About Developmental Therapies

As a pediatric speech-language pathologist, Sammy’s mother has the first hand experience in being on both ends of the stick. The following information is a condensation of her struggle in finding the best possible developmental therapy approaches for Sammy, and her long years of working with medically complex children.

0.Making The Most Of Developmental Therapies

First thing first: for many children with complex medical diagnosis, medical stability should be established before developmental therapies can be used effectively. This often means that the child needs to have the best possible physiological state such as good seizure control, sufficient airway/respiratory support, adequate nutritional status, and finally least side-effects possible from medical management such as medications.

When optimal physiological stability is not possible, developmental therapies may take on the role of either prevention, such as positioning and handling so poor postures can be reduced to a minimum, or for maintenance of current functions for quality of life.

1.Understand What Good Developmental Therapies Can Do

Developmental therapies are approaches (stimulations, exercises, experiences, etc.) and training that help your child develop important skills such as feeding, sitting, crawling, walking, or talking. Most people know these as developmental milestones and many know that developmental therapies are needed for children with delays and special needs. However, very few know that without specialized therapies, some of these skills may never develop in children with complex medical diagnosis.

Appropriate and specialized developmental therapies can make the differences in whether a child would be able to enjoy eating by mouth safely or whether a child would have enough trunk control to sit up so they can be upright enough to look around. These are quality of life issues at the center of every child with complex medical issues.

2.Know What To Look For In Your Therapist

Although in most states, NJ included, a developmental therapist needs to be licensed and regulated by the State Board and often also by their professional associations, these are not endorsement of their clinical skills. A good therapist may not be the right therapist for your child. A right therapist is one that can provide your child intervention that moves him or her onto the next developmental level at the time he or she is ready for.

Developmental therapists with specialized treatment skills are often able to determine whether a child is appropriate for their particular approach after a comprehensive evaluation. They may also be able to share information with your existing therapists who are providing traditional therapies on best ways to help your child.

When looking for a specialized approach, always find out what level of training your therapist has and their experience in using it with medically complex children. Sometimes, therapists will gravitate towards medically complex children before they are clinically proficient because this is their “area of interest”. In such case, as a parent, you need to ask what kind and level of support are they getting.

3.Follow Up With Your Homework

All developmental therapists will agree that parental follow up at home is a crucial piece to their child’s progress. The ultimate goal of habilitation is that the child will be able to use or exhibit worked on skills in environment other than the clinical setting.

4.Unconventional, Innovative Therapy Approaches Under Each Major Developmental Therapies

  1. Physical and Occupational Therapy

    CME (Cuevas MEDEK Exercises)

    NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment)



  2. Speech and Feeding/Swallowing Therapy

    Vital Stim

    Beckman Oral Motor

    PROMPT (Prompt for Restructuring Oral Motor Phonemic Targets)

  3. Learning Approaches

    RDI (Relationship Development Intervention)

    Conductive Education

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