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What is your policy for using health insurance?
We are not a member of any health insurance plan and do not accept assignments of benefits. Payment is due at the time services are provided. If you have insurance, I will provide you with a claim form at the end of each month so that you may seek reimbursement from your health plan, health savings account, or other forms of health payment.
When should I take my child to an Occupational Therapist?
An OT can help if your child is experiencing frustration at school with sensory integration issues, gripping a pencil and completing written work, or balance and coordination in classroom and playground activities.
As an OT, I am trained to use standardized testing, clinical observation, and interviewing skills to assess each child’s “occupation.” A child’s occupation comprises schoolwork, learning social systems, and improving coordination. When your child is having difficulty in any if these areas, he or she may benefit from an OT assessment.
What if my child has an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) from the school district?
An Individual Educational Plan is obtained through the child’s school district by a testing or diagnostic team. The parents of children who have IEPs seek additional services to enhance what the school provides. There is a significant difference between school Occupational Therapy and private Occupational Therapy. School OT is driven by the needs of the child during the school day which are clearly stated in the IEP. Private OT can focus on any parental concern. An OT would address issues including sleeping, dressing, end-of-the-day behaviors, sibling issues, play/peer issues, as well as school concerns such as fine or gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination, seated behavior, and following directions.
How do parents find out about you?
Here is how one parent described her family’s journey, her 6-year-old daughter’s OT progress, and her introduction to me.
“As first time parents my husband and I were clueless about our daughter’s sensory issues. Our Parents as Teachers Educator had raised suspicions, but we chose to ignore her. (No one wants to admit his/her child is not perfect!) It was when our daughter started preschool, and we were able to see how normally functioning children navigate their way through the day, that we saw our daughter was different. When she was four, she did not have a dominant hand causing her to fall behind other children in fine motor skills. She also hated having water anywhere near her face making bath time a nightmare and learning to swim out of the question. She was very particular with her eating habits and getting dressed was frequently a battle that revolved around obsessively positioning the seams of her socks and making sure tags in the clothing were nowhere near her skin! We finally realized our Parents as Teachers Educator was right.
She gave us Kay McCarthy’s name. She promised Kay came highly qualified and was one of the best in the St. Louis area when it comes to working with children and sensory issues. Sure enough after a thorough evaluation of our daughter, Kay confirmed that our daughter was in need of occupational therapy. I have to admit that my husband was a bit skeptical at first because our daughter seemed so young. But Kay reassured him that the earlier the better for beginning therapy. She noted that kindergarten is like first grade now and first grade is like second grade. The last thing parents want is for their child to be behind other children in school. Without intervening and helping our daughter develop a dominate hand and working through her hyper-sensitivity, she would be starting school at a disadvantage from day one. Kay was able to instantly connect with our daughter, and they created a trusting bond that made us as parents feel so comfortable. After a few months of super-fun weekly sessions with Kay and “at home” techniques, our daughter was able to become a confident “lefty” and either overcome or was able to develop a way to deal with her hyper-sensitivity.
Today she is a successful second grader who is able to fully focus on school and enjoy all activities in the classroom. Her fine motor skills are fantastic…she is even an incredible artist! Ironically, swimming is one of her favorite sports. Never once have we second-guessed what Kay has done for our daughter. I have even recommended her to many of my friends. As parents we feel it is our duty to try and give our children every opportunity possible. I knew that our daughter was a terrific kid who just needed some extra help to conquer a few things that were hindering her success in life. I can honestly say that Kay was the key to that happening!”
What are the red flags to watch for as your child develops?
- Does you child have difficulty positioning himself physically for a task? For example, does your child make a lot of body adjustments before and while doing seat work?
- Does your child regularly make physical adjustments to help orient his vision? Does he hold his book a certain way, read with an extended arm or look out of the side of his vision? Does he prefer to watch television from the same spot on the couch and only that location?
- Does he take an age appropriate amount of time to accomplish an activity? For instance, does it take him hours to do a 15-minute assignment, or months to understand a concept that took other children his age a week to grasp?
- Is recess his favorite part of school? This can be a warning sign that the academic side of school is really hard and stressful for him. School should be fun and despite occasional frustrations, your child should be engaged in all areas.
- Have you received a call from your child’s teacher saying he is struggling? Teachers are caring individuals who want children to succeed. When they tell you something is wrong, the situation needs to be addressed. Keep in mind that teachers also generally will understate a problem for fear of parental over-reaction.
What are the issues you address most often?
- Fine motor concerns such as difficulty gripping the pencil, writing, and hand dominance. Hand dominance is confusion over which hand to use for precise tasks such as coloring and eating.
- Gross motor issues, such as the ability to coordinate movements to complete tasks whether in the classroom or during gym and sports.
- Behavioral concerns; for instance, during the preschool years a parent may say his child has difficulties following directions or being part of the group. In the primary grades a parent will describe his child as having social difficulties.
- Sensory integration challenges such as issues with a child’s personal space. Conversely, some children too often encroach upon others’ personal space.
- Issues concerning turning or crossing over the midline of the body, which can affect both reading and seat work.
What tips can you recommend to help my child’s learning at home?
I generally see two different learning styles in children who are having difficulties: those who fidget and those who are easily distracted. Knowing whether your child has one of these learning styles will help you take steps to accommodate it.
Children who are prone to fidgeting may have difficulty sitting still to study. That’s okay. If this sounds like your child, give him a box of small toys or stress balls for his desk to let him satisfy his urge to fidget while studying. Or you may let him stand up and study while bouncing or dribbling a ball if doing so helps him focus his attention. He may also benefit from a desk chair that is on wheels and /or tilts back.
Children who are easily distracted need total silence to study and often benefit from a quiet study area away from any siblings, especially if a sibling needs to bounce a ball while studying!
What can I do as a parent to set my child up for success at school?
- Make sure your child knows how to sequence tasks. Sequencing is a major part of school. For example, the sequence of tasks involved in a normal bedtime ritual (bathing, brushing teeth, pajamas, etc.) should be mastered independently well before first grade.
- Pay attention to your child’s behavioral and social skills, including turn-taking, sitting still, listening, etc. Don’t assume your child has developed these critical skills. Help him.
- Adequate sleep and food are important. Be careful not to battle, since such arguments turn these areas into a power struggle.
- Give him a physical place to study, keeping in mind his learning style. All students need a desk or table with proper lighting and a chair that allows their feet to touch the floor.
- Listen to your child.