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The Clinical Center's Rehabilitation Medicine Department offers many services to pediatric patients and their families. Staff members help children overcome problems with movement, self-care, speaking, swallowing, or learning. The department's highly trained staff helps families cope with their child's disability or disease. Staff members help children to preserve, regain, and prevent a decline in function as well as learn new age-appropriate skills.

This information is prepared specifically for patients taking part in clinical research at the NIH Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. It may not apply to individuals who are patients elsewhere. If you have questions about the information presented here, talk to a member of your health care team.

Of Special Interest to Parents

Rehabilitation Services for Your Child

Medical Section

Every patient referred to the Rehabilitation Services Department for consultation receives a complete evaluation by a physiatrist—a doctor specially trained in rehabilitation medicine. This evaluation includes a careful review of the child's medications to see whether they affect the child's strength, stamina, and activity.

If your child is referred to the Medical Section, the physiatrist will make a treatment plan specifically for your child. Common recommendations include programs to improve strength, stamina, balance, and the use of adaptive equipment. The Medical Section often works directly with your child's schools, local therapists, and doctors to ensure ongoing treatment. Your referring doctor is always kept informed of your child's progress.

Physical Therapy Section

Physical therapists work with infants and children to help them keep and maintain and improve their ability to do daily activities. They make treatment programs tailored to each child's problems and needs. Treatments may include family education to help the child move without damaging joints; exercises to improve the child's coordination, balance, and strength; and activities that improve movement and help the child work with devices such as braces or splints.

Special equipment such as casts, splints, braces, and prostheses can be made or modified for your child. If your child needs to use walking aids, he or she will be taught how to use them.

Speech/Language Pathology Section

This section works with children who have problems with communicating, eating, or swallowing. Treatment focuses on helping children communicate at their best, with a special focus on communicating basic needs and ideas.

Occupational Therapy Section

The Occupational Therapy Section helps children who are having trouble moving and using their hands. Occupational therapists can work closely with your child to develop or improve function appropriate for your child's age.

Recreation Therapy Section

Recreation therapy services have an important role in a hospitalized child's well-being. Play also strengthens family ties and lessens the impact of medical procedures.

Your Recreation Therapist

Your child's treatment team assigns a recreation therapist to every child who is taking part in a clinical trial at the NIH. The recreation therapist often contacts families on the first day of arrival, or soon thereafter.

What Recreation Therapists Do

Recreation therapists help children and their families cope with the emotional concerns related to medical treatments. They provide ways for children to express emotions, play, and feel as normal as possible in the hospital. For example, recreation therapists use medical play to teach children about the procedures they will be undergoing in ways they can understand. Medical play can help to reduce fear and anxiety about procedures. Recreation therapists are also available to be with your child during medical procedures to provide distraction from the experience.

Recreation therapy services include art and music therapists, a storyteller, a clown, guinea pigs, and visits by dogs. Recreational activities available to you and your child include exercise, relaxation training, library services, and crafts (which can be done either on the patient care unit or in a craft room).

Recreation therapy offers a range of special events from table, video, or computer games to picnics, bingo, cultural entertainment, movie trips, and other trips to points of interest in the Washington, D.C., area. When your child is able to take an outing in the community, the recreation therapist can help make plans, give you maps, and provide tickets for nearby movie theaters and the Tourmobile that circles the District of Columbia monuments.

How to Reach Your Recreation Therapist

During the week, recreation therapists spend most of their time on patient care units. On Saturdays they are either in the14th floor playroom or rotating through the units. During working hours, you can call the number posted in your child's room or ask the unit ward clerk to page your recreation therapist.

The staff of the Rehabilitation Medicine Department looks forward to working with you and your child.

For more in-depth information about us, visit our website.

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This page last updated on 06/28/2017

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