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A typical chain of events leading up to enrollment in a therapy program is as follows:

  1. A parent begins to have concerns about the behaviors or skill development of his/her child.
  2. After some time, the concern evolves into an actual “problem” that in some way affects the child’s academic performance, social behavior, and/or daily routine.
  3. The child is then taken to a physician, who recommends therapy.

Therapy can be Confusing
Often, parents are unsure of specifically why their child needs therapy, or what therapy will involve.  Pediatric therapy is rarely straightforward, particularly when addressing non-medical issues.

Success in Therapy
Several factors contribute to a child’s success in therapy, and it is important to remember that therapy alone is not a magic cure for any child.  However, therapy IS an indispensable form of treatment, especially when parents take an active role in the process.  Here are the factors that I’ve observed to have the greatest effect on the degree of success achieved in occupational, speech, physical, and other pediatric therapies:

  • Only the best Finding a quality therapist is obviously important.  Having worked alongside therapists from all disciplines in all settings, I’ve seen amazing therapists who achieve consistent results and know how to best motivate a child, and others who I wish had chosen another career – perhaps something that does not require human interaction.

Unfortunately, finding the perfect therapist is not an easy task.  Years of experience does not necessarily correlate with quality.  I’ve met seasoned therapists who are simply too burned out to be treating kids, and brand new therapists who are super energetic and motivated to go above and beyond for their patients.

One way to find a great therapist is to ask other parents for referrals whenever possible.  If this is not an option, you can (and must) maintain open communication with your child’s therapist and actively monitor your child’s progress.  A good therapist will appreciate your desire to be an active participant, which leads to the next, and most important factor.

  • Carry-over is EVERYTHING – I often find that parents seem disconnected from their child’s therapy.  I can only assume that this may be due to a lack of time and/or lack of understanding about their child’s needs or the purpose of therapy (this is particularly true in the case of occupational therapy, as its purpose is not clearly defined in its title).  Even the best therapist can only do so much without parent/family involvement.

Ask your therapist for regular updates on your child’s progress, and find out what you can do to support the process.  Inquire about activities that you can duplicate at home, and compare your results with the child’s performance during therapy.  If you aren’t getting the same results, find out what the therapist may be doing differently and ask how you might be able to use similar strategies at home.

It is important to mention that school-based therapy is exclusively geared toward behavior and skill development within the academic environment, and does not address behaviors seen only at home.  However, motor skill development and some sensory strategies can certainly be reproduced at home and will most definitely improve your child’s rate of success.  In ALL cases, children whose parents take an active role in therapy achieve the most significant results.

  • It takes a village  –  It’s true.  Your child will make the most progress if everyone who spends a lot of time with him or her are on the same page.  Strategies that work in therapy should be used whenever appropriate, including at school and during aftercare programs, as well as at home.  In addition, if your child is enrolled in multiple therapies, strategies often overlap and can be shared between therapists.

It can seem overwhelming to try to coordinate all of the information received from different professionals working with your child, so it may be helpful to create an email group in which therapists may briefly provide some helpful strategies and easily share it with your child’s educators and other therapists.

  • Be patient –  …with yourself, your child, and your therapist.  Success takes time and effort, and what works for one child may not work for another.  By staying involved and informed, you will ensure that your child receives the greatest benefit from his or her therapy.