Posts Tagged ‘RT’

Respiratory Therapists help babies and families breathe easier

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

help-breathingIf your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it can be nerve wracking to see him hooked up to machines, especially if he is having difficulty breathing. This is when a respiratory therapist (RT) can help.

“If a baby needs respiratory support, parents should not be afraid. We give them only what they need” says Ana Anthony, a respiratory therapist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., one of the finest children’s hospitals in the nation.  Ana notes that “Every day may be a different challenge. The babies will go through ups and downs – the body is very complex. Our goal is to have the baby breathe on his own.”

It’s Respiratory Care Week, a time to recognize the respiratory care profession and to raise awareness for improving lung health. According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, “Respiratory therapists provide the hands-on care that helps people recover from a wide range of medical conditions.”

Respiratory therapists work in a variety of settings including a hospital NICU. Babies born too early run the risk of having breathing problems because their lungs may not be fully developed. Other babies might have breathing issues because of an infection or birth defect.

Due to numerous medical breakthroughs, more and more babies who need treatment for breathing problems or disorders benefit from respiratory therapy. In fact, neonatal respiratory therapy has become its own medical sub-specialty. A neonatal-pediatric RT is trained to use complex medical equipment to care for the smallest babies with mild to severe breathing challenges. They visit their patients daily, as often as needed.

You may have been introduced to your baby’s respiratory therapist if you have a baby in the NICU. A respiratory therapist would have evaluated your baby’s breathing soon after your baby arrived. The RT looks to see if your baby is breathing too fast, if the breaths are shallow, or if your baby is struggling to breathe. Then, together with the NICU healthcare team of doctors, nurses and other specialists, the RT develops a care plan to help your baby.

Respiratory therapists are rigorously trained, first earning a college degree and then specific certifications. For example, Ana holds several credentials: a BSRC (bachelor’s degree in respiratory care), RRT-NPS, (registered respiratory therapist with a neonatal pediatrics specialty), AEC (asthma education certification) and ECMO (extra corporeal membrane oxygenation). If these titles sound impressive, it’s because they are! RTs are put through intense education and hands-on training and stay current with breakthroughs or changes in the field by obtaining different certifications.

Ana Anthony speaks for all RTs when she says “We love what we do and strive to have the best outcome possible for all our patients.”


You can learn more about respiratory issues that preemies may face, in our article. Did your baby receive care from a respiratory therapist? Tell us about your experience.

Note:  This post is part of the series “Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.


Help for sensory issues

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

child in ball pitSensory issues can make or break your child’s day, and yours. Last week I discussed the different kinds of sensory problems that many kids experience. Today I offer some treatment options based on parent feedback.

For all of the senses, and especially for tactile sensitivities (touch), Sensory Integration (SI) therapy, a specific kind of therapy used by occupational therapists, has been a popular form of treatment. A recent study showed that a group of autistic children who received SI therapy reduced sensory difficulties in contrast to the children who did not receive SI therapy. It is thought that this form of therapy helps your child’s brain adapt to sensory information so that he can make adjustments in his daily life.

The therapy is lots of fun – it usually involves balls, swings and other game-like movements that engage the senses. It also can include wearing compression clothing to help decrease sensory seeking behavior. Although it has been around for several decades, SI therapy has not been studied until more recently. The American Occupational Therapy Association has information about sensory issues and SI therapy on their website and on this factsheet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds parents there is limited data on the use of sensory based therapies and recommends that parents and pediatricians work together to determine if SI therapy would be appropriate for your child.

Treatment for eating issues

Since good nutrition is important for health and growth, you may find yourself at your wits end to get your child  to eat a balanced diet. For children with aversions to many foods, occupational therapy may help, too. There are various methods that a therapist may use to gradually get your child used to different textures or tastes.

You might also ask your pediatrician if multivitamins or other supplements are recommended, especially if your child’s taste issues has made it so that he does not eat many foods. I used to open vitamin capsules and mix them in my daughter’s food (such as spaghetti sauce) in order to ensure she got her daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals. Smoothies with vitamins or protein powder may also be a good substitute or addition to a meal.

Another option is to speak with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specializes in children’s eating issues; they are trained to know how to create balanced diets and often have experience with children who have sensory issues. Ask your child’s doc or call your local hospital for a referral.

Other treatments

Some parents report that acupuncture as well as other kinds of treatment have helped their child decrease sensitivity.  Again, consulting with your child’s pediatrician is important before deciding on a treatment plan.

Where to get more info

  • The March of Dimes’ online community Share Your Story offers a way for parents to share their experiences and treatments for children experiencing sensory problems. Feel free to log on and join a discussion or ask a question.  Parents sharing ideas and information is key to helping your child overcome obstacles.
  • Email and request additional resources. We can refer you to a list of books written for children (to help them understand why they feel sensitive) as well as books written for adults (to help you understand your child’s sensory issues). We’re happy to help you!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

What are Recreation Services?

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

kids-playing-with-a-ballRecreation Services (also known as Therapeutic Recreation, Rec Therapy or “RT”) involves the use of activities to help treat a variety of challenges (physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure). For children with delays or disabilities, recreation therapy focuses on the non-academic, recreational activities in your child’s life.  The end goal is for your child to become more comfortable when participating in recreational activities with his friends or classmates. The added bonus is usually a boost in self confidence, which we all know can have an enormous impact on your child’s life.

What are examples of recreation services activities?

Rec therapy can focus on his hobbies, sports or games. They can take place in school or at a community center, indoors or outdoors, or at another place appropriate for your child’s needs. Some school systems even have arrangements for children to receive therapy at local park programs.

What else can RT include?

Your child may need to learn how to “warm up” before playing a game, or conversely he may need to learn how to channel his energy as he plays. He may need help in navigating his body in space as he plays a sport, or need assistance in learning how to wind down and relax.  Maybe a sudden injury makes it necessary for him to learn how to adapt to his disabling condition. Special adaptive recreation equipment may be necessary to help your child participate in a particular leisure activity.

The therapist may incorporate all sorts of games, sports, dance, creative movement, music, and artistic endeavors such as crafts and acting into your child’s program.  Since RT is so pleasurable for your child, he may have an easier time participating and making progress. I know this was the case for my daughter. At first, I could not for the life of me understand how it was therapy – she was having such a good time!  She got to pick two classroom “buddies” to go with her, and they played all sorts of games in the gym and on the playground. This encouraged her to use her language with her friends and become more comfortable with the rules of games involving balls, running, etc. Over time, I saw definite improvements and watched her gain confidence and improve her skills.

There are lots of facets to RT. For more information on how RT might be helpful for your child, see this excellent summary.

What should you do if you think your child could benefit from recreation services?

RT is one of the services a child may receive as part of related services. Like all related services, RT services needs to be based on your child’s individual needs as identified by his evaluation results. If your child is already receiving special education services, mention RT at your next IEP team meeting, or request an IEP meeting. Discuss your concerns with the team, and see if an assessment would be helpful. (Remember, parents are members of the team, and your child can be too, once he is old enough to participate.)

After an RT evaluation and discussion of your child’s individual needs, if the IEP team decides that RT should be included in your child’s program, specific goals are then added to your child’s IEP.  The therapist will begin working with your child either individually or in small groups. Remember, as part of related services, parents and educators may be given training on the effects of recreation therapy on your child’s education. This is so important! It ensures that skills are not taught in a vacuum, but are able to be “transferred” from one place to another (the playing field, school, home, etc.).

If your child does not currently have an IEP and you feel he could benefit from RT, see my prior posts on how to have your child evaluated for free if he is under 3 years of age or age 3 or older.

Who provides RT?

As in many other therapeutic fields, recreation therapists are college graduates who receive a credential after taking certain courses and passing tests.  The organization that certifies recreation therapists is NCTRC, the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation.

Bottom Line

Your child’s non-academic or leisure activities are a very important part of his life. But often a child with delays or disabilities struggles with these activities. Isn’t it great to know that RT exists and is a part of the related services that can be provided to children who qualify?  Every little bit of help…helps.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself.