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Ilana Danneman
BY Ilana Danneman
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10 Things Your Child’s Therapist May Like You to Know

Children with special needs may be candidates for physical, occupational, or speech therapy services, which means they will be evaluated and treated by a licensed and registered therapist. Choosing a therapist can be both exciting and empowering, but there are a few things you might like to know about physical, occupational, or speech therapists who work with children. Chances are, your child’s therapist would like you to know that …

1. Just because a therapy session looks like play doesn’t mean there’s no work being done.

The clinic looks a lot like a playroom with a variety of props, tools, and toys. This is true, but remember that your therapist is constantly evaluating how your child moves, responds to challenges, and improves. All those toys are a way to keep your child motivated, and they are often used as a distraction. Your child is under constant evaluation; you can ask at any time for an update. Your therapist will be working long after your child leaves — making notes and assessments, and planning for the next session.

2. Your child’s behavior may dictate how well therapy sessions go.

Physical, occupational, and speech therapists are not behaviorists. Although they will do their best to work with your child, if your child has a continual resistance to therapy, you may need to set some boundaries with a reward/consequence system for appropriate behavior or brainstorm with the therapist on ways to regulate behavior.

3. Your child’s sessions require homework on your part.

Ask your therapist what you can be doing at home. This is particularly important if your sessions are only once a week. Think of therapy like piano lessons: if you don’t practice, your therapist will have a harder time moving your child forward. No one gets to Carnegie Hall without a lot of practice!

4. Your therapist is learning every day from your child.

Not only is your child learning from the therapist, but also your therapist is learning from your child. The skills gained from every interaction will not only help with future sessions but with other children as well.

5. We don’t always have the perfect solution, so we try and try again.

Your therapist may try an activity that does not work well at first, but may work well many sessions later. Be patient. Remember that your therapist is pushing your child to limits that are not in your child’s comfort zone. That is a good thing.

6. We are not in this for the money.

Therapists love their work. They love the challenge, the people, and the profession. Letting them know they are appreciated may give them that extra push to do a little extra for your child. And your child’s therapist love new toys! These are motivating not only for your child but the therapist too. That does not mean you need to buy new toys weekly, but even those garage-sale items and old boxes can be highly motivating.

7. We care about you too.

Therapists treat not only children but the entire family. We are sensitive to the fact that some families want to be more involved than others. Of course, the more involved, the faster a child may progress, but if you are more cautious and reserved, your therapist may take note of that and design sessions to meet your needs.

8. It may take several tries to find the right therapist.

If your therapist is not a match, try another one. Keep your child’s interest, well-being, and goals in mind.

9. Sometimes your insurance company ties our hands.

Your insurance company has rules that therapists have to abide by. We are held to ethical and moral standards set out by our respective associations. If you notice anything fishy, speak up and don’t be too shy to ask questions. If your child hits a standstill, therapy may be discontinued for a time period.

10. Be a part of your child’s team.

If it’s best for your child that you are not present during a therapy session, come in at the end. Ask how the session went, and again, what you can do that week at home. Try some new things at home. Get creative. Let us know what works, and maybe share some new discoveries of your own.

Together you and your therapist can get the most out of your child’s therapy sessions. Remember, it’s a team approach that works best for you, the therapist, and most importantly, your child.

Ilana Danneman

Written on January 23, 2017 by:

Ilana Danneman is a product developer for Fun And Function. She has worked with therapists, teachers and parents of special needs children for 20 years and has been a physical therapist herself since 1986 with experience in acute care, spinal cord injury (Shepherd Center), outpatient rehab and pediatrics. Ilana has a passion for writing and teaching kids (and adults) how to move! She can be reached at [email protected]
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