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Occupational Therapy

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The Rehabilitation Department at SickKids is home to sections like Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, combining to provide leading, acute paediatric rehabilitation care. The Rehabilitation team’s primary aim is to deliver excellent, equitable and specialized paediatric rehabilitation services through our expert staff.  

Our team includes specialized clinical staff in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy and a dedicated administrative support team. The Occupational TherapistsPhysiotherapists, Rehabilitation Therapy Assistants, Occupational Therapy Practitioners and Physiotherapy Practitioners provide acute rehabilitative care for children and families throughout SickKids with over 35,000 patient care visits occurring yearly, through direct SickKids admission or via specialized outpatient services. Partnering with children and their families, we help kids achieve their best.  

National and international expertise

The Department of Rehabilitation is dedicated to the highest quality of care, innovative educational programs and the advancement of evidence-based practice and clinical research. Many of our staff are nationally and internationally recognized experts in acute rehabilitation and all staff participate in post graduate clinical courses, degrees and/or designations in order to provide high quality, safe rehabilitative care. 

Our practice is guided by the principles of child and family-centred care, professional collaboration and quality care and all team members strive to be sensitive to the diverse needs of others by practicing with integrity, compassion and leadership. 

I am honored to lead this exceptional team and hope that you will find the information on our website helpful. 

- Anne Scofich, Clinical Director, Clinical Services - Child Life, Communication Disorders, Creative Arts Therapy, Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation Vision Statement 

Partnering to help kids achieve their best.  

Rehabilitation Mission 

The Department of Rehabilitation delivers excellent, equitable, specialized acute pediatric rehabilitation services.  

Guiding Principles  

In order to achieve this objective, we will be guided by the following principles:  

  • Child and Family Centred Care  
  • Professional Collaboration  
  • Quality Care  

Core Values  

We strive to be sensitive to the diverse needs of others by practicingwith integrity, compassion, and leadership. 

What we do

Occupational Therapists (OTs) at SickKids work in an acute care environment, where children's multi-system medical problems and functional outcomes are complex. Due to acuity, our OTs work in a fast-paced environment that is constantly changing; they possess highly adaptable decision-making skills.   

The role of the OT in each program is unique and treatments are based on the needs of the child and family. OTs work closely with all members of the inter-professional team both within SickKids and with local health systems. 

The family and child is central to the health care team. OTs partner with children and their families to identify goals and strengths to develop plans of care and optimize outcomes.  

The occupational therapy treatment a child receives will evolve as they progress through the acute phase of treatment at SickKids, attend a rehabilitation centre, transition home and/or receive community occupational therapy services. The OTs collaborate with all members of the SicKKids interprofessional team as well as our local partners to strive for a seamless transition of care to community rehabilitation services. 

Programs and services

Looking to make a referral to Occupational Therapy at SickKids? Learn How to make a referral here.

Expand each section below to read about our programs and services in detail.

  • Neurodevelopment: A developmental assessment will look at a child's muscle tone, movement patterns, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sensory skills (visual, auditory, tactile, vestibular), language, adaptive skills and personal social skills in the context of their diagnosis.  Based on the initial assessment, and in collaboration with the patient/caregiver, the OT will determine the intervention required. This may include education, referral to occupational therapy services in the community and/or treatment during prolonged hospitalizations.  
  • Feeding/SwallowingOTs assess oral feeding and swallowing safety in order to provide recommendations and feeding interventions. A feeding assessment can occur in the hospital room. If medically necessary, a feeding study can be conducted in conjunction with a radiologist to do a video x-ray of a child’s swallowing. 
  • Cognition (or thinking skills)Thinking skills including memory, attention, awareness, sensation, perception, executive function, etc. These are the building blocks for school performance and develop over our lifetime. Some children have changes in their thinking skills while in hospital due to illness or injury. OTs can assess and provide intervention and recommendations for cognition. 
  • Upper extremity/Fine motor skillsOTs assess upper extremity function and fine motor skills. OTs can provide intervention or recommendations for adaptive techniques to optimize upper extremity skills performance 
  • Splint fabricationOTs fabricate splints to support and position joints safely to promote healing recovery and function. 
  • Burn intervention and Scar management: OTs are skilled in the assessment of scars and able to provide scar management strategies.  
  • Equipment/Assistive devicesOT may assess and coordinate proper assistive devices to optimize independence with meaningful activities of daily living.  
  • Discharge from hospitalIf a child is transitioning home, OT will help make referrals to local community therapists (e.g. infant and child development programs, children’s treatment centres, in home therapy or school health). In collaboration with the physiotherapist, OTs provide recommendations for safety at home based on an assessment in hospital. 

The primary focus of Occupational Therapy at SickKids is the assessment and treatment of acute events resulting in changes of function. Outpatient occupational therapy at SickKids plays a vital role in supporting and informing medical and surgical management, optimizing surgical outcomes, and providing essential education to improve safety throughout the acute phase of care. 

There may be cases in which OT is involved with your child’s care on an outpatient basis at SickKids: 

  1. OT Consultation in clinics – OTs may be available for consultation though some specialized clinics. You may inquire about an OT consult with your health care team (Doctor, Nurse Practitioner) if your child is not receiving similar services within the communityConsultation may include assessment of needs, consultation, and initiation of treatment and/or referrals to local providers. 
  2. OT Assessment and Treatment in Rehabilitation Department – OTs at SickKids provide limited outpatient assessment-based feeding/swallowing, neurocognitive and upper extremity services to infants and children/youth with new or acute deterioration in function within these areas AND who are not adequately followed in the communityIn the next section, please see additional outpatient referral guidelines for further details.  

Occupational Therapists at SickKids provide outpatient assessment-based feeding services to infants and children who meet any of the following criteria:  

  • Experiencing a new or acute deterioration in their feeding and/or swallowing function 
  • Have a medical condition/diagnosis associated with a feeding and/or swallowing concern 
  • Have a history highly suggestive of aspiration 
  • Are not adequately followed in the community 

We do not see infants and children who: 

  • Are already linked, or can be linked, with appropriate community pediatric feeding supports;  
  • Are developmentally normal with difficulty transitioning to texture/solids; 
  • Exhibit picky eating/have limited repertoire of food taken/sensory concerns. 

Infants and children who do not clearly fall into these categories will be reviewed by our referral intake committee and a decision will be communicated to the referring provider in a timely manner. 

Occupational Therapists at SickKids provide outpatient assessment and treatment services for children who have experienced a new or acute change in arm or hand function who meet the following criteria: 

  • New functional change in upper extremity due to illness, injury, surgical intervention, medical condition 
  • Limitations in daily life participation related to upper extremity impairment 
  • Assessment to inform surgical decision making or medical treatment  
  • Post-operative rehabilitation (post-acute inpatient rehab, hand therapy, post-surgical intervention, upper extremity management) 
  • Requires education, support, consultation and link to community therapy resources pertaining to upper extremity impairment 

OT at SickKids will not see:  

  • Patients already linked or who can be linked with appropriate community rehabilitation supports (ieChildrens Treatment Centre, LHIN OT, School OT) 
  • Have fine motor difficulties unrelated to their medical condition  

Children who do not clearly fall into these categories will be reviewed by our referral intake committee and a decision will be communicated to the referring provider in a timely manner.  

Virtual OT visits may be provided for consultation, education, support, resources, on-going treatment and monitoring as appropriate and at the discretion of the accepting healthcare professional.

Occupational Therapists at SickKids provide outpatient assessment-based neurocognitive services for children and adolescents who have experienced a new or acute deterioration in their cognitive functioning as a result of a newly acquired brain injury (trauma, stroke, neurosurgery, etc.) or secondary to a newly diagnosed or progression of neurologically based disease. Children should meet the following criteria:  

  • New change in functional performance within self-care, leisure or productivity (school/work) as a result of change in cognitive function 
  • Assessment to inform medical/surgical decision making or medical treatment 
  • Requires education, support, consultation and links to community therapy resources 

OT at SickKids will not see children: 

  • For concussion-based services 
  • Who are already linked with appropriate community rehabilitation supports  

Children who do not clearly fall into these categories will be reviewed by our referral intake committee and a decision will be communicated to the referring provider in a timely manner.   

Virtual OT visits may be provided for consultation, education, support, resources, on-going treatment and monitoring as appropriate and at the discretion of the accepting healthcare professional.

Important information for patients and visitors

  • When your child has an outpatient visit with an OT you should bring your child’s health card, and, if applicable: feeding equipment (i.e. bottle, specialized nipples, utensils, etc.) and food/drink (ie. formula/preferred foods) for a feeding assessment; splints/burn garments and/or other OT related equipment/devices 
  • Your initial assessment may take approximately 1 hour. After that your therapist will be able to tell you how long any possible follow-up appointments will take.  
  • Your therapist will make every effort to see your child in a timely manner.  If you are late for your child’s scheduled appointment, it may be difficult to accommodate your child without sacrificing the therapeutic benefit of the appointment and/or negatively impacting scheduled appointments for others. Please be sure to arrive on-time.
  • If you or your child is sick, please call your therapist directly or call the Rehabilitation Department at 416-813-2153 to reschedule. 

Follow instructions provided by your OT if they have recommended thickening your child’s liquids or altering the texture of their food due to a feeding or swallowing issue. For more information, please see the following link. 

In addition, many Divisions organize family education days which parents, siblings and patients can attend to meet other children with a similar condition. This allows families to ask questions of their teams of inter-professional clinical experts and share experiences with other families. Information regarding family education days can be obtained from your therapist, program or clinic. 

Who we are

Occupational Therapists (OTs) at SickKids are skilled healthcare professionals who help children with a wide range of medical conditions, so they can gain independence in their daily activities. OTs work together with kids and their families towards developing the cognitive, motor, visual perceptual, and socioemotional skills they need to optimize function within the environments in which they live and play.   

OTs at SickKids use a combination of formal and informal assessments to determine a child’s level of functioning in order to: establish family-centred goals, create an individualized treatment plan, ensure safe discharge home from hospital, and/or to determine need for ongoing community supports.   

All Occupational Therapists at SickKids are registered with the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario and work in collaboration with most Specialty Clinics within the Hospital. 

Education and training opportunities

University of Toronto

Occupational Therapy students: The Rehabilitation Department is committed to supporting the education and clinical mentorship of OT students. The Rehabilitation Department has an agreement with the University of Toronto and provides clinical internships for its students. Occupational therapists at SickKids hold status appointments at the University of Torontoparticipating in lecturing, clinical workshops, examination processes, and the development of the paediatric unit at the university.  

For more details, visit the University of Toronto’s Occupational Therapy portal. 

Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Rehabilitation Therapy Assistant (RTA) students: Rehabilitation therapy assistant placements are also provided for students from Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning.  

For more details, visit Humber’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness

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Contact Occupational Therapy at SickKids

Phone: 416-813-2153 

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