April marks the start of Occupational Therapy Month. The need for different kinds of specialists seems to be growing throughout our community, though many don’t know what exactly occupational therapy is.
“Occupational Therapy is kind of the unknown gem,” said Krisann Miller, Owner of Little Lights Pediatric Therapy.
On one end of the spectrum, occupational therapists provide rehabilitation services to people with arthritis, Alzheimer’s, long-term disabilities and stroke.
The pediatric focus of occupational therapy looks a little different and is something many parents are now taking advantage of.
“My son was having trouble eating. He’s very picky, not eating a lot of different foods. Mealtime was very stressful. I was looking for someone to come into my house, so we could expand on the foods Max would eat,” said Ashley Kane.
“He was banging his head on the floor, and just getting really upset he couldn’t communicate. He wasn’t talking until he was 2 and a half. He would get really frustrated and bang his head and throw fits and scream,” said Rachelle Ravnaas.
So, if you’re wondering what exactly it is pediatric therapists do, you’re not alone. We spoke to therapists from Little Lights Pediatric Therapy to get the full picture.
“We work on fine motor skills. We work on sensory processing. We have a lot of children we work on emotional regulation. Being aware of social skills and what is appropriate for them and how to interact with other kids too,” said Lindsay Roberts, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist.
“Our therapy is geared towards making individuals as functional in their everyday lives as possible,” said Miller.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the profession is expected to go up 27 percent by 2024 from 2014. UND and UMary are some of the only schools in the state with occupational therapy programs.
Instructors there say there is a need for more people to enter the profession.
“The population is getting older. So, there are more OTS working in assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, in pediatrics, in early intervention, hospitals NICUs, outpatient. A lot of physicians and pediatricians are now realizing the benefit of not using the wait and see approach,” said Bobbi Carrlson, an Occupational Therapy Instructor at UND.
Local pediatric therapists tell us they are managing large caseloads and even planning expansions.
“It seems growing demand. Continual referrals. The business keeps growing we keep adding new therapists constantly now, it seems like, to help meet the demand of these kids. So, I do feel like our caseload keeps growing. I myself am full, as well as my therapists that are in the business as well. We want to catch those kids as young as we can, and intervention as early as we can, to have the best outcome we possibly can,” said Miller.