Occupational therapy (OT) treatment focuses on helping people with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. OT can help kids with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
Some people may think that occupational therapy is only for adults; kids, after all, do not have occupations. But a child’s main job is playing and learning, and occupational therapists can evaluate kids’ skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), in addition to dealing with an someone’s physical well-being, OT practitioners address psychological, social, and environmental factors that can affect functioning in different ways. This approach makes OT a vital part of health care for children in need.
Kids Who Might Need Occupational Therapy
According to the AOTA, kids with these medical problems might benefit from OT:
- birth injuries or birth defects
- sensory processing disorders
- traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
- learning problems
- autism/pervasive developmental disorders
- juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- mental health or behavioral problems
- broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
- developmental delays
- post-surgical conditions
- spina bifida
- traumatic amputations
- severe hand injuries
- multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses
- help kids work on fine motor skills so they can grasp and release toys and develop good handwriting skills
- address hand-eye coordination to improve kids’ play and school skills (hitting a target, batting a ball, copying from a blackboard, etc.)
- help kids with severe developmental delays learn basic tasks (such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves)
- help kids with behavioral disorders maintain positive behaviors in all environments (e.g., instead of hitting others or acting out, using positive ways to deal with anger, such as writing about feelings or participating in a physical activity)
- teach kids with physical disabilities the coordination skills needed to feed themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting
- evaluate a child’s need for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids
- work with kids who have sensory and attentional issues to improve focus and social skills
How Physical Therapy and OT Differ
Although both physical and occupational therapy help improve kids’ quality of life, there are differences. Physical therapy (PT) deals with pain, strength, joint range of motion, endurance, and gross motor functioning, whereas OT addresses fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, sensory-processing deficits, and adaptive skills.
Occupational Therapy Staff
Jennifer Sexton, OTR/L
After earning my degree as an Occupational Therapist from Utica College of Syracuse University, I worked as both a clinician and clinical supervisor working with adults and children with neuromotor limitations throughout the Mid-Atlantic. After returning home to NY, I began working specifically in pediatrics and discovered Whispering Pines Preschool in 2004 while enrolling my daughter in their Toddler Playgroup. Almost 20 years later, I serve as the Occupational Therapy Supervisor and enjoy working with infants and children, with special focus on neuromotor, sensory, and play development. Outside of Whispering Pines, I love to tackle home improvement projects, host dinner parties, and take adventure-seeking travel and road trips with my family.
Carolyn Clynes, MS, OTR/L
Carolyn Clynes is an occupational therapist who provides both center-based OT services at the Delanson site, and Early Intervention services in the community. She enjoys working with children because every day is different, fun, and challenging. She received her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Sage Graduate School. In her free time, Carolyn enjoys reading, baking, and being outside.
Kara Cunningham, COTA/L
Schoharie Central School
After graduating from my certified occupational therapy assistant program, I entered the world of pediatric therapy to explore my passion for working with young children with special needs. My position at Whispering Pines allows me to focus on working with school aged children as well as toddlers in classrooms on our programs sites. Having the ability to connect with children while helping them develop, grow, and succeed has been such a rewarding experience in my career. Outside of my therapy sessions I enjoy staying active as well as spending time with friends and family!
Erin Freeman, MS, OTR/L
Amsterdam, McNab Elementary School
Erin Freeman is an Occupational Therapist who received her master’s degree from Utica College of Syracuse University in 2010. Erin has a passion for working with children and has worked in a wide variety of pediatric settings including outpatient, schools, home based and aquatics. She believes in a child directed play-based approach for her sessions to increase engagement and success. In her free time, Erin enjoys spending time with her children, making crafts, reading, and camping.
Laura Massone, MS, OTR/L
Clara Bacon School
Laura Massonne began working at Whispering Pines Preschool in 2018. She knew she wanted to work with children at a young age and began her studies of infant psychology and development in high school. During this time, Laura was also a member of the Best Buddies International Club, which is an all-inclusive organization dedicated to breaking down social barriers for children with disabilities. After high school, Laura attended The Sage Colleges, where she received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. She became a pediatric Occupational Therapist at Whispering Pines Preschool to pursue her dream career of working with babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children to help develop their skills needed for adulthood. When Laura isn’t working, she can be found enjoying the outdoors, walking, biking, kayaking and hiking with her Golden Retrievers named Nova and Leo.
Elizabeth Pawlowski, MS, OTR/L
Clara Bacon School, McNab Elementary
I have been an occupational therapist with Whispering Pines Preschool, at both the Amsterdam and Gloversville locations since 2018. I’ve been an occupational therapy professional since 2013, working with individuals across the lifespan until recently deciding to focus exclusively on the pediatric population. I graduated from Maria College in 2013 as an occupational therapy assistant, and then continued my education at Utica College, graduating with a master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2018. I’ve worked in the health and human service field since 2004 and have enjoyed being a part of others’ lives along the way.
Beth Taylor, MS, OTR/L
Cobleskill, Schoharie Central School
Cherie Tissiere, MS, OTR/L
Clara Bacon School
After receiving my Master’s Degree in Occupational therapy, I began my career in pediatric therapy at Whispering Pines in 2017 to combine my desire to help others with my love of working with children. I am passionate about creating positive relationships with children through play. When I’m not at work you can find me baking various desserts and decorating cakes!
Lindsey Smith/Kretzschmar, MS, OTR/L
Capital District, Home-based OT
I received my Bachelor’s Degree in both Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Northeastern University in 2005. I then began working at Whispering Pines Preschool, and discovered my love for Occupational Therapy, helping babies and young children develop the daily skills needed to grow and achieve their milestones. I went on to attend Russell Sage College and graduated in 2011 with my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. I’ve since then grown to love working in Early Intervention, delivering therapy to children and working with families in their natural environment. Outside of therapy sessions, I enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family.
Morgan Sylvester, MS, OTR/L
Clara Bacon School
After earning my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in 2018, I started working in pediatrics in an educational setting. Previously, I grew up and lived in Endicott, NY and then moved to the Capital Region in the summer of 2019. I have a passion for working with young children to develop their fine motor skills while working in a collaborative and supportive approach with families, teachers, support staff, etc. I recently started at Whispering Pines in April 2022. In this short amount of time, I have enjoyed working with the students, families, teachers and staff. Being an occupational therapist at Whispering Pines allows me to focus on a child’s individual needs and use a sensory play-based approach to support their fine motor development. Outside of my occupational therapy sessions, I enjoy being outside, cycling on the bike path, or hosting family and friends.