Colorado Center for Pediatric Learning and Development

enabling : development : function : achievement and a happy childhood


How do know which type of therapist will best address my child’s needs?

How do know which type of therapist will best address my child’s needs? There are three different types of therapists that work with children with disabilities, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech and language pathologists.

Occupational Therapist- your child would benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation if he has excessive difficulty using his hands compared with his peers, has difficulty manipulating writing or eating utensils, has poor hand-writing, has difficulty with visual perception, has excessive difficulty with self-care skills (eating, dressing, manipulating clothing fasteners, teeth brushing), has impaired oral motor or feeding skills, and/or has sensory processing issues.

Physical Therapist- your child would benefit from a physical therapy evaluation if she does not seem to be achieving her developmental motor milestones (rolling, sitting, crawling, cruising, walking) at the same time her peers are, if she has an orthopedic issue, if she appears excessively clumsy, if she cannot coordinate large motor movements well compared with her peers, if she seems to have poor balance and/or has floppy muscles.

Speech and Language Pathologist- your child would benefit from a speech and language evaluation if he has difficulty producing words clearly, seems to have trouble understanding what is said to him, has difficulty interpreting social cues and/or cannot communicate wants and needs in an age appropriate way.

What is a central auditory processing disorder and how do I know if my child has this?

If you believe your child may have central auditory processing issues, make an appointment with an audiologist experienced with diagnosing central auditory processing dysfunction (CAPD). CAPD is a dysfunction whereby a child’s hearing is good but she has difficulty interpreting auditory information correctly. The following are the main areas children with CAPD have difficulty with:

Auditory Figure-Ground- The ability to discriminate between relevant and non-relevant noises/sounds and to filter out the non-relevant (unimportant) noise and attend to the important auditory information.

Auditory Memory- The ability to remember spoken information such as directions, lists or study materials. Auditory Discrimination- The ability to hear the difference between sounds or words that sound similar, for example D vs. B sounds, CH vs. SH sounds.

Auditory Attention- The ability to focus and attend to an activity or speaker for an age appropriate amount of time.

My child's teacher has recently told me he may have sensory problems. What does this mean and what should I do about it?

The first thing you should do is schedule a meeting with the teacher to discuss her observations in depth and what she means by “sensory problems.” Once you understand better what the teacher means, talk to your child’s pediatrician about these issues and ask for a referral for an occupational therapy evaluation. An occupational therapist trained in evaluating and treating children with sensory integration/processing difficulties should evaluate your child and, after a comprehensive assessment, let you know which, if any, of your child’s sensory systems are not functioning appropriately.

How do I get a referral for a physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy evaluation?

Your child’s pediatrician must write a referral for physical, occupational and speech therapy evaluations. When writing the referral, it is a good idea to ask the doctor to recommend both an evaluation and treatment as indicated. Therefore, you will not need to obtain an additional referral for treatment.