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I believe the reason I choose to be a pediatric OT is mostly due to my experience as a patient when I was nine years old. I remember the brick building in a plaza not too far from my home. I remember the waiting room and the toys and books available at my fingertips. Mostly, I remember seeing the doctor for a visit and him inviting other doctors into the room to study me. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was experiencing symptoms they had likely only read about in their medical books. I was newly diagnosed with Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism. More notably I had a large goiter in throat and bulging eye balls. Sadly, I felt like a circus act and not the fun kind. “Step right up and see the girl with the big eyes.” I remember feeling shame and not having the voice to stop the unwanted stares.

You may be wondering how did this experience lead me to OT. I didn’t receive any therapy as a child. I also didn’t have any developmental delays. What I did develop was empathy for children. Since that day, I have been on medication every day of my life. As a grew older, my symptoms seemed less overt, but I always struggled with weight gain/loss, tremors, fatigue, and sensitivity to temperature especially when the decision was made to switch my condition from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid using radioactive iodine at age 16. I had to learn how to make modifications in my life and manage pain without the understanding of what that meant, without the vocabulary to express those feelings, and without the guidance or foresight of what was to come. 

There is a piece to this story that I have yet to mention. What I really love about working with children is their sense of wonder. How they see magic in the world is how I remember the parts of my childhood that I cherish and seek daily. What brings me the most joy is having the feeling of magic whether that is traveling to a distant land, seeing a Broadway show, or introducing a unique toy to a child. I love the moment when their face lights up with delight and pride when they accomplish something new. They can see a bean bag and pretend it is an airplane. My job is to acknowledge that the airplane exists and show them how they can use their whole body to land it.

When I think about purpose and why I am a pediatric OT, I believe it comes down to wanting to help children to have an enjoyable childhood. To help them feel normal and pain-free. To educate them on how they can strengthen and be in tune with their bodies. To provide them freedom to enhance their skills so they may express how they feel. And to help them to be healthy and happy with themselves and live a successful life. I want them to have the voice, strength, and the courage that I didn’t always have. I want them to feel magical. 

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Founder of Playapy


Q: How do I know if my child needs therapy?

A: Typically a doctor will refer a child to a therapist to determine the need for therapeutic services.  There are three disciplines common to serving the needs of children: Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech Therapy.  Most states require a doctor’s prescription for a therapist to conduct an evaluation.  Parents can request this prescription from a doctor if they have particular concerns.  The therapist will conduct assessments and observe your child’s skills in their respective areas of expertise and determine if therapy is recommended.

Q: Can these tips prevent the need for therapy?

A: Tips provided by a therapist are not meant to replace therapy but to help foster development in the home or school environment.  Suggestions made on this website can help to maintain or improve skills of children of all skill levels.  However, if your child is in need of therapy, you should continue to seek the professional advice and care of a therapist.  If you do not have access to healthcare services for various reasons, we hope our suggestions can help you in your efforts to provide your child with guidance and assistance.  We hope to give you the confidence to continue your efforts to understand your child’s developmental process and growth.

Q: What is occupational therapy?

A: OT is a holistic health care profession that aims to promote health by enabling individuals to perform meaningful and purposeful activities across the lifespan.  The occupations of children include play, learning, and self-care.  OT’s typically evaluate and provide treatment in the areas of cognition, fine motor, functional mobility, social interaction, visual perception, coordination, sensory processing, and activities of daily living. To learn more about occupational therapy, please review the terminology section in the RESOURCES section of this website.

Q: How is Playapy consultation different from play therapy?

A: A Playapy consultation currently focuses on areas addressed in occupational therapy including the play, learning, and self-care skills of a child. A medical model is used to advise and educate parents on ways to promote and enhance developmental skills. Playapy consultations do not directly address psychological issues related to emotional or physical trauma. Play therapy is a different field of practice from what Playapy offers. Play therapy does address these other concerns and uses play to foster and promote communication with a child to better understand his or her emotional and psychological needs through counseling or psychotherapy.

Q: How can parents work around the fact that nowadays children prefer to play with touchscreens rather than books?

A: The most important thing a parent can do is lead by example and set limits. Children learn to prefer touchscreens because that is what they see their parents using. Of course, you may not be able to put your touchscreen down for work, but you can make an effort to spend time with them where you are limiting the use of this technology. Show your child that you read books and magazines, and they will be more interested. Unfortunately it is not clear to a child what you are doing on your phone, so you also need to communicate when you are using it that you have a specific purpose. We need to foster the imagination and play skills of children to get them to step away from the screens.

Q: What are the developmental, psychological and emotional effects of reduced playtime on children?

A: Children learn through play. It is the activity of choice to develop skills needed for learning and self-care. Through play children develop strength, endurance, problem solving skills, social skills, and more. The reduction in playtime limits the exposure to the activities and opportunities a child participates in to learn and develop skills. Through play child have different sensory experiences that help to create the synapses in the brain that contribute to its development. It should be noted that the structures of the brain involved in learning, memory, motor control, and every other brain function have been established by age 5. If the child has play limited prior to this age, they may not reach their full potential.

Research on rats shows that play can improve memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex. Research on children shows that unstructured play, not the same as physical education, helps children to pay more attention to academic tasks. In addition, play is also demonstrated to be beneficial into adulthood as it fosters creativity, reduces stress, and contributes to overall wellbeing.

Q: What are some of the reasons as to why young children are lacking critical developmental skills and how does Playapy therapy address this situation?

A: Several factors including the increase in use of technology, the reduction of playtime, and the increase in academic pressure on young children are all a part of the problem that now exists. This is effecting a new group of children that otherwise should develop appropriately. There is also the consideration that we as a society are more aware of developmental concerns and available therapies; hence, families are seeking support more than in previous decades. Playapy seeks to address this situation as a resource for parent education and pediatric therapy services. The parent education opportunities through social media, video blogging, and community classes and workshops are what separate Playapy from most therapy companies.

Q: I have questions about the PALS Handwriting Program. Where can I learn more?

A: There is a separate page of several in depth questions and answers for the PALS Handwriting Program. Scroll down the menu for PALS Handwriting to learn more.