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Occupational Therapy 

Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Located in the Madison area and Wausau, our team of licensed occupational therapists (OTs) and certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) are experts in promoting functional participation through the therapeutic use of meaningful every day activities, or occupations. Our occupational therapy team addresses social-emotional, physical, sensory, developmental, executive function, and behavioral challenges that may be impacting a child’s occupational engagement. Occupational therapy sessions incorporate motivating activities, like games, obstacle courses, making slime, or a visit to one of the beautiful Madison or Wausau area parks into evidence-based therapeutic treatment to create the perfect balance of fun and effectiveness. 

We look forward to meeting with you at one of our Madison area or Wausau clinics for an initial evaluation to get to know your child, identify their strengths and growth areas, discuss your family’s functional goal areas, complete standardized assessments, and determine if occupational therapy is appropriate for your child.

 

Occupational Therapy at CI

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a branch of healthcare provided by occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants that aims to help clients of all ages improve their meaningful engagement in daily activities. Daily activities may include self-care tasks, work, play, leisure engagement, academic engagement, social relationships, and so much more! Occupational therapy assesses, treats, and provides accommodations for a wide range of abilities and skills while keeping the client as the focal point.

What Does Occupational Therapy Treat?

Occupational therapy treats a range of skills that impact daily function. The following are examples of factors that may be addressed in an occupational therapy session:

Cognitive skills

    • Cognitive skills include executive functioning, or higher level thinking skills. Inhibition, working memory, organization, shifting, emotional control, and planning are a few examples.

Physical skills

    • Occupational therapy addresses a range of fine and gross motor skills, including handwriting, visual-motor integration, fine motor precision, dexterity, strength, and endurance.

Social-emotional skills

    • Social-emotional skills addressed by occupational therapy include helping children recognize and sense their own emotions, read the emotions of others, implement self-regulation tools, and build social skills needed to have meaningful relationships throughout life.

Sensory skills

    • Sensory skills include how a child perceives, processes, and responds to sensory input. Sensory systems include sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, interoception, vestibular input, and proprioceptive input.

Functional skills

    • Functional areas addressed by occupational therapy include, but are not limited to, dressing, toileting, sleep, work skills, play skills, leisure engagement, academic engagement, and sexuality. Feeding skills are also a functional skill that can be addressed in occupational therapy

      Treatment Methods:

      Our occupational therapy team uses a variety of techniques and strategies tailored to each individual client to help improve their overall ability to engage in the activities that are meaningful to them and to their families. CI’s occupational therapy team uses their knowledge of treatment methods, up to date research, and evidence-based interventions to create a treatment plan that is specific to each child’s needs. Specialized treatment techniques may include:

       

      360 Thinking Method is an executive function model and program that builds autonomy and independence in children with executive functioning differences. Practitioners utilize multi-sensory strategies to facilitate planning through self-imagery and self-speech. The Get Ready, Do, Done model is frequently used with children to promote higher level thinking skills. 

       

      Aquatic therapy is a playful alternative or supplement to traditional therapy that uses water’s natural buoyancy and resistance to facilitate strengthening, mobility, endurance training, sensory immersion, and increased engagement to build functional skills. 

       

      Collaborative for Leadership in Ayres Sensory Integration. This training is focused on the neurological processes behind sensory integration, or the way our brain processes sensory information from the world around us. Treatment informed by this approach will center around fun and play-based sensory experiences that help the child to improve their sensory regulation, praxis, and motor skills.

      Constraint Induced Movement Therapy is an intervention used for children who present with limited use of one arm or hand due to injury or other medical condition. This intervention targets increased use and function of the affected side while temporarily constraining movement of the higher functioning arm.

      DMI is a therapeutic intervention that promotes motor skill development in children by working with the brain’s neuroplasticity. Your child’s therapist will facilitate specific dynamic exercises to elicit specific motor responses that will support developing motor milestones. 

      Handwriting without Tears is a researched-backed handwriting intervention that utilizes multi-sensory and hands-on approaches to learning developmentally appropriate handwriting basics and beyond. The curriculum is appropriate for children Pre-K through 5th grade. 

      The Therasuit Method® is a research-based intensive program for children with neuro-motor disorders that aims to improve motor skill development. This method utilizes a specific suit that facilitates specific posture and movements in order to target desired motor patterns and build functional strength in the client. 

      IM is an assessment and training tool used to improve cognitive skills, motor skills, sensory skills, and speech and language. IM can be used for a range of diagnoses, including autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, dyslexia, and many more. Treatment includes use of a software program to synchronize motor actions to auditory stimuli by using headphones in conjunction with buttons or motion sensors. 

       

      Interoception is our 8th sensory system. It helps us know when we are hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, or that we need to use the bathroom. It also informs our ability to understand and react to our emotions. This curriculum works from the outside-in to help our clients understand and notice all the signals their body gives them on a daily basis. Your child’s occupational therapist will then work to explore feel-good activities that allow your child to feel safe and confident in how they react and adapt to their environment and emotions. 

      The MNRI method facilitates the integration of primary motor reflexes to improve function. Practitioners identify challenges impacted by reflexes, assess the reflex response, and provide individualized treatment based on qualifying factors. Treatment plans include sensory motor pairing, integration exercises, and eventual reassessment. 

       

      The Zones of Regulation is an intervention centered around a child’s understanding of and ability to manage their emotions. Your child will learn about the four “zones” and relate emotions to different colors (blue, green, yellow, and red). The Zones of Regulation teaches that all emotions are okay, and that no zone is “bad,” empowering your child to understand themselves better and notice how their emotions shift throughout the day. Intervention will then focus on learning strategies to help move through the zones, so that they can most effectively engage within their day.  

      Our feeding therapists treat clients with ARFID in a holistic and interdisciplinary manner, considering their mental health, dietary health, positive mealtime associations, and overall motivation to improve feeding skills. Depending on age and client needs, practitioners may take a food science approach, a sensory approach, or a combination of approaches to provide your child with positive support for feeding.

      The Get Permission Approach uses a holistic, loving approach to support children and their families have positive mealtime experiences. Practitioners will focus on children feeling well at mealtimes, building relationships with feeding, providing parent education, adult-guided and child-led experiences, and celebration of mealtimes. 

       

      The SOS approach uses a transdisciplinary, holistic approach to feeding. Practitioners using the SOS approach will use Play with a Purpose, the Steps to Eating, and evidence-based treatments to build feeding skills with your child. Children will interact with food in a playful, no-stress environment to build their relationship and comfort during mealtimes. 

       

      SOFFI uses an integrated approach to promote oral motor skills for feeding for preterm infants, infants with complex comorbidities, or any infant having difficulty with oral feeding. Practitioners using SOFFI focus on homeostasis and thorough parent education to improve engagement in feeding.

      Occupational Therapy for Autism

      The CI team treats clients of all ages diagnosed with autism. Whether a client was just recently formally diagnosed or has had a diagnosis for years, CI Therapists are Neurodiversity affirming. CI’s occupational therapy team utilizes neurodiversity-affirming approaches to guide goal-setting and treatment. Neurodiversity-affirming approaches utilize the idea that neurodivergence itself is not defined as a flaw or something that needs to be “fixed,” “corrected,” or “normalized.” Rather, clients’ individual strengths and uniqueness are celebrated while creating occupational therapy goals that are meaningful to them.

      Occupational therapy at CI does not seek to teach clients how to act in a neurotypical manner but rather celebrates the unique qualities they possess while supporting client and family goal areas. Whether a client wants to learn more about their sensory system to be more empowered in their self-regulation or how to best structure tasks or activities they want or need to accomplish throughout their day, personalized, strengths-based occupational therapy goals specific to the client are vital to motivation and progress!

      Occupational therapists at CI do this through:

      Sensory processing:

      Occupational therapists are uniquely trained in sensory processing and how to support the sensory needs of children with autism. It is well documented that children with autism present with differences in their processing of sensory input from their environment. Occupational therapists can help teach a child about their sensory needs and find tools/strategies that promote optimal arousal. 

      Interoception: 

      Interoception is a term used to describe the ability to understand your body signals and cues. Children with autism can sometimes have difficulty registering or making sense of their body signals. Occupational therapists use their knowledge of interoception to support children who may have difficulty recognizing these cues. Interoception can support bowel and bladder management and hygiene, self-regulation and nutrition (understanding hunger/fullness).

      Environmental modifications/considerations:

      Occupational therapists specialize in assessing the space where a child lives and making environment suggestions to promote functional independence, participation and improve quality of life. If a child with autism is having difficulty participating in their daily routines, they may benefit from support of an occupational therapist to explore their environment and make suggestions. Environmental modifications can support mealtime participation, sleep hygiene, participation in daily routines and so much more. Common environmental considerations could include auditory modifications, lighting, and reducing distractions.

      Self-care support:

      Occupational therapists are trained in activity analysis, which involves breaking down a task and identifying the barriers and problem solving how to overcome those barriers. Children having difficulty with any self-care skills may benefit from the skilled support of an occupational therapist to break down what barriers are impeding their independence and problem solving how to overcome those barriers. Common self-care skills occupational therapist support include dressing, oral hygiene, toileting, self-feeding, and meal preparation.

      Fine motor support:

      Fine motor skills are important for play, written communication and many self-care skills including dressing, feeding, eating, and writing. Many children with autism present with delays in their fine motor skills when compared to typically developing peers. Occupational therapists are uniquely qualified to support these skills. 

      Behavioral support/coaching:

      Children with autism can present with behaviors that might be hard for their caregivers to understand, such as hitting, avoidance or yelling. Occupational therapists can provide caregiver support to discover what a child might be trying to communicate with certain behaviors. Occupational therapists can help set up positive behavioral interventions to build strategies to improve understanding and communication. 

      Play-based therapy:

      Play is a primary “occupation” of childhood. Children with autism often present with significant differences in their play skills, which may impact their peer interactions. Occupational therapists can support children to gain a better understanding of how their actions may impact others and facilitate improved reciprocal play skills. 

      Executive functioning support and training:

      Many children with autism have difficulty with executive functioning skills. Occupational therapists can work with children to assess their strengths and areas for growth, develop personalized intervention plans, and implement targeted strategies to improve executive functions.

      Visual supports:

      Many children with autism benefit from visual supports to aid in their participation. Occupational therapists can support increased success and independence through the development of such visuals, including visual schedules and visual aides.

      Madison Occupational Therapy Clinics

      CI has many convenient locations for families to receive occupational therapy throughout the Madison area as well as a location in Wausau, Wisconsin. Clinics locations have expanded over the years with the aim of serving families right in the communities in which they live. Families are busy and having convenient access to high quality occupational therapy is important!
      Madison area occupational therapy locations include:

      Ready to Take the Next Step? Contact Us Today

      Our occupational therapy team is ready to join you and your child on their journey to reaching their maximum potential. Get started by scheduling a free consultation today. You can give us a call to schedule or use our convenient online scheduling option. We look forward to meeting you and your child at one of our occupational therapy clinics.

      Pediatric Occupational Therapy FAQs: Answers for Parents

       

      General Questions

      Pediatric occupational therapy is the branch of occupational therapy designed to support children and their families engage in activities that are meaningful to them. The “occupations” in occupational therapy are meaningful activities. For a child, that might be play skills like taking turns with peers, feeding skills like being able to use a fork, self-care skills like being able to dress themselves, and so much more. Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners are experts at breaking down a task or activity in order to identify the best way to support a child’s successful engagement, which is why they can support such a wide range of skills.

      A child can start benefiting from occupational therapy services at any age. Our pediatric occupational therapists see infants all the way up to young adults. Providing your child with early intervention allows for significant growth at a critical period in your child’s development. Reach out as soon as you have concerns about your child’s development to complete a free developmental screener or consultation. CI is here to provide you and your child the resources and education needed to reach their maximum potential.

      Cognitive skills

      Cognitive skills include executive functioning, or higher level thinking skills. Inhibition, working memory, organization, shifting, emotional control, and planning are a few examples.

      Physical skills

      Occupational therapy addresses a range of fine and gross motor skills, including handwriting, visual-motor integration, fine motor precision, dexterity, strength, and endurance. 

      Social-emotional skills

      Social-emotional skills addressed by occupational therapy include helping children recognize and sense their own emotions, read the emotions of others, implement self-regulation tools, and build social skills needed to have meaningful relationships throughout life.

      Sensory skills

      Sensory skills include how a child perceives, processes, and responds to sensory input. Sensory systems include sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, interoception, vestibular input, and proprioceptive input. 

      Functional skills

      Functional areas addressed by occupational therapy include, but are not limited to, dressing, toileting, sleep, work skills, play skills, leisure engagement, academic engagement, and sexuality. Feeding skills are also a functional skill that can be addressed in occupational therapy. 

       

      Identifying Needs

      Occupational therapy might be beneficial for your child if they 

      • Have emotional reactions to certain types of play (noisy, messy, active)
      • Demonstrate strong, emotional reactions to unfamiliar or non-preferred foods
      • Have more difficulty than peers holding/using utensils such as markers, forks/spoons, etc.
      • Have emotional outbursts that are more frequent, more intense or last longer than their peers.
      • Have more difficulty than peers attending to fine motor/table top tasks
      • Seem uncomfortable or removed in large group settings
      • Are very wiggly, needs many movement breaks to be successful
      • Have a harder time than peers putting on or tolerating clothing
      • Have difficulty with daily routines such as getting ready for school in the morning or for bed at night
      • Have trouble with organization such as keeping track of school assignments

       

      Physical therapy focuses on improving a person’s ability to move whereas occupational therapy focuses on increasing a person’s ability to engage in meaningful activities, or occupations. Both disciplines are focused on improving a person’s overall wellbeing, and many children benefit from receiving both occupational and physical therapy services. At CI, we value interdisciplinary care, which is why our physical and occupational therapy providers collaborate to provide high quality comprehensive care to our clients.

      Absolutely! Occupational therapy treatment is tailored to each child as an individual. Interventions for learning disabilities could include, but are not limited to, working on handwriting to support literacy, addressing visual motor skills that impact reading and writing, exploring supports for executive functioning skills such as working memory or organization, and much more! Your occupational therapist will work with your child to find strategies that work best for them, and can collaborate with their school team to further support goal attainment across environments.

       

      The Therapy Process

      Occupational therapy sessions vary in duration and frequency depending on the specific needs of your child. Sessions can include parents or be one-on-one with the child. Treatment always includes things that are motivating to your child in order to capitalize on their interest in their treatment. Occupational therapists will use a child’s individual goals to drive the focus of each session. 

      Length of care is highly dependent on the unique needs of individual clients. Factors that may impact length of care may include age, comorbidities, complexities of diagnoses, home carry over, and so much more.

      Your occupational therapist can provide home carry over suggestions, exercise programs, or adaptive strategies to use across settings in order to promote progress at home. Joining sessions with your child, frequently checking in with your therapist, and staying up to date on current goal areas are all ways to ensure consistent progress outside of the clinic. For more information about ways to support your child’s progress at home, check out these handouts!

       

      Special Considerations

      Occupational therapy for children on the autism spectrum is tailored to the specific needs and challenges of each individual child. Occupational therapists are uniquely trained in sensory processing and how to support the sensory needs of children with autism. They can support many skills and areas including self-cares, feeding, fine motor skills, and play. They do this through a wide range of interventions including environmental modifications, sensory tools/supports, interoception, behavioral support/coaching, visual schedules/supports and so much more.

      Sensory processing is a passion area for many of our occupational therapists at CI! OT works to ensure that every child is feeling safe and confident in their sensory environment. Your child’s therapist will work to determine a comprehensive understanding of your child’s sensory needs, and will help provide strategies and support to make sure your child is getting the sensory input they need. This can vary from strategies that reduce overwhelming sensory input, such as headphones, soft clothing, or low lighting, to ways to increase regulating sensory input through play and everyday activities. 

      Children learn best through play, as play is their primary occupation. CI occupational therapy practitioners are experts at making hard work FUN! An occupational therapy session might just look like play to an observer, but the OT is making constant adjustments to offer the just-right level of challenge to progress their skills while ensuring the child feels successful.

      Given your permission, your child’s occupational therapy provider is able to communicate with other healthcare professionals such as psychologists, gastroenterologists or any other member of your child’s health care team to collaborate, problem solve, and work together to best meet your child’s needs. CI is naturally set up for interdisciplinary collaboration! Your child's therapy team (which could include occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, and mental health therapists) will all work together to provide comprehensive care that best suits your child’s needs.

       

      Outcome and Progress

      Occupational therapy services begin with an initial evaluation which includes assessment of the relevant areas of concern for the child and their family. Based on client and family priorities as well as evaluation assessment results, measurable goals are developed. The occupational therapy provider completes documentation for each therapy session, including data regarding progress towards the child’s goals. As goals are attained, new goals are developed to allow for continued progression. Family-centered care is highly valued at CI, so therapists engage in ongoing collaboration with families to ensure the care they are providing and the goals they are addressing are well-matched and remain relevant to what’s meaningful to each child and their family.

      Occupational Therapy works with children and adolescents to build a variety of skills that will be necessary for their future! Skills include dressing, hygiene, social participation, educational participation, community safety, cooking, time management, household management, money management and so many more! These skills will support independence, leisure, and meaningful participation in the activities that are the most valued and motivating to our clients.