A guide to the perplexed: 6 tips on how to be a great therapy parent.
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Many parents are unsure of how to maneuver through the world of therapy. Since there is no rule-book for parents (as far as we know), listed below are some guidelines that we feel would be helpful for you to maximize the benefits of occupational therapy.
- Keep your therapist in the loop. P.O.T.S. therapists want to collaborate with parents to ensure the best outcome for all children. In order to do so most effectively, therapists benefit from knowing what is happening outside of therapy, in the real world. Information about how your child is coping with expectations at home, school, play dates, after-school activities, birthday parties and homework helps us target underlying skills for intervention, judge the efficacy of our treatment and provide suggestions for home. We also love how to hear about your child’s successes and accomplishments, and how therapy has impacted on his/her life.
- Ask questions. Parents need a solid understanding of what is challenging for their child and how therapy can help. If you received an explanation, but the concept remains elusive, we will happily explain it again, and again.
- Choose your spot. Because the waiting room is a difficult place to conduct a conversation, and it is often counter-productive to have discussion with the child present, feel free to contact the therapist by phone or email ahead of time if there is something the therapist should know before the session starts. Similarly, feel free to ask questions by phone or email after the session. The therapist will get back to you as soon as possible.
- Sitting in on sessions. Often parents are uncertain whether or not to sit in during their child’s treatment sessions. Take your cue from your child. If your child is able to function as if you are not there, it can be very productive for you to observe, take notes, and implement the strategies you learn at home. However, if your child distracted by your presence or changes his/her behavior, it may best if step out of the session. If you are out of the room, you always have the option of observing through the one-way mirror in the door. Do come in for the last 10 minutes of the session so that the therapist can update you on your child’s progress and upgrade your home program.
- Home programs. When your child’s therapist provides you with a home exercise program or sensory diet, please give him/her feedback about what is most easily implemented, and what strategies have been the most effective. Do let him/her know if she is over-loading you, not providing enough suggestions or not targeting key points in your day. Remember, 5-7 minutes of “work” with your child a day is equivalent to one additional therapy session per week. Home programs have to be updated frequently as your child makes progress and priorities change.
- The team approach. Encourage and facilitate communication between the professionals in your child’s life to capitalize on their collective expertise. When professionals meet in person each has the opportunity to gain perspective on the total child, and understand his/her unique place in helping you and the rest of the team and achieve the goals you have identified as priorities for your child. Parents, teachers and therapists will gain a deeper understanding of the child and have the opportunity to incorporate techniques and benefit from the suggestions that each party has to offer. Maintain the channels of communication by allowing professionals to contact one another, if it is appropriate in your situation. Successful venues for meeting have included school, a therapy office and the child’s home. At P.O.T.S, teachers, ABA coordinators, speech therapists, physical therapists, aides and others have joined us for sessions, and those events are often turning points for all of those involved.