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5 Parent-Approved Pointers in Selecting a Pediatric Therapist for your Child

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Navigating the search process for a behavioral, occupational, physical or speech therapist for a child can be a daunting task for any parent or family member. While the pediatrician typically makes the referral to start therapies, not all physicians are familiar enough with therapists to make specific recommendations.


Parents may turn to online forums, social media groups (e.g. Facebook) or word of mouth.

If the child is under the age of 3 and is eligible for early intervention services, a service coordinator can provide a list of therapy agencies but may not always offer information on individual therapists. For a reference on your state’s early intervention program, you can find more information here:



Unfortunately, details on therapists’ credentials are scarce, incomplete or just hard to find. Since these professionals can potentially make a difference in your child’s life, it is advisable to consider some pointers in finding a reliable pediatric therapist.


Education and Certification


Licensed therapists go through rigorous training to obtain their degrees from specialty accredited programs. After graduation, they need to pass a National Board of Certification exam and apply for state licensure. They also have to take part in continuing education to maintain their license.


This highly regulated certification process should give families the confidence that therapists are competent to provide care. Although not required, it is ideal for a parent or family member to check that their child’s therapist has the necessary credentials.


Specialized Skills


In addition to their normal scope of work, some therapists have specialized skills. A good example is feeding therapy. A number of speech language pathologists (SLP) and occupational therapists complete additional education to treat children with a wide range of feeding and swallowing disorders. If your child has a confirmed diagnosis, it is essential to seek a referral to a therapist with the appropriate skill set in order to avoid delays in management.


Another area of interest related to speech therapy is augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Different SLP have varying levels of expertise in using a high-tech app or speech-generating device. You may also inquire about a SLP who is skilled in American sign language (ASL) if your shared goal is to advance your child’s mastery of communicating in ASL.


Insurance Coverage


A very practical consideration in choosing a therapist is knowing whether the provider’s practice accepts your family’s insurance plan, or has a self-pay plan that you can afford. Because understanding health insurance coverage can be confusing, it is best to call your carrier and ask questions on deductibles, co-pays or any annual caps on the amount of allowed outpatient therapy. When our daughter found it difficult to participate in biweekly hour-long PT and OT, we requested a change to weekly 30-minute sessions. We later found out that we quickly met the annual cap our insurance covered (i.e. it counted the number of sessions regardless of length of time spent) resulting in higher co-pays.


If your child has a disability, he or she may be eligible for a Medicaid waiver. The program “waives” traditional rules (e.g. family income) to allow children with disabilities to use Medicaid services and other benefits in their homes and communities rather than in institutions. Specialized therapies qualify as a type of service. As an example, Indiana provides Medicaid waiver programs for children with medical needs requiring skilled nursing care; traumatic brain injuries, and; intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder.


For additional reading on your state’s Medicaid waiver programs, please see:



Availability and Access


Therapy is important but is only one of numerous responsibilities that parents may need to juggle on a regular basis. Therefore, flexible schedules and an accessible location (if therapy is done outside the home) are a must. Telehealth has also become an increasingly popular way to connect therapists and families. Virtual therapy may be particularly useful for children in remote or rural areas, or for those who may have a compromised immune system. Do not hesitate to ask your therapist if he or she is agreeable to conducting therapy sessions virtually.


The Right Fit


Even the most diligent parents will find it difficult to find relevant and factual information online about pediatric therapists. There is currently no database that gathers their practice details in one place. If you were curious to search for verified reviews on an individual therapist’s quality of work, they will also prove to be elusive.


This gap is what Therapprove is seeking to bridge. Therapprove is a web-based app that will allow families to find pediatric therapists in an easy, transparent and trustworthy way. The roster of providers will include licensed behavioral, occupational, physical and speech therapists. Their detailed profiles will highlight education, certifications, specialty-based interests, locations, availability and types of insurance accepted. A key feature showing reviews from peers and parents will help refine the search process. Once you create an account on Therapprove, you will find an intuitive site that helps match your child’s needs to a therapist’s skill set. This level of transparency will make it easier for both parties to find the right fit. And ultimately, Therapprove will allow you to connect in a secure and convenient way.


We at Therapprove wholeheartedly believe that therapy is a right for any child who needs it. Moreover, we are strong advocates for the right of parents and families to have access to honest information, prompt delivery of therapy services and the best outcomes for their children.



References

1. Houtrow A, Murphy N; COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES. Prescribing Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy Services for Children With Disabilities. Pediatrics. 2019;143.

2. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

3. American Occupational Therapy Association

4. American Physical Therapy Association

5. Behavioral Analyst Certification Board

6. Hsu N, Monasterio E, Rolin O. Telehealth in Pediatric Rehabilitation. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2021;32:307-317.


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