Pediatric Occupational Therapist Dr. Hiral Khatri has a passion for helping children of all ages and abilities thrive and become independent in their daily school, social and home lives. This passion, along with her extensive education and experience, led her to open OT Park in Morgan Hill.
Khatri, the CEO and Founder of OT Park, hopes to open for on-site therapy at the business’ Digital Drive location in April. The space—which resembles an indoor jungle gym and playground—has been fully furnished and equipped to serve patients for months, and Khatri is looking forward to serving children and families who are expected to travel from throughout the Bay Area and Central Coast to seek occupational therapy treatment.
OT Park caters to children with autism and special needs, who are challenged in their sensory processing and sensory modulation abilities, Khatri explained during a recent interview at OT Park. Khatri and her husband, Munjal Shah, called in specialist carpenters from New Jersey and Oregon to install swing sets, tunnels, trampolines, bouncy balls, monkey bars and other equipment designed to help children practice their muscle development and coordination.
Many of Khatri’s young clients struggle with daily activities like handwriting, drawing and playing. These struggles can be largely overcome with individualized therapy regimens, Khatri said.
“We use activities that are age appropriate, developmentally correct and help them do what they want to do,” Khatri said. “We help kids thrive in their daily activities such as brushing teeth or writing, playing or art skills. We give them emotional support—all that is needed for regular and next-to-normal development.”
Khatri and her staff work closely with patients’ parents to help determine what their child’s goals are and establish a course of treatment to reach those goals.
Khatri and Shah, who have a 4-year-old daughter, have lived in Morgan Hill for about five years. Having worked in the field of pediatric occupational therapy in India and the Bay Area for 13 years, Khatri has seen a broad and growing need for such services in the region.
Since the pandemic started, Khatri has been conducting tele-health sessions with her clients, and has found that families will travel from San Francisco and southern California for therapy at OT Park. Morgan Hill is particularly well positioned geographically for families to travel from throughout Silicon Valley, as well as from Hollister, Salinas, Monterey and other areas where occupational therapy services are scarce.
“Through our market research, we found that there are so many families on wait lists for clinics in the valley,” Khatri said. “The demand is more, and the schools in Morgan Hill and Hollister need this as well.”
In fact, there is already a waiting list for OT Park when it opens, Khatri said.
Shah, who has been Khatri’s biggest supporter in her effort to open OT Park, said, “There is no place like this in the Bay Area. You cannot find a place that meets all the sensory needs of special needs kids. For them, it’s a fun place to play but we are actually treating them. She is so passionate about treating these special needs kids and making them independent—that is what drove this ambition.”
Another advantage of the Morgan Hill location is the city’s imminent opening of the Magical Bridge playground at the Community Park. The park is designed for people of all ages with special needs, and Khatri plans to incorporate visits to Magical Bridge for her clients when it is open.
Khatri grew up in India, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy. During her college studies, she visited a clinic where she observed a mentor working with a child and was inspired by “tiny victories” the young patient made through various exercises.
Khatri moved to the U.S. in 2013, where she continued her education. She received her doctorate of occupational therapy from the University of St. Augustine, and earned a number of certifications in occupational therapy.
She is also active as an expert and advisor in her field. She teaches occupational therapy at San Jose State University, and serves in leadership roles with the Occupational Therapy Association of California and the Asian Pacific Heritage Occupational Therapy Association. She is also an ambassador for the American Occupational Therapy Association’s political action committee.
After working as a therapist at a private practice in San Jose for several years, Khatri was let go shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic began to take its toll on the healthcare industry by limiting office visits and direct contact with patients.
Over the last two years, Khatri has been treating families remotely. This includes a home-based “OT Park box” service in which families are provided a monthly kit with an activity guide and various equipment and toys that are designed for children of different ages to reach progressive sensory and motor skills milestones.
Khatri stressed that “occupational therapy is different for everybody,” and she enjoys the variety of being able to tailor individual treatment plans based on a patient’s specific needs, interests and progress.
“I am designing activities to help them thrive every day,” Khatri said. “We have to keep thinking about the various treatment procedures and bring the best results every time.”
For more information about OT Park, visit otpark.com.