9 Do’s and Don’ts of Preparing for Your Child’s In-Home OT Evaluation

Do’s and Don’ts for Your Child’s In-Home OT Evaluation. GettyImages

If you have an appointment for an occupational therapist (OT) to come to your home and evaluate your baby or toddler, you may be feeling overwhelmed about how to prepare. Don’t worry, that’s normal! I have some tips for you based on my experience conducting in-home occupational therapy evaluations, having my own child assessed in-home by an OT during infancy, and helping others prepare for their child’s in-home evaluation.

1. Do jot down the main concerns you have about your child’s development (or behavior) prior to the therapist coming over for the evaluation. Be as specific as possible, include examples, and note how long these developmental concerns have been present. You can list your concerns on paper or type them down on your smartphone or other device. Jotting down your primary concerns prior to the evaluation can be extremely helpful because it’s almost guaranteed you will forget something or feel frazzled once a professional is in your home assessing your child! It’s your baby – your precious babe who means everything to you – who will be scrutinized, and you may end up stumbling over your words or misspeaking while trying to communicate exactly what you’re concerned about. So make a list ahead of time to try and avoid that!

2. Don’t get defensive. It can be easy to become defensive when asked questions about your little one, especially when discussing problems (or potential problems) related to his or her development.

So if the professional setting up the evaluation (whether it’s a case manager or the actual therapist) starts asking you questions that strike a nerve in your protective soul, just remember this is part of the process to help your child and nobody is trying to judge you. 

3. Do be specific about any sensory concerns you may have.

If you think your child has sensory challenges but aren’t quite sure, check out this information about what sensory challenges look like in everyday life, then read these tips for how to communicate your sensory concerns to developmental professionals.

4. Don’t worry about making your house perfectly clean. Occupational therapists who travel home to home know they are about to enter “real life” when they knock on your door. They don’t expect everything to be spick and span. If mopping the floor, vacuuming, and scrubbing the toilet has been on your to-do list anyway, then by all means, go ahead and mop, vacuum, and scrub! But if your child is in need of an early intervention OT evaluation, chances are life is already stressful enough for you. Please don’t complicate your day by frantically stuffing toys into bins and emptying the sink of dirty dishes. The therapist is coming to assess your child, not your homemaking skills!

5. Do find out if the therapist will need tabletop space available for part of the assessment. Though oftentimes an early intervention evaluation primarily involves engaging with your child on the floor, there are times where the OT may want to perform some formal evaluation at tabletop.

This means he or she may need your child to sit at a table (or in their high chair) in order to complete tasks such as stacking blocks, stringing beads, or scribbling with a marker.

6. Don’t schedule the appointment at a time of day you know is usually bad for you or your child. Though sometimes there isn’t much choice when it comes to scheduling these things, try your best to avoid scheduling the evaluation during your child’s naptime or another time you know he or she (or you!) is usually a little cranky or uncooperative. The therapist’s goal is to gain an accurate picture of your child’s current skill level (including their play skills), and it can be hard to do that when we are battling nap time or daily grumpy time. 

7. Do ask about how long the therapist expects the evaluation to last. Some professionals may need an hour, while some may need 90 minutes or more. The duration of an in-home evaluation can depend on a variety of factors such as how old your child is, what the concerns are, what type of assessment the therapist is administering, how eagerly your child participates, how many questions you or the therapist have, and more. However, it’s good for you to at least have a ballpark number in your head going into it so you can prepare your mind and your schedule accordingly.                                                                                                            

8. Don’t blame yourself. It’s so easy for parents to tell themselves that their child’s developmental challenges are their fault -- that they didn’t read to them enough, or they didn’t give them enough attention, or they didn’t have the “perfect” toys for them, or they babied them too much, or they’re just not a child development expert. I’ve heard all of these statements from parents. It’s easy for spouses to blame each other for their child’s developmental challenges as well. Don’t play the blame game! Keep your focus on the next steps as you learn more about what it is that’s impacting your child’s development and how you can best support his or her growth and development moving forward.

9. Do start a folder to help you stay organized with all the paperwork involved. You may receive a good amount of paperwork and handouts as part of the assessment (and potentially therapy) process. It’s good to get organized from the get-go! This may look different for different parents, but some ideas include a folder, file, binder, or specific drawer in your home. Just be sure to remember where you put everything so you don’t end up with different piles around your house or, even worse, in the trash!

If you have significant concerns about your child’s development and you’re not already in touch with the appropriate contact (depending on your child’s age and situation), I’d recommend reading these guidelines on what to do and who to contact if your child is showing a developmental delay. If you are in the United States and your child is under age three, you can contact your state’s early intervention agency, which can be found by clicking here.  

Continue Reading