Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Therapy and special needs: 11 ways to have a good relationship with your child's therapist

1. When your therapist walks in the door, do not say "So glad you're here! Gotta go get a smoothie/a new pair of shoes/a life, see you in forty five minutes!"

2. Have an annual or biannual Child State of the Union, a conference call between you and all of the therapists—speech, occupational, physical, the whole gang. They'll each work better knowing what the other person is up to. (Note, your shrink does not have to participate in this call.)

3. You know it's true: Therapy takes three people—the therapist, your child and you. Therapy sessions in and of themselves do not produce miracles, but combined with the exercises and tactics you put into use, they can.

4. That said, if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff you've been asked to do with your child, say so. Better that than pretend you have actually done it all. Not that any parent would ever do that. Noooooooooooooo, not us.

5. If you're not convinced that a particular tactic is effective, be open about your concerns—but be open-minded to the way the therapist works, too. Out-of-the-box approaches can go a long way for our kids.

6. Word, it is best not to request things like "Could you show him how to prepare a four-course meal?" and "Do you think you could teach him how to hold a vacuum?"

7. Keep a notebook where your therapist can jot down progress notes, a helpful record for both of you (and a must for working moms). Refrain from drawing little hearts or sad faces next to her notes.

8. Also: Do not kiss her—or him—on the lips when your child does something incredible, although it is OK to squeal and/or do cartwheels.

9. Once in awhile, show the therapists print or online special needs equipment catalogs and see if there is anything they recommend or would like to try. So many of them spend their own money on stuff; it's nice to pitch in, and it's a good way to find cool stuff that'll work for your child.

10. If you capture your child's first steps or first words in a photo or a video, or your child finally grasps a crayon and colors a picture, share it with the therapists. Way to make them proud!

11. Patience! Yes, it's so hard to have because you so want your child to walk, to talk, to use his hands, to do. He will, hopefully, but on his own timeline. No amount of effort, by the therapists or by you, can make a child with disabilities do things sooner than he is ready to. And when he wows you? You should probably still refrain from kissing the therapist on the lips.

OK, parents and therapists, got something to add?


  1. hmm. excellent post! since solicited.. a few other thoughts.

    As your child grows- solicit your therapist's opinion for ideas about how she/he can help your child be more independent at their current age. Great therapists see these opportunities everywhere.. My daughter participates more fully in brushing her teeth- now that she has the supplies brought to her after snack time, at the dinner table ( mirror, tbrush, paste, water..) it is exciting for you and your child to learn new paths to independence.

    Remember, that to kids, play can be therapy, and therapy is play. Trips to the park on sat. morning, the right outside toys, playdough with stuff stuck in it.. You can involve siblings and family-to make it more fun.

    If you find yourself not participating in certain activities you know your kid would enjoy ( going to the mall, the park, playing outside whatever.. ) or staying home too much, you don't have the right tools or equipment for your child. See your PT as soon as possible and describe what things you would like to do with your kid, that you cant do now.

    Schedule in home sessions twice a year, for suggestions with improving daily living/self care/ etc. ( if you use outside therapy)

    Lastly, Remember you are your child's MOM first. Don't try to do too much. I did THIS. Your kids will have lots of therapists but only 1 MOM, dont stress yourself out overdoing the role of therapist in your home and family. Keep it fun .

    Great post, Ellen

  2. Here is a list that therapists need to do:
    #1: Show up on time!
    #2: If you need to cancel give the parents or school advance notice if possible.
    #3: Make up therapy sessions if you missed a session.
    #4: Respect the the parents' opinions. Do not work on goals that the parents or children have no interest in achieving.
    #5: Offer carry over suggestions that can be done throughout the child's regular routine. As a therapist and a parent (now) some home exercise programs I prescribed in the past (before kids) were ridiculous. They have to be simple, effective techniques.
    #6: Do not disregard what parents tell you a child can do. Based on my experience, I have seen children perform tasks with their mothers present but not in the school setting.
    #7: Never and I mean never say that a child can not accomplish something!!!

    Margaret PT

  3. My kid's therapists do a lot of driving and eating on the run. Giving them a gift card for gas, coffee or a fast food place once in a while is always much appreciated, even if it's just $5.

  4. Great Post! Going to share it!
    from a PT

  5. Remember to thank them. Elementary, I know. Also, gifts for things like Mother's Day are nice.

    If your child is in a performance at school and your therapist is local, extend a no-pressure invite, and show them the video later on. (I've found that long-term and daily therapists are most likely candidates for actually showing up).

  6. Therapist?
    Sounds good.
    Wonder if they have them over here in the UK?
    Save me banging my head on the wall.

  7. I love love love this post. Thanks so much for the shout-out. So often the therapist gets a bad rap when things go wrong but gets ignored when things go right. We really appreciate it when our hard work is reflected back to us, just like parents like getting a pat on the back when they're doing really well to. Therapists are people too!

  8. Ellen, thanks for including #9. I don't know about other agencies, but both home health companies I worked for as an OT provided nothing but testing kits we could check out and our laptop for documentation. I spent thousands on materials and supplies!

    I'd like to add a couple of suggestions: Please insist that your other children respect the therapist and her equipment. I had many parents who retreated to another room, but let their other children disrupt our therapy session, rummage through my bag of materials, etc. Also, please turn off the TV so your child can focus and participate to his/her best ability.

  9. Good therapists are invaluable! We're losing M's favorite therapist tomorrow; he's moving. I'm going to try really hard not to cry. He's gone above and beyond what I would have expected and my son has thrived under his assistance. My husband and I can not get over how much progress M has made in the past year. Thanks to all of you therapists who truly care about our kids! :-)

  10. My son gets speech therapy so I can really use the advice you shared here. Thank so much!

  11. I love this. Great list. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Fabulous ideas! Thank you so much for sharing. We are just in the early stages of physio, ocupational and speech therapy so I'm always open to suggestions on how to keep the process as pain free as possible. Do you know where I could find the special needs equipment catalogues?

  13. Great advice added here!

    Some good special needs catalogs: Beyond Play, Talk Tools (for oral therapy), Therapro, Achievement Products, Pocket Full of Therapy, Abilitations, Enabling Devices (though a rip-off). You can also find cool stuff in teacher catalogs.

  14. Fantastic post. I'll add two more:

    1) If your therapist is/has been really exceptional, write a letter to his/her supervisor to tell them. It goes a long way.

    2) It's a little thing- but ask when his/her birthday is. If it falls on a therapy day, give them a card or little cupcake and you and your child can sing Happy Birthday. Just a little sign of appreciation.

  15. Nancy (Developmental Specialist 0-3 program)May 19, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    From a therapist:

    Please don't cringe if I ask to use your bathroom. I can promise you that mine is messier than yours and I have to go so bad after driving and drinking lattes, water or soda that I will not notice!! Your bathroom is REALLY preferable to the ones in the convenience stores that I pass. :)

    One more: Be honest with me if I suggest something that you don't like. YOU are the mommy and what you say goes. I will respect your opinion and come up with a different idea.

    Thanks for posting this! The onus is not only on the parent, it takes two to have a good relationship, but these have been some of the most rewarding relationships I have ever had.

  16. Nancy, I love the one about the bathroom, but if you have QT gas stations in your area, they have the cleanest bathrooms ever. I used to call them "the travelling therapist's friend."


Thanks for sharing!