OT Pediatric DevelopmentBryan Gee, PhD, OTD, OTR/L, BCP, is Director of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program and Continuing Education/Online Learning Community Support at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP). Recently, Gee submitted two research proposals that were accepted to be featured at this year’s American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Conference and Expo that was scheduled to occur in March of this year. Despite the cancellation of the conference due to COVID-19, Gee’s research remains significant for members of the occupational therapy (OT) profession and the community as a whole.

The infant/maternal reciprocity research is a foundational portion of my broader research agenda as an occupational therapy educator and researcher,” said Gee. His two research proposals, titled Profiles of Sensory Processing of Infants & Toddlers in a Medically Underserved Area: A Cohort Study and The Relationship Between Infant Equipment Use & Motor Milestones During the First 18 Months, focus on how infant and maternal interactions affect infant development.

Infant-Maternal Interactions Support Pediatric Developmental Skills

Overall, my research explores areas of development that occur in conjunction with infant-maternal social and emotional interactions—specifically looking at how the interactions create meaningful opportunities to support the attainment of developmental skills in the areas of fine and visual motor, play participation, sensory processing, and co-occupation,” said Gee.

The research is describing how these developmental domains/tasks ‘look’ among small groups of infants and their caregivers. Previous research looked at a typical group of 16 infants and their caregivers; the current study is exploring this among 138 typical infant-caregiver pairs.”

Gee explained that an infant’s or toddler’s full time “occupation” is to play and to develop foundational skills, such as motor skills, language, and cognition. His research highlights the importance of the connection between how caregiver interactions with infants and toddlers support those developmental milestones. And then “we can better guide the caregiver to enable opportunities for healthy development in typical or at-risk infants or toddlers, as well as those who have a developmental diagnosis or delay,” Gee said. 

Supporting Caregivers to Support Pediatric Patients

Gee said, “Using the infant-caregiver interactions is helpful for occupational therapists working in early intervention programs (infants/toddlers 0-3), where they partner with the caregiver to support the therapeutic process to enable healthy developmental habits, routines, and outcomes delivered within their natural environment.”

Gee’s research has a significant impact on early intervention practices by providing helpful tips to caregivers to create lasting results. OT professionals who provide services in an early intervention setting are required to have a primary caregiver present for the development and execution of the intervention plan. With caregivers being around the infant/toddler for the majority of their day, they are likely to have the most impactful opportunities to create and establish therapeutic activities. By having the caregiver involved in the intervention plan, they can encourage their development and participation in meaningful activities throughout the day.

Advancing OT Pediatric Practice and Scholarship

Gee said the research also helps “establish what may be typical related to the amount of and duration of a developmental task, which helps OT professionals to better understand behavioral patterns, such as fine motor, play, sensory processing, and co-occupation among clients at risk for experiencing a developmental delay.” 

Every time there is a plan of care set up and in progress, it is closely related to setting up a clinical or educational study, and in most cases, Gee said, “Occupational therapists, especially doctorally-trained occupational therapists, need to be able to translate their clinical practice into clinical scholarship. My passion is demonstrating why what occupational therapy does is effective, and then mentoring others to execute their own clinical research to answer similar questions.”