PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE — Over the past few years, officials at The Aroostook Medical Center have noticed a growing need for occupational therapists in the city and surrounding areas to focus on children diagnosed with conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and apraxia.

Now, the hospital has expanded its pediatric offerings to address that need.

Officials at the county’s largest healthcare organization said Thursday that the move would build upon a growing list of pediatric and back-to-school services that they already provide, including routine child visits, immunizations and school physicals.

With the expansion of services, TAMC pediatricians will be able to refer children — school age or younger — to occupational therapy services at the A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital on Academy Street in Presque Isle.

Occupational therapists help patients learn to do day to day living activities as independently as possible, sometimes by prescribing adaptive devices that assist with such activities.

Outpatient pediatric occupational services will be available for children of all ages and will focus on earlier intervention with children exhibiting deficits in areas such as fine motor skills, upper body and core strength and coordination, handwriting skills, and self-care skills, according to TAMC.

Kassie Lovely, an occupational therapist at the Presque Isle hospital, said that a shortage of specialists has been unable to meet the growing need for outpatient pediatric occupational therapy services in the area.

“Research supports that the sooner a child with developmental delays receives intervention, the more likely they are to develop the skills they need to be successful at home, at school and in their communities,” said Lovely.

She added that therapists focus on working with children to develop skills that ultimately will help them participate in their everyday occupations.

The hospital currently provides pediatric occupational therapy services to SAD 1 in Presque Isle and SAD 32 in Ashland by offering services within their schools, according to hospital officials.

Lovely said that therapists are able to enter the schools and work with the children to be successful within their own programs.

Outpatient occupational therapy services are capable of serving children outside the school setting and are also able to accept children under the age of five who are ineligible for school-based occupational therapy services.

For more information on the new pediatric occupational therapy services offered at TAMC or to make an appointment, contact TAMC Rehab and Therapy Services at (207) 768-4735.