Parents often ask how they can help their child make optimal progress while in therapy. Attending therapy once or multiple times a week is a large commitment, both financially and time-wise. Therefore, it’s important to make the most of your child’s time in therapy and to ensure you optimize your resources to help your child progress as much as possible.
5 Things parents can do to make the most of pediatric therapy sessions:
- Communicate with your child’s therapist. If you don’t know what your child is working on in therapy, then there is a problem. Your therapist should continually inform you what specific goals your child is working on and why. Your therapist should also give you specific ways to address these goals at home. If you feel unsatisfied with the communication between you and your therapist, talk to him or her about it. Troubleshoot ideas to open the lines of communication, whether it’s talking at the end of treatment sessions, planning periodic phone meetings, or receiving e-mail updates.
- Check-in about the big picture. In addition to weekly communication with your child’s therapist, schedule time every so often for a more thorough “check-in” meeting about your child’s progress and to collaborate on a plan moving forward. This might be a face-to-face meeting or a phone conference. These are best done without the distraction of your child or other siblings present. Discuss your child’s progress, ask your questions, and get an idea of where things are going from here. Is your child making progress? If not, why? Should therapy be increased to twice a week? Will your child benefit from additional support from another therapeutic discipline?
- Practice, practice, practice! As a therapist, one of the main predictors of a child’s progress is whether or not treatment goals are practiced at home. Therapies such as speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy each aim to alter specific patterns in development, whether neurologically, behaviorally, or motorically. This cannot be accomplished once a week, but must be addressed multiple times throughout each week. I often compare therapy to working out at a gym: once a week will not likely make any difference. However, 3-4 times a week will bring results. Ask your child’s therapist for specific ways you can practice your child’s therapy goals at home.
- Integrate your child’s goals into your daily life. One of the most challenging stages of therapy is helping your child generalize her new skills into daily life. For example, your child might have recently learned to pronounce “s” at therapy, but does she use her new “s” when talking with siblings at home? Ask your therapist for fun, motivating, meaningful and effective ways to incorporate your child’s treatment goals into her everyday life.
- Open the lines of communication between educators and health care providers. Your child’s therapist only sees your child a few hours a week, which is just a snap-shot of your child’s overall functioning. It’s also important for your therapist to see the “big picture” of your child, including her functioning at school, home, and in other therapies. Connect your therapist with your child’s teachers, pediatrician, and other therapists. This will ensure that everyone working with your child can collaborate using a team-approach to give your child the best quality of care.
Every family is unique, with their own specific needs, scheduling limitations, and communication styles. You can help your child’s therapist better serve your family by communicating your needs to him or her. Rest assured that your child’s therapist is passionate about your child’s progress and is focused on helping her to succeed. By working together with your child’s therapist, you can help your child take giant steps toward achieving her goals.