Special Needs

Get the Most out of Therapy for Children

Emily Beckloff

Emily has a magical secret… she works for Santa at The International Elf Service. She is also a Registered Osteopath and a Mum to three children, including a wonderful little boy who has Down’s syndrome.

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In times of limited health care budgets, it can be frustrating for parents and children, when therapy sessions are few and far between. Emily has some great tips on getting the most out of therapy for children.

‘I’m so cross.  I had a speech & language session with our local community speech & language therapist and she said she couldn’t see us more than every six weeks!  How on earth is my son going to be able to progress at that rate??  I mean, seriously.  He’s three and can’t talk yet.  Surely they can see he needs some serious intervention? Bloody funding issues but I think they actually just don’t care.  I’m furious about it.’

I’ve heard this all too often – about Speech & Language, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy…any kind of therapy for children.  Yes there may be funding issues, and the frequency of appointments might well be less than the therapist would ideally be recommending, but every six weeks can be enough to make the difference.

Therapy sessions are actually a training session for us parents.  It’s us that should be doing the work with our child, not the therapist.  The therapist’s role is to provide guidance of what we can be doing at home.  Children’s needs are on a minute-by-minute basis and although a 40 minute session once a week is lovely, and a wonderful support for us, it’s really not going speed things up nearly as fast as if we take ownership and change the way we interact, communicate and play with our children on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis.  That’s what’s REALLY going to make the difference and bring about change.

I’m a registered private Osteopath, with a four-year-old boy with Down Syndrome who has speech delays and hypermobility, so I can see it from both sides.  My whole ethos as an Osteopath is based around wanting people to get better as quickly as possible, and to identify things they can do to help themselves, to speed up their recovery and prevent a reoccurrence.

It obviously depends on the condition, but working on things like poor muscle strength, poor balance and new skills (like speech) can take a little while for things to change.  If it was just left up to the therapist to do exercises or speech practise, there wouldn’t be much (if any) change.  The input is just too infrequent.  Surprisingly, to have more frequent sessions might not actually be any more helpful.   The closer the sessions are together the more likely you are to be given the same information and the same suggestions.  With things like speech & language, there may be little to no observable progress over the course of a week.  It may take up to 6 weeks or so to see any measurable progress and be ready to incorporate new ideas.

As busy as we all are, it realistically takes a little while to find one’s mojo with implementing what therapists have advised, at a therapeutic level.  Some times days go by when I’ve done very little or nothing and other days I have my game on and the whole day is a fun therapy session.  Every time we begin to incorporate something new into our day it takes a while for it to become habit.

In an ideal world we could request a session with a therapist whenever we feel we’re ready for more advice, or if the child doesn’t seem to be responding as we were expecting.  Again it will depend where you are and the resources available to you but I’ve always found that if I can send a quick email to the therapist, they always come back to me as soon as they can.

I know many people are still waiting for their initial appointment, which is very hard, but rather than entering the system feeling frustrated, try and get as much out of the sessions as you can with the view of maximising what you can do for your child.  It’s you and the rest of your family that are in the best position to support your child, so get armed with knowledge and go for it!

 

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