So your child has an appointment with a new therapist; how do you explain to your child what this means for them?
Where To Start
Firstly, we must ensure that the information is delivered in an age-appropriate manner so that we are sure the child understands. Honesty is also important as the child may be asked some direct questions about the difficulties they have in the appointment and they need to be prepared.
All children are familiar with the doctor so this can be an easy go-to approach; however, a lot of children also associate going to the Doctor with feeling unwell, needing medicine or having their immunisations. This can mean that if your child has had some very positive interactions with their Doctor this analogy will work well, however, for other children this could raise some concerns for them. Work to your child’s strengths; if they like school then a therapist could be likened to a teacher if they like sport then a therapist could be likened to a coach and so on.
We spend much of our child’s life encouraging them and telling them how good they are at things or how clever they are; it can feel very alien to tell your child that they need help with something. This can feel very negative and daunting, however, being honest with your child will help them to understand why they are seeing a therapist. This information should be delivered in a positive manner; for example, if your child needs help with handwriting you could try “I know how hard you try with writing and you’re getting so much better, well, an OT can help you to get even better and enjoy it so that you don’t get worried about it anymore”.
Make sure that you are familiar with the role of the therapist your child will be seeing and you are clear on what they will be assessing in the appointment. This way you can be sure that the information you give your child is correct and consistent.
If you have any questions about the therapist your child will see at AIM Therapy, you can take a look at our Facebook Page or call our service on (08) 6150 8339 where we will be happy to help.
The Different Services
You may be seeing only one therapist or you may be seeing several. Either way, helping your child to understand their roles and the differences will ensure he or she knows what to expect.
Some children come to their first session at AIM with concerns that it will be hard, upsetting or boring. At AIM our therapy is play-based so all our treatment sessions are fun; the first appointment may contain what feels like a lot of talking to start with but we always try to be fun!
Occupational Therapists help you to carry out the things you need to do in order to be successful in your everyday life. This means they can help with handwriting, dressing, eating, sitting to listen and concentrate at school and socialising with others as well as managing those big emotions and concerns that children often carry and many more.
Children are often happy to know about what the OT will be working with them on, specific to their needs. This is where honesty is important; remind your child about the things that they find tricky and how it would help them to practice these things. An OT is here to help and they make it as fun as possible to learn and practice these new skills.
Speech Pathologists help children of all ages to interact with others through talking and playing. They can help children speak more clearly, improve their ability to make sentences, use grammar and expand vocabulary, as well as help children, understand the language better such as being able to follow directions. Speech pathologists also work with children who stutter, those with voice problems (e.g. hoarse, husky, too loud/quiet), literacy skills and children who have difficulties with social communication and play.
It is important, to be honest with your child about what the speech pathologist will be looking at so they can understand why they are attending the appointment and know what to expect. Remind them that we help lots of children with their talking or listening skills and that we are here to help them. Often children are more aware of their difficulties than we give them credit for and acknowledging the areas they find hard can actually be comforting for the child.
Physiotherapists observe how your child moves and plays in order to establish where the underlying difficulties are in relation to movement, development and mobility concerns. They also work with children who have a pre-existing, long-standing, developmental condition and are requiring assessment for Early Intervention Services or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).
The assessment usually consists of them observing your child moving and playing using their gross motor (big movement) skills. They may sometimes take measurements of your child’s movement abilities in order to fully understand what is going on for your child.
Psychologists use mainly talking therapy to understand your child’s strengths, difficulties and worries but there will also be play included to help your child express themselves.
One of the main indicators for successful Psychology input is the strength of the relationship between child and Psychologist so it can be helpful for them to meet their therapist from the beginning and the therapist will always do their best to make sure your child enjoys their sessions.
Some children might benefit from sessions with their parents and some without their parents; this is up to parental discretion.
What To Do Now?
Hopefully, this has helped to guide you in how to explain therapy to your child. The next step is to book an appointment and discuss therapy with your child!