique and always changing. Occupational therapists will take the time to learn about your child’s specific needs and make appropriate recommendations to address those needs.
Q: How long does a child need to do OT to have long-term benefits from it?
SN: Every child is unique in their needs and timeline! Some children can benefit from a few sessions and some may need more depending on what their challenges are.
Q: When a child receives OT, should parents implement it at home as well?
SN: Absolutely! An OT may only see a child 1-2 times a week and parents are with their children 24/7. The more involved the parent is in their child’s therapy both during and after the session, the greater the impact the strategies will have for their child.
Q: Can a child simply grow out of these issues even if they don’t receive OT?
SN: Some can! It depends on the issue and how severe it may be. If you ever have any concerns or would like to chat to a professional about what your child is experiencing you can visit sensationalplayot.com to schedule a consultation with me! Or you can look up occupational therapists in your area to have a chat.
About the Author: Alice
Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.