parent mediated occupational therapy for kids Akron

Effectiveness of Parent-Mediated Occupational Therapy for Kids

When it comes to the success of occupational therapy for kids, the importance of parent engagement cannot be overstated. Our Akron occupational therapists may only see your child for a handful of hours a week – but you’re there all the time. You are the No. 1 researcher, teacher, and reinforcer.

Our team has long recognized this – which is why we have always prioritized building parent-therapist relationships and trust. It’s actually a key part of all our therapy services – not just OT, but speech, ABA, and physical therapy too.

Now, a study recently published in The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy just further underscores it. Parent-mediated occupational therapy involves the parent working 1:1 with the child on OT goals, guided by a therapist who designs the interventions and gives parents the tools to carry them out during the child’s daily routines and activities. Researchers, using a qualitative, phenomenological research design approved by UMass Medical School Institutional Review Board, sought to answer two questions about the practice of OT using a parent-mediated model:

  • How do OT services provided in an outpatient setting using a parent-mediated model improve a child’s participation in daily activities at home & in the community?
  • How do outpatient, parent-mediated OT services improve parent-child interactions in the home & community?

The kids in the study were ages 7 to 14 and primarily diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. Some also had mood disorders, ADHD, sensory processing disorders, aggressive behaviors, and intellectual delays. Occupational therapists guided the parents through OT sessions for a period of time, and then reported back to researchers on the experience.

What they concluded was:

  • Being included in OT sessions allowed the whole family to benefit from OT, leading to greater consistency at home & in the community.
  • When parents were included in OT sessions, they learned what to do at home to help their child participate in daily occupations.
  • Parents reported learning a great deal by observing occupational therapists work with their kids using various evidence-based interventions and strategies. Parents were encouraged to be hands-on and participate. One parent commented, “I learned to understand and communicate with my own child.”
  • Some parents said the sessions allowed them to reflect and learn about their OWN sensory needs, preferences, and triggers – and work on addressing those when they could feel the tension bubbling up in themselves.
  • Parents were able to use the strategies they learned from the OT in their home and throughout the community, which meant the generalization of those skills in other settings happened much more rapidly than expected.
  • Participating in OT sessions, parents said, gave them tons of ideas for fun, sensory-based activities they could engage their child in “for fun” – so they’d be learning important skills while also playing and connecting with each other.
  • Being involved in the OT sessions, parents said they better understood the benefits of occupational therapy – whereas before, they were a bit hazy on it.

These findings align with a lot of prior research on this practice – pretty much all of which revealed positive outcomes when parents are included in OT sessions.

It’s worth noting that this model of occupational therapy for kids is just one form of family-centered care, but it isn’t widely-practiced at this juncture. However, we suspect that may be slowly changing.

The shift to virtual therapy for many clinics during the pandemic may have pushed the trend forward much faster. When all of our therapies when virtual for a time, many parents started out a bit intimidated – and skeptical of whether a virtual therapy would even work. The reason it DID work for so many of our kids – sometimes even better than expected – is because parents became the “hands” of the therapist. In so doing, they also became the students AND the teachers too. Their participation in these sessions meant that they could directly observe how the therapist interacted with their child, how they encouraged engagement, and how they facilitated practice on various skillsets. In turn, parents felt more empowered to carry over those strategies in daily life.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech, occupational, and ABA therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Experiences in Parent-Mediated Pediatric Occupational Therapy for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders, January 2023, Klowan, Kadlec, & Johnston, The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Occupational Therapists LOVE Broken Crayons, June 7, 2023, Therapy & Wellness Connection Blog