Over the past four years, my kids have done a lot of therapy. I don’t mean psychotherapy; I mean occupational, physical, and speech therapy. And we’ve been offered ABA therapy as well, though we haven’t done that. Lately, we’ve switched some things up in our therapy world, and it got me thinking about therapy as a whole. I’m far from an expert on the topic, given that my kids are just four and eight years old, but for what it’s worth, here are one mom’s thoughts on therapy.
- Therapy overload is very possible. I think when we enter this gig as parents of kids who are eligible for some type of therapy, it’s easy to think that we should take advantage of every therapy offered. And for some families, that works really well. But for some of us, it becomes overload. I felt near my breaking point when we had four therapies a week: two OT sessions for Theo, an infant development session for Sam, and a PT session for Sam. I tried to throw in feeding therapy, which Sam really did need, but it was just too much. I had to say “enough is enough” and pull the plug somewhere. Feeding therapy turned out to be that somewhere, for the simple reason that it was the least convenient of our therapies. The drive was far, the appointments were hard to schedule; it was just too much.
- Therapy breaks can be a lifesaver for everyone. If you fall into that category of doing a lot of therapy, it can become a real drag. It seems like every other day you’re either cleaning the house for the therapists to come over, or you’re fighting traffic to get to the therapist’s office. (Okay, we live in a high-traffic area. Maybe you don’t. But for me, this was a big one. One of Theo’s OT appointments was a ninety-minute drive.) When this is the case, a break can be a lifesaver. We’ve started taking two weeks off therapy around Christmas, and it’s really bliss. My kids don’t mind therapy, but they enjoy the downtime—and as the head therapy coordinator in this household, I really enjoy the downtime!
- Therapy should be (mostly) fun. Some people might argue this one, but I’m going to stand by it. I know therapy is work—when we were trying to encourage Sam to walk, he hated physical therapy! But I could tell his PT was trying to keep it as fun as possible for him, and the fact was that he was just going to have to work harder than he wanted to if he was going to accomplish upright motion. He did, and he hollered…and then he broke out in a massive smile when he finally did it. But in general, I think therapy should be fun. Both of my kids enjoy OT. Theo, in fact, is a bit miffed that he has recently graduated from OT, because he really enjoyed going to it. Sam has recently started OT, and he loves it. For them, it is like playing games with one-on-one attention from an adult, which they both gobble up (because apparently Chris and I are negligent parents who starve them of all attention—*snort*). We’re now on a push with speech therapy for Sam, and it’s mostly based on his lead—he is trying very hard to communicate, and it’s very clear that he wants to communicate with us. So we’re doing a lot of speech therapy to try to enable that. And for him, the speech therapy is fun—he loves to imitate sounds, read books, sing songs, and play games, which is pretty much exactly what he does in speech therapy. If it wasn’t fun for him and if he wasn’t motivated to do it, we wouldn’t be investing as much time and energy into it.
- Therapy is an incredibly personal decision. I have friends who do no therapy with their kids who are eligible for it. I have friends who pick and choose what they do. And I have friends who do every therapy that is offered. It is an incredibly personal decision, and I cannot imagine ever judging another parent about it. For us, we do what seems the most enjoyable and beneficial for our kids. Theo is currently in no therapies; he doesn’t need any. He is eligible for ABA therapy, but we never did it. I wasn’t comfortable with the approach for him, though I have heard that for children with more serious challenges than he has, it can be useful. If something like self-injurious behavior were an issue (which it never has been), I might consider it…but for Theo and his strengths and challenges, it has never felt like an approach I want to take. Sam enjoys OT and ST, and he is definitely delayed in both areas (most notably in speech, though his fine-motor skills are a bit delayed too), so we are doing both of those. His gross-motor skills are just about up to age level and suit him just fine, so we’ve opted to consider him finished with physical therapy.
Bottom line: You’ll decide what’s best for your family, just as we decided what we felt was best for ours. And hopefully you can avoid the trap of feeling guilty for “not doing enough,” which is so easy to fall into. One way I’ve managed to stay out of that trap (mostly) is to recognize that for me, I want to be my kids’ mother, not their therapist. I don’t want to spend the bulk of my time with them working on fine-motor, gross-motor, and speech tasks. I want to spend my time being mommy. And sometimes the two overlap—I read Sam a ton of books right now, which is contributing to his speech development. But I do it because I’m mom, not because I’m actively trying to promote speech. Just like Chris takes Theo outside and works with him on catching a ball because he’s dad and Theo enjoys that, not because he’s trying to hone Theo’s ball skills.
I want my kids to recognize their potential and develop it, but not at the expense of me being just plain mom. For me, that’s the most important thing. So I’ve made my peace with the fact that we’ll do some therapy, and we’ll skip some. And we won’t apologize for any of it. 🙂