By: Katherine O’Neill, MS OTR/L

Family-therapist collaboration plays an important role in the success of pediatric occupational therapy. In order to optimize therapeutic outcomes, collaboration should occur during each stage of the therapy process, including goal-setting, treatment planning, and even implementation of interventions. Parents can support and enhance the targeted treatment provided by therapists in the clinic by implementing a home therapy program in between occupational therapy sessions.

What is a home therapy program?

A home therapy program is an individualized set of activities that is designed to assist a child in meeting his or her specific goals. These activities are prescribed by an occupational therapist and are delivered by parents, or other caregivers, in the child’s natural environment (e.g., home, school, day care, or other community settings). For example, occupational therapists often recommend a specialized home therapy program, frequently referred to as a “sensory diet,” in order to help children with sensory processing difficulties maintain an organized, “just-right” state throughout the day.

What are the benefits of implementing a home therapy program?

Home therapy programs function to maximize and maintain the gains made during the therapy process. When implemented consistently, home therapy programs increase the overall intensity of occupational therapy, thereby promoting neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change itself; this process enables us to learn new skills and/or behaviors.

Parents and therapists – please keep reading for suggestions on how to facilitate a successful home therapy program!

Tips for Parents:

  • Embed home therapy program activities into your family’s daily routine. For example, you can incorporate a brushing protocol into your child’s bath time routine.
  • Ask questions! If you are having difficulty understanding how to implement home therapy program activities or why the home therapy program was prescribed, feel free to schedule a conference with your therapist for clarification – we’re here and happy to help.
  • If you and your child are struggling to complete home therapy program activities on a consistent basis, be sure to let your therapist know; they will help you adjust the program to better fit your family’s schedule and your child’s needs.
  • Make it fun! You can introduce some healthy competition by inviting other family members to join in on home therapy program activities. For example, who can hold a plank pose the longest?

Tips for Therapists:

  • Collaborate with other professionals in order to develop an interdisciplinary home therapy program. Receiving multiple discipline-specific home therapy programs can be overwhelming for families and therefore, difficult to implement.
  • Develop home therapy programs that are flexible and can be adapted based on the child’s changing needs and preferences.
  • Follow up with families regarding the implementation of home therapy programs on a consistent basis. Adherence improves when parents feel supported!
  • Provide detailed instructions that parents and/or caregivers can refer back to for clarification, as needed. For example, include clear images of particular exercises and provide information about the frequency and duration of activities.