Over the last decade or so, Pediatric Therapy Intensive programs have become more common, and more children are benefiting from them every day.
With this growth, we have seen an increase in the types and locations of these phenomenal programs.
Have you considered having your child attend one?
Are you overwhelmed by the choices, feel stuck, or are having difficulty trying to find the “best” one?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this article will help you discover the different types of therapy intensives and find which one might be the best fit for your child and family.
There are so many wonderful options!
Why I Love Pediatric Therapy Intensives!
As a pediatric physical therapist, intensive PT allows me to help a child reach goals that are sometimes nearly unattainable with traditional therapy methods and it may also help me reach goals in a period of weeks or a month that would take upwards of a year in traditional therapy.
Intensives help me dig in and do some really tough, but life-changing work with kiddos. And, that’s why I got into this business in the first place!
Oftentimes when I am treating a child in the traditional setting, I get to the end of the therapy hour and think “No!!! We are just getting started!!”
As a therapist, I see a child as a beautiful piece of clay, full of possibility, and I get the honor of being the artist that helps bring out some of those possibilities by molding and shaping the clay to display some of its beauty and function.
The Best Part…
So, one of the most exciting and wonderful parts of treatment is when I am on the verge of seeing this clay start to take shape.
Oftentimes, however, that is happening toward the end of the session, right when I have to stop. I don’t get to restart until the next session, at which time, the preparation work that was needed to initially get the clay to this perfect spot, where things are taking shape, will have to be done again.
So in essence, while I am not totally starting my work over, I am spending precious treatment time getting back to where I left off last time and praying the conditions will be favorable to get there again this time. So often, a child has so much more to give toward that goal that day and yet we have to stop working because we have reached the end of the session.
This is not the case with an intensive. Which is one of the many reasons why I get so excited each time I have the opportunity to treat a child in an intensive session!!
What Is Pediatric Therapy Intensive?
To get started, perhaps it would be helpful to define the term “pediatric therapy intensive”.
Simply put, a pediatric therapy intensive is a specialized therapy program that provides therapy at a much higher frequency and duration with a specific goal in mind for a specified period of time with the intention of helping children reach their functional goals at more accelerated rates than in traditional therapy.
One of the biggest differences between traditional therapy and therapy intensive is the amount of time the child is spending in therapy. For example, a child might typically receive one or two hour-long therapy sessions per week in traditional therapy. In an intensive, a child may spend up to 4 hours a day in an intensive 4-5 days in a row for 2-4 weeks.
This is a personal decision, based on your child’s needs, your family’s needs, your location, and the investment for treatment.
How To Choose The Best Therapy Intensive Program
A variety of great therapy intensive programs exist. At times, the decision may seem overwhelming!
Finding the best one for your child and family is a matter of considering a few things:
- Your child’s therapy goals
- Your child’s personality
- Will your intensive experience include vacation time?
- Finding an intensive program with therapists with specific specialized types of training
With that said, here are some things to consider when choosing the best intensive therapy program for your child:
1. Consider the main goal of your child’s intensive care and find a practitioner who specializes in that area.
While you will likely see carryover in all areas of development after an intensive, you will want to base this decision on your child’s goal and the objective of treatment, as this will be the area you see the most significant growth.
Work with a practitioner who specializes in the area that addresses your goal.
Gross Motor Goal
So if it’s a gross motor goal, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, stair climbing, or jumping, then an intensive where your child is being treated by a physical therapist is going to be your best bet.
lntensive Physical Therapy helps children learn new movements and correct patterns through strengthening and functional skills practice. It helps build balance, strength, coordination, body awareness, and motor planning, all resulting in improved functional skills development. Many types of options are available for PT intensives.
The youngest babies and children benefit greatly from the extra handling allowed by a program whose primary focus is handling without extra equipment. In these intensives, highly skilled physical therapists can facilitate muscle activation and efficient movement patterns through handling. A common goal for this type of intensive is increasing independence with functional movement.
Maybe you have an older child who has received a lot of traditional therapy over his or her lifetime, then an intensive program that offers things such as the TheraSuit and Universal Exercise Unit might be just the thing your child needs to move to the next level. Both types of children can benefit from either of these programs, but one may be slightly more beneficial than the other for your child. Or, if you have the opportunity to do several in a year, maybe try each and have the best of both worlds.
Fine Motor Goal
If the area that is most important to you surrounds a fine motor goal, such as your child using their hands to pick up a toy, or a sensory processing goal, then you will want your intensive practitioner to be an occupational therapist.
Examples of intensives where the treating practitioner would be an occupational therapist are an intensive focused on constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) or one focused on sensory integration (SI).
If your child has limited use of one arm and hand, an intensive program with an occupational therapist that focuses on constraint-induced movement therapy will expand and strengthen the ability to use that hand and arm.
Or If the goals you are wanting to be addressed are related to sensory processing, then an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration will be the best fit.
Eating and Feeding Goals
Does your child struggle greatly with eating and feeding issues?
Perhaps you and your doctor have a goal of weaning your child from tube feeding to successfully eating on their own.
An intensive at a feeding clinic might be just the ticket to advancing your child’s feeding and swallowing skills. The treating therapist will typically be a speech-language pathologist or in some cases an occupational therapist.
2. Your child’s personality.
Because of the number of hours and intensity of the therapy being provided, participation in a pediatric therapy intensive program can be challenging to your child at times. Keep in mind this great challenge reaps priceless rewards that will have lifelong benefits.
Due to the number of hours and intensity, it is helpful to consider your child’s personality and how it will match best with the programs you’re considering.
For example, if your child is accustomed to working with a lot of equipment and enjoys this, then selecting an intensive program that uses tools such as Therasuit and/or Universal Exercise Unit (UEU) may be a great match.
On the other hand, if your child enjoys and is motivated by being outside exploring the world, then look for an intensive that offers the flexibility to have parts of your intensive happen at parks, the beach, attractions, or both.
Maybe your child will do best in a home-type setting that is more familiar to them, where they can be treated in your home or vacation rental at a more relaxed schedule? Or your child might do best in a clinic setting where they have more structure.
It is important to keep in mind in certain situations, such as when a child is needing intensive feeding therapy, different options and environments may not be available because it is not suited for that particular type of intensive program.
3. What type of specialized training does the therapist have providing the intensive?
While your therapist does not have to have specific specialized training, some parents seek out therapists with certain specialties because either themselves or others have had good success with therapists trained in that specialty.
Some examples of specialized training or specialties may include:
- Total Motion Release (TMR)
- Dynamic Movement Intervention (DMI)
- Cuevas Medek Exercises (CME)
- Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT)
- Sensory Integration (SI)
- Myofascial Release (MFR)
All of these are reputable great techniques and are just a few of the specialized techniques that are out there.
4. Consider making your child’s intensive time, vacation time!
Some intensives naturally lend themselves to a combination of intensive and vacation. These intensive locations invite families to soak in some sunshine, go to the beach, or visit an attraction when the child is not receiving therapy.
In these instances, one parent can attend with the child while the other parent gets some time to relax or the family can take in an attraction or the beach after the intensive is done for the day. Or the whole family can come… parents can swap attending the intensive session with the child and spending time relaxing or maybe even taking a sibling to a special outing for some one-on-one time with them.
Because your family has so much on its plate, an intensive location that allows some relaxation and fun during your trip may be just what your family needs: a spot where your child receives top-notch care and your family gets some much needed time to relax, bond, and have some fun together.
If this is what you are seeking, look for an intensive location in areas based on climate and/or attractions they offer.
Whether you love the sun and the water, the mountains and the snow, or have favorite attractions your family has been dying to visit, consider making your intensive, not just work, but an intensive vacation.
5. Find an intensive location that works best for your child and family.
What if you have an amazing program in your hometown or within an easy drive?
Wow, that would make the travel issue and cost so much more manageable!
Maybe you have a relative or friend who will allow you to stay in their home or vacation home during your intensive? That would save you money while providing you a comfortable spot to stay and maybe even additional support during your child’s time at the intensive.
Do you have a family member or a good friend that you have been wanting to visit that has an intensive therapy program near them?
While you might not be staying at their house, you can still enjoy connecting during your intensive therapy visit.
6. What is your total investment for the intensive?
Several factors go into determining the total investment of your intensive:
- What does the intensive program cost?
- What is the cost to travel to the location of the intensive?
- How much will housing cost?
- How much will food and drinks cost?
- Does health insurance cover some costs?
Intensive therapy programs vary greatly in price. Some have set fees and a predetermined length and number of hours provided in the intensive program. Others vary based on each patient’s individual needs, total therapy time, and other factors.
It is helpful to speak with your insurance company regarding what portion, if any, of the therapy intensive program is covered.
The majority of therapy intensive programs do not bill your insurance company, so you will want to check on this yourself and find your out-of-pocket cost. Many therapy programs provide a superbill for you to give to your insurance company, but you will be responsible for submitting that to the insurance company and following up to get reimbursement.
Thankfully, there are also foundations, such as The Lenn Foundation, that help families fund a portion of the cost of their intensive therapy programs. These are great things to research.
So now that you know all the details, go plan that wonderful intensive that is going to impact your child’s life and your life!
I’m so excited for you and all the possibilities the intensive will open up for your child!
About the Author
Molly is a pediatric physical therapist and owner of Kids PT by the Sea, which is located in sunny Sarasota Florida.
Molly loves the joy of seeing her patients make huge strides in their development. She is a mom and a lover of the sun and the sea.
Her practice specializes in Intensives By The Sea, where she incorporates outings to the beach, playgrounds, parks, and cool destinations that the beautiful Sarasota area has to offer. She has been treating for over 25 years and loves it more every day. Her intensives have an emphasis on handling and Molly specializes in Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT), Total Motion Release (TMR), and Sensory Integration(SI). She loves collaborating with other therapists.
Her patients become like family to her and she is passionate about them getting the best care so that they reach their greatest potential. She loves to empower children and their parents through movement.
Molly also provides traditional home-based physical therapy to families who are local to the greater Sarasota area.
In addition, Molly loves providing tips on development and rehabilitation for children with varying abilities on her Instagram page and Youtube channel. She believes each child has beautiful gifts and loves to help empower them through movement to reach their greatest potential and help them share their gifts with the world. When Molly is not doing her dream job or making social media content, you can find her hanging out with her husband and children, hopefully near the water, soaking in the sunshine, and reading or listening to the Bible.
We want to wrap up by extending our gratitude to thank you for stopping by today!
What’s your experience with intensive pediatric therapy?
Let us know in the comments below. ♥
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