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Essential Equipment for Setting Up a Pediatric Occupational Therapy Practice

The thought of starting a pediatric occupational therapy practice can be both exciting as well as overwhelming at the same time.  Pediatric occupational therapy can be very costly and therefore requires careful planning and investment in the right equipment to ensure that you create an environment that is optimal for carrying out therapy, which is client centered and research driven. I have compiled a list of items to consider when setting up your pediatric occupational therapy practice.

Assessment Tools
Invest in a comprehensive set of assessment tools tailored for your area of pediatric occupational therapy. This may include standardized tests and evaluation forms. No therapy process can begin without a thorough assessment into child’s areas of strength as well as concern.


Safety mats
No therapy space can begin without ensuring the safety of the children. There are a variety of mats with different sizes and depths, all to ensure that safety of the kids. When looking at your therapy space, ensure that the whole space is covered with safety mats, so that children can really play and have fun without concern for safety. Remember, safety mats aren’t only for the floor, your space may require wall padding or other necessary safety measures.


Ball pond
A ball pond has many different functions and benefits. It not only creates a safe and containing space but also provides opportunity to facilitate gross motor development. Whether it be climbing in and out of the ball pond, moving around in the ball pond or jumping into the ball pond, this piece of equipment is very useful and caters to children of varying ages. Therapists trained in Ayres Sensory Integration may also find this piece of equipment key to their therapy practice as it provides opportunity for vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile input (meeting the elements of the fidelity measure).


Blocks
Having a set of blocks of different shapes and sizes, provides endless activities for children and target areas such a sensory processing, bilateral integration, motor planning, gross motor development and positioning. Kids really love these and they come in a huge variety of colours to match your practice setup. When choosing colours for your blocks, mats and ball pond it is always fun to bring in a number of colours however be mindful of the fact that lots of colours may be overwhelming for children.  If this therapeutic space it is going to be used to encourage calmness and regulation, you might want to limit the number of colours that you choose.


Therapy Ball
Therapy balls come in a number of different sizes. Try to have a variety of different sized balls in your practice to develop balance, postural control, core stability and much more.


Tunnel
Kids love tunnels. They are also great from a therapeutic perspective as they provide deep pressure touch and proprioceptive input. A tunnel also promotes crawling and the development of spatial relations and body awareness. Try have a variety of tunnels of different sizes, length and fabrics.


Swings
For the therapists who are trained in Ayres’ Sensory Integration, a variety of swings is a must for all practices. My personal favourites are the spandex hammocks, platform swing, linear glider and trapeze bar. These swings are simple yet the number of ways that children can use, be in or on these swings are endless. They also cater for children of all ages.
•   Therapy Toys and Games:
Stock your practice with a variety of age-appropriate toys and games that cater to different developmental needs. These tools make therapy sessions engaging and fun while facilitating skill-building activities.
•   Fine Motor Skill Development Tools:
Acquire tools that focus on fine motor skill development such as pegboards, tweezers, beads, scissors and theraputty. These items help children improve hand-eye coordination, finger strength, and precision.
•    Therapist’s favourites:
For my last suggestion and for some fun, I asked 5 therapists the questionyou’re your practice was burning down, what is the one piece of equipment you would take out with you and why” these were the answers:
Therapist one “Definitely the platform swing. Super versatile for therapy and durable”
Therapist two “Besides myself 😜 I would grab an exercise ball. It is so versatile you can do almost anything with it and address so many core areas. It is also one of the most familiar items to a parent. “
Therapist three “A swing, as you can use it in lots of different ways to target many different skills”Therapist four “It would absolutely have to be spandex clouds, so versatile and so many ways to use them to target different sensory systems and skills.”
Therapist five “I would grab my spandex layers as they are very diverse. They can be used to treat proprioception, vestibular, postural control, balance, impulsivity, following instructions etc. You can also attach them in different ways other than just hanging for example making it into a long rope for the child to pull themselves along while in prone, on a scooter board.”


Jennifer Kirk
Occupational Therapist
Bcs Occupational Therapy
Msc Sensory Integration

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