At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, our therapists are an integral part of your child's care team. Our therapists are all specifically trained in pediatric therapy. This level of expertise gives our therapists the skills they need to provide excellent care directly to children, in an age-appropriate, kid-friendly way.

We take an individualized, family-centered approach to care. We know the importance of family and encourage families to take an active role in the care of their children. Each plan we create is unique to the child and family. Our therapists will collaborate with your family to develop realistic goals that address your needs — whether it is teaching your child to walk, drink from a cup or recover from an accident or injury. 

We treat children from birth to age 18 in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Our therapists give children the confidence to interact with peers and play with their friends. The result is confident children and adolescents who are motivated and determined to lead promising lives.

How Our Therapists Help

Our physical and occupational therapists evaluate children and adolescents with the following impairments and functional limitations:

  • Any impairments affecting functional activities such as dressing, bathing, sitting, walking or playing with friends or family
  • Decreased ability to move due to pain, weakness, joint stiffness or decreased sensation
  • Decreased ability to move or use arms or legs effectively for function
  • Decreased balance
  • Decreased endurance, arousal or attention
  • Decreased muscle strength or unusual muscle tone (hypotonia or spasticity)
  • Difficulties processing sensory information like sound, light, touch or movement
  • Difficulties processing visual and movement activities
  • Impaired motor function
  • Pain

Interdisciplinary Approach to Care

Our team of expert occupational and physical therapists works with doctors, nurses, speech therapists, child life specialists, case managers, nutritionists and other members of your child's healthcare team in almost all areas of the hospital. We regularly meet with other direct caregivers to discuss each child's progress. In addition, our therapists work with social workers and case managers to assure that each child completes our care with the appropriate discharge recommendations and equipment they need. Our goal is for children to be successful at home, in school and in the community.

Transition of Care

When your child completes his or her therapy, we provide a plan for the future — including education on how to prevent further problems or injuries. We also suggest community programs to maintain his or her current abilities. Our therapists collaborate with school therapists and teachers to successfully carryover therapy programs to your child's everyday life.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

We provide therapy services in a stimulating environment, which encourages children to have fun while working on activities to further their development and functional abilities. Our pediatric physical and occupational therapy area has a dedicated space for inpatients, allowing children to have physical or occupational therapy in an area away from their hospital beds and giving them a chance to socialize with other children. Our therapy department also includes a small therapeutic pool, which is used on an individualized basis for outpatients.

Our therapists also work with child life specialists at your child's bedside and in the Family Central Playroom. By offering therapy in a variety of settings — with other staff your child trusts—we can provide better, all-encompassing therapy services.

Outpatient physical and occupational therapy takes place in the therapy services department located near the adult hospital.

Educating Parents & Caregivers

Parent and caregiver education and training are essential components in all of our programs. Our therapists work with nurses, parents and other caregivers to ensure that therapy continues from the hospital to the home environment. In some cases and with the parent's consent, therapists will provide digital photographs of your child working in therapy. Parents and caretakers can use these visual reminders to carry over the therapy plans throughout the day maximizing your child's benefit from our services.

Our Therapy Services

Since 1996, our physical therapists have been involved in a research study looking at the motor development of premature infants using a specialized infant motor performance test. This tool is used to identify developmental delays in infants between 34 weeks gestational age (40 weeks is the age of infants born on their due date) to 4 months old. The results of this test can help either reassure parents their infant is showing typical motor development or can be used to support further treatment.

Our expert therapists use standardized developmental testing in order to determine whether your child's development is typical or whether he or she would benefit from further treatment. We can reassure parents that suspect developmental delays in their child's development by comparing their child's development with larger groups of children in same age group. This knowledge allows physicians and families to begin appropriate treatment earlier — when it matters most. We communicate closely with local early intervention programs. Our developmental testing can help determine a child's eligibility into this program.

An occupational therapist focuses on maximizing your child's ability to perform the meaningful tasks of everyday life including washing, dressing, education, play or social interaction. Our occupational therapists will help your child improve hand skills, enhance his or her ability to process sensory information such as sound and light, and adapt writing and feeding utensils for your child.

A physical therapist focuses on maximizing your child's ability to move through his or her environment in order to interact with family and friends. Strengthening muscles, balance training and maximizing functional skills — such as your child's ability to walk — are only a few examples of activities typically addressed by a physical therapist.

Speech-language therapies at Comer Children's are offered through our pediatric otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat).

When your child is in the pediatric intensive care units (PICU) or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it can be frustrating for parents to feel so helpless when their child needs so much care.

Here, our therapists provide suggestions to families about appropriate levels of sensory stimulation and exercises to prevent muscles stiffness or enhance muscle strength. We also provide children with positioning devices for their hands and feet to prevent loss of function. When necessary, we will collaborate with nurses on methods to position your infant or child to enhance his or her recovery. As your child recovers from his or her illness, we gradually work on activities to help your child return to their previous functional level.