I’m a veteran therapy mom—as in, I’ve worked with dozens of them in the course of Max’s ten years of life. (And isn’t it amazing that I only look 22?!) Max had a stroke at birth. Doctors told my husband and me to get him as much therapy as possible, and we obliged—we wanted to give Max every possible chance at beating the odds. He started getting physical therapy when he was a month old; occupational therapy followed the next month, and by the time he was two he had speech therapy.
Every single one of the therapists in Max’s life have helped him in some way—from teaching him how to alternate his legs for walking to helping him grasp crayons (tip: wrap some Model Magic around it). I’m eternally grateful to them, both for enabling Max and showing me how to enable him. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about best ways to work together:
1. Keep a therapy notebook
This is critical if your child sees several therapists. They may do their own thing but ultimately, they need to work as a team and make sure their efforts complement each other. Keep a big spiral-bound notebook handy, with a pen attached, and ask the therapists to jot down notes on what they’re doing. This will also come in super-handy for you—especially if you’re a working mom, like I am.
2. Sit in on sessions
Trust me, I know how tempting it is to jump out of the therapy sessions and run around the house like a headless chicken doing errands. But ultimately, seeing what the therapist is doing with your child and how your child responds is key to getting as much as possible from her ideas and strategies. Try your best to be at as many sessions as possible. I miss afternoon therapies Max gets because I’m at work, but over the years I've worked with therapists to schedule ones in evening hours and on weekends that I can go to.
3. Be honest about your limits
Therapists mean well when they give you lots of exercises to do with your child, but sometimes, it’s impossible to keep up with them and still have time to do stuff like eat, sleep and breathe. Be open with the therapists if you feel overwhelmed, or need more ideas for exercises that can be an organic part of your day (say, bicycling a tot’s legs as you change her diaper).
4. Ask for recommendations
Therapists are fountains of knowledge about all sorts of gear. Over the years, I’ve asked for suggestions for everything from a thingie that would better help Max grasp the phone (we got this Universal Hand Clip) to toy suggestions for the holidays, and they’ve always happily obliged.
5. Don’t expect the world
To be sure, you may want the world: for your child to fully walk and talk, freely use his hands, have amazing cognition. But therapists aren’t miracle workers, and placing too-high demands or expectations on them can create tension. Trust that the therapists are doing their best to enable your child, and let them do their thing.
About the Author
Ellen Seidman is an editor, a writer, and a mom of two. She blogs daily at Love That Max, a blog about raising a child with special needs. She has won several awards for her blog and other web projects. Learn more about Ellen here.