OT Month

All You Need to Know About 6 Pediatric Occupational Therapy Settings

Where do pediatric occupational therapists work and more importantly if you are an OT, where should YOU work? If you are looking for information for pediatric occupational therapy settings then you are in the right place. 

By the end of this blog post, you will know 6 pediatric occupational therapy settings and what each setting is all about. I have experience and background in 5 of these settings!  🎉

  1. Outpatient Pediatric Clinics
    • Pros of Outpatient Clinic: Most clinics pay for patient cancellations, variety of caseload with flexibility to work on a wide range of skills, community environment, access to sensory equipment and supplies, mentorship, scheduling support
    • Cons: There can be productivity demands, high caseload numbers, and scheduling demands. In my experience with outpatient clinics: often times there are therapy sessions stacked with little flexibility.
    • This setting sees clients from birth to 21 depending on the clinic. Some clinics have different age ranges. Outpatient pediatric OT involves working with clients with a variety of diagnosis including sensory processing deficits, developmental delay, autism, down syndrome, and more. 

2. Early Intervention

  • In early intervention, you can expect to see clients from birth up to their 3rd birthday in natural environments (home, daycare, community). This setting also involves a variety of diagnoses including developmental delays, autism, down syndrome, failure to thrive, and more. It is important to know that in early intervention it is based on a coaching model seeing patients most often once a week. All treatments occur in natural environments.
  • Pros of Early Intervention: This one will sound silly, but early intervention! You are providing services at a time where there is the most neuroplasticity and often times there is quick progress. Often times, there are smaller caseloads for early intervention OTs comparative to other settings. There are normally opportunities to collaborate across disciplines as well.
  • Cons: Often early intervention is a pay per visit salary. Early intervention involves driving to client’s homes and the environment is out of your control.

3. Home Health Pediatric

  • In this setting, similarly to an outpatient clinic setting you will see patients from approximately birth to 21. Home health pediatric OTs serve a variety of diagnoses and have the same flexibility to address skills as a clinic based occupational therapist. 
  • Pros: This setting helps with providing services to rural areas, opportunity to support ADLs in a natural environment, flexibility for scheduling and normally a smaller caseload. 
  • Cons: Home environments can vary and are out of your control. Similar to early intervention, home health can be pay per visit or salary. You are limited to what supplies you can carry in your car or access in homes. There is also mileage to consider for your car. Some companies will reimburse for this expense, however the wear and tear on your transportation will add up.

4. School OT

  • School based occupational therapy services focus on support for education needs including handwriting, fine motor skills, attention, sensory supports adaptations, etc. All goals in school based occupational therapy must support the student within a school based environment. In this setting, you can expect to see students from 3-21.
  • Pros: There is an opportunity to see kids who may not otherwise access occupational therapy services. Opportunities for collaboration with teachers, speech therapists, physical therapists, and paraprofessionals. Schedule during the school hours. Travel contract opportunities
  • Cons: There can be limited treatment options for sensory processing, every school district is different however for the most part sensory processing is not an area of school expertise. Depending on the school district, there can be decreased pay offered in school systems. Some states also require certification for school based OT. All goals must be supported by an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

5. NICU/Acute Care

  • Acute Care Occupational Therapy often focuses on helping to medically stabilize and provide therapeutic interventions that promote independence and discharge planning. Acute care often includes NICU patients which can include providing early sensory experiences, positioning, developmental goals, and feeding. OTs also have the opportunity to pursue lactation specialty ranting.
  • Pros: You will be part of a medical team including nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, and doctors all working towards discharge planning and future care plans. Treatment timelines and sessions are often shorter and with quick progress. There is also flexibility with your work schedule compared to other pediatric OT settings.
  • Cons: This setting can be fast paced and requires extensive medical knowledge. You can expect patients to come and go quickly which means an evolving caseload. This setting can also be high stress when patients are often medically fragile.

6. Tele-Therapy

  • Tele-Therapy in pediatric settings can include early intervention, home therapy, or school OT. This setting utilizes software including zoom, google meet, etc to provide occupational therapy services. Often times there are parents or facilitators to help in person while you as the therapist provide services via a computer.
  • Pros: Opportunity to provide OT services while working from home. These services often help clients in areas or locations where an occupational therapist is not available. Tele-therapy can be great for coaching during early intervention and providing services across a wide area.
  • Cons: There is no hands on option during these sessions with limited access to sensory equipment. All sessions require technology.

What is your favorite OT setting? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! Don’t forget to join my email list for free resources, blog posts, updates, and more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *