By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 30

So you’ve identified some needs for your child, maybe fine motor needs, sensory needs, picky eating, or some other challenging behaviors that you decided or think an OT may be able to help you out with. What now?

I’ll tell you what I USED to recommend, which I don’t anymore. I used to say a blanket statement “Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns and they’ll walk you through it..” and I was placing all of the responsibility on the pediatricians to refer parents when appropriate. What I’ve come to realize after hearing from so many families way too late in the game, and from my own experience is that unfortunately, not all pediatricians truly get the sensory picture. 

What happens is, unless your child “looks” or “acts” Autistic, or some other bigger diagnosis like ADHD, pediatricians love to just do the ol’ “wait and see” approach. Not all of them… but a lot of them.

Getting OT for your 0-3 year old

So what I now recommend is going straight to the OT, and you can do this a few different ways. 

First, if your child is between the ages of 0 and 3, you can go through your local regional center. Just go into google and type in “early intervention regional center _____your county”.

Again, this is specific to the United States. I’m not sure what other countries offer.  It is a program funded by the state so it’s no cost to you.

The only caveat is, it can be kind of hard to “qualify” for services because your child has to score below a certain threshold. 

Private OT Clinics

If your child is older than 3 (even younger than 3, you’re welcome to go to a local private clinic if they get denied services through early intervention), your best bet is going to a private pediatric OT clinic. I recommend starting with a local word of mouth search.

 If you have friends from your child’s school, your neighborhood, a facebook parent’s or moms group, and ask if anyone knows any local OT clinics.

You could also just google, and I would type in any of the following searches: “pediatric OT clinic”, “sensory integration clinic”, “outpatient pediatric OT”.

When you call the clinic directly, you can let them know you’re looking into OT services for your child, state their age and what your main concerns are, for example “I’m looking into getting an OT evaluation for my 4 year old who I think has some sensory sensitivities”. They should be able to walk you through the process from there.

If you plan to seek reimbursement from insurance or want your insurance to cover it, they can tell you what you  need from your pediatrician. Some clinics offer a form to sign for a particular code, or they can call your pediatrician directly, there’s lots of ways around it, but I prefer going this route rather than starting with a pediatrician. Now of course you’d still mention it to your pediatrician to keep them in the loop, but you don’t have to rely on them to make the referral.

School Based OT

When your child is also over 3, your local public school district can provide OT services, but much like early intervention there is a certain threshold they have to meet and there is a limitation to what kinds of services they can provide even through OT. For example, the schools only focus on what behaviors and challenges directly impact a child’s ability to access academic learning.

Which if you ask me, should always include sensory, but not all schools will provide direct OT services for sensory needs only

If your child has fine motor or learning/cognitive challenges, they may have more of a chance getting services through the school. To get started with this, I would recommend talking with the principal at your school or going to the school district and ask what the process is like to request services.

So those are the main ways I recommend getting started with in person OT services for your child. 

If you want to hear examples of the ways that OT has changed the lives of many parents and children, click the audio file above to listen to the episode.

Looking for more guidance on how you can support your child’s sensory needs? Let’s work together. I specialize in helping parents understand how sensory impacts behavior and how you can still use gentle parenting techniques for neurodivergent children.

Transcript/show notes at

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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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