How to talk with your child's therapist
A team of professionals may be just what your child needs, but is your behavior adding an extra challenge to progress? From communication to disappearing acts, therapists share their do's and don'ts.
Parenting a child with special needs can be challenging enough; here are ways to make things easier on yourself!
Learning to parent can be frightening and frustrating when your child is developing typically. Add some development delays to the mix, and you can feel downright clueless.
Whether your child has a slight delay or severe disabilities, effective communication is a must. Below, therapists share some “Do’s and Don’ts” for parents who may feel frustrated or certain a change is needed.
Do embrace the discomfort
“Confrontation is never easy,” says Julie Kouzel, speech language pathologist. “Therapists are usually already feeling like they aren't doing enough, and can take things personally.” If a therapist doesn’t respond professionally to the conversation, it may be time to seek a supervisor.
Do talk to the therapist like a friend
“You’re dealing with someone who is human,” says Jennifer Plummer, speech language pathologist and owner, Speech Discovery for Kids, Inc. “[We’re all] full of mistakes, emotion and good intentions — and a whole lot of education.”
Do be honest
Nikki Degner, MPT, says it’s helpful when families are up front and help her understand concerns about outside influences like finances or work schedules.
Do keep track of what works
Share which suggestions have worked since your last session and which ones haven’t, says Lennie Latham, ITFS, BA. “So much of what [therapists] do is trial and error — based on knowledge and experience — because not every strategy works with every child.”
Do ask questions
Plummer advises: “You may not fully understand the plan [but the therapist] may want your child to gain certain skills before moving on to other skills.” Therapists understand your child can flourish if everyone agrees on treatment and works together.
Don't wait to speak up
Kouzel reminds parents that while you may have mulled things over for weeks, your concerns may be brand new and unexpected for your child’s therapist. “Give her time to process what you are saying before expecting a solution,” she says.
Don't just bail on the therapist
When a family disappears with no explanation, “there's no closure,” says Kouzel, and you’ve eliminated the opportunity to try a different approach with someone your child already trusts.
Don't burn bridges
”Don’t complain to another parent, teacher or therapist without speaking to that therapist first,” recommends Christine Milano, MA, CRC, LPC. Confrontation can be emotional, but you have a better shot at a productive conversation if you find some peace before approaching the therapist.
Don't point fingers
Parents may blame a therapist for your child's lack of progress. But “no therapist, even the best ones, will be able to form a relationship with every child,” Latham says. “If it isn't working, feel free to say it isn't working, but don't make it personal.”