Your baby is home from the hospital, everyday life is returning to a new “normal,” and you’re seeing positive changes in your child each day. However, you may still have concerns about their growth and development as a NICU baby. Every child’s development is dynamic and different problems may arise at any time. Upon further screening, your child may be a candidate for pediatric therapy.
Developmental screenings: are they necessary?
The need for universal and periodic developmental screenings of young children is critical for early detection of developmental problems. These screenings test a child’s developmental skills and reliably determine who should be referred for further assessment. After talking with your pediatrician regarding any concerns you may both have and going over the screening results, your doctor may determine pediatric therapy is necessary to ensure your child continues to thrive and meet developmental milestones appropriate for their chronological age.
Determining insurance eligibility
Once you and your doctor decide therapy is needed for your child, getting the insurance ball rolling is the next step in the process. Most health insurance plans provide benefits for therapy. The length of therapy coverage may depend on your child’s age, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Detailed communication and collaboration with your pediatrician may result in more services and therapy visits for your child. If you stumble upon roadblocks, consider having the pediatrician write a letter of medical necessity to your insurance provider. Make sure to ask for a list of in-network preferred providers to start with on your journey to choosing a therapist. However, you may be able to get in-network reimbursement for out-of-network therapists. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Choosing a provider
Finding a therapist that is a good match for your child’s needs is critical. Talk with friends, family, and other therapists if possible for suggestions. Doug Levine, owner of Growing Places Therapy, gives great advice for choosing your child’s therapist.
Considering cost of pediatric therapy
Pediatric therapy is an investment, and it is acceptable to consider costs, ask questions, and voice your concerns with any therapy practice you may be considering. Therapy can be a long-term relationship, and it is imperative for you to be comfortable with the costs and maintain open communication with the practice regarding your financial needs. Read Navigating Claims, EOB’s, and Insurance Companies for more information during this process.
The first therapy appointment
The first pediatric therapy appointment will typically be longer than the following appointments. Before arriving, take some time to gather any documents or notes related to your child’s developmental history, milestones, and concerns, so you are prepared to discuss your child’s needs with the therapist.
The therapist will take the time to evaluate and assess your child, and may wish to observe them doing activities such as playing with toys, sitting, standing, moving, and making transitions between activities. You are usually able to stay with your child for the first therapy appointment, but make sure to clarify this when booking your appointment, so you and your child are prepared.
During this time, notice how the therapy team interacts with your child. Are they connecting with them, engaging, and helping your child feel safe and comfortable? Not every therapist will be a good fit for your child’s needs or personality so take this time to observe the people with which you will work in close cooperation. Above all else, trust your gut and decide to work with a therapy practice that you feel 100% comfortable with and do not be afraid to “shop around.” After the first appointment, your child may work better without you in the room, so it is important for the child and therapist to have a good rapport to optimize learning.
Treatment plan and communication
The therapist may review the results of their evaluation with you at the first appointment, or they may need time to review further and contact you to discuss their recommended treatment plan later. It is important to communicate openly and regularly with your child’s therapy team. Make sure you agree on the goals they set for your child, how they will achieve these targets, and the suggested timeline for the course of therapy. Periodic reviews and assessments of your child’s progress are conducted by the therapist and results should be shared with you. Ask questions and make sure you are comfortable with the goals and proposed plan at each review. Ask the therapy team what you can do at home to duplicate the therapy process and ensure your child is receiving maximum benefit for their needs.
Advocating for your child
Ultimately, you are the voice for your child. Ask questions, remain in touch with your child’s progress, and always trust your intuition that you know your child best.
For more information on developmental milestones, check out Meeting Our Children’s Developmental Needs – A Step at a Time.