5 Ways to Get More from your Child’s Therapists

Therapist

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.

Ellen SeidmanAbout 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.

Guest Post

Written on 2013/08/27 by:

Guest Post

Latest Ebook
Back To School

Transitioning a Child with Special Needs Back to School

The phrase “back to school” inspires both joy and trepidation. When a student has special needs, those emotions are magnified and the checklists are multiplied. There’s nothing simple about t...
  • wiredONdevelopment

    This list a great list Ellen – Another thing some parents do is take photos or videos of some of the exercises. It’s so easy with smartphones and tablets these days. Point 3 is really important – I went into this a little more from a therapists perspective on my blog just recently http://bit.ly/1bSbP01 – I’d love to know what you think about it.

  • Juli Agacinski Wiseman

    Great article. Especially #3. I feel like since my daughter was born, the therapists & teachers meant well, but didn’t understand that we needed to build this into the organic part of our day. I would get overwhelmed and feel like a “loser mom” if I wasn’t able to get the exercises or projects done with my daughter. And now that she is in school, it is even more difficult to add more therapy exercises into her day with homework, etc.
    I also like the simple idea of having a therapy notebook. My daughter is currently in an intensive program for 4 days and my husband drops her off and I pick her up from therapy. She meets with a speech therapist first and then the OT second, so I am always talking to the OT and missing out on what she did with the ST. I try to understand what she is telling me, but I don’t always “get it.” So the therapy notebook is a great way for the therapists to convey what they have been working on. Thanks for the advice!

  • Brielle Stull

    I’ve been an active participant in therapy sessions for my 17yo daughter (with moderate cerebral palsy) since she was four months old. Never have I thought of having a therapy notebook! Excellent advice! Maybe separate ones for each discipline would help???

  • Denie Sidney

    Ditto! I have used all of these tips except #1 and I am a 2 yr therapy veteran with my daughter. The therapy notebook hasn’t been needed yet, but as my daughter prepares for pre-k, I think that tool may come in handy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Suzie Danley Weigate Box

    Yes I have am going on two years of therapy with my son & we have amazing people through Alta Regions & SCOI ❤ we’ve been through all this they are Great & I ask lots of questions & everything is documented ! We are making Great strides & milestones ❤
    My son Hunter Danley he will be 2 August 31

  • Kirsten

    As a special ed teacher and a mom of two kids with special needs, I find your list very helpful. Professionally we have used a therapy notebook with kids and it is as helpful to the therapists/teachers as it is to the families!