Allied health care professionals (such as psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapist) can provide valuable insight and assistance in caring for children with developmental/behavioural/learning or toileting difficulties. As parents however it can be a daunting task accessing help the right way, understanding the role that a health professional may play in optimising your child’s potential and determining how you may play an active part in your child’s therapy. Below is a framework that you as a parent/carer may find helpful.
Help the Professionals Help your Child: There is no one size that fits all. Every child is unique in terms of their strengths, difficulties and what motivates them and therapy needs to be tailored to your child’s specific needs. You know your child best, so use that knowledge to guide your child’s health care professionals, school and teachers.
Set Therapy Goals and Identify Measurable Outcomes: Therapy at its best is a collaborative effort. Your team comprises of you, your child, their paediatrician, the allied health team, any other specialists involved and often also your child’s school. You are best positioned to identify key challenges, set and prioritise goals. Your paediatrician and allied professionals will assist you in this. Goals can be short term, medium or long term and frequently are a mix of these. Having measurable outcomes helps monitor progress, determine what is working well, what is not and make changes along the way accordingly. Without defined goals and outcomes, therapy may not cater to the specific needs of your child and it may be hard to monitor progress.
Celebrate the Small Wins along the Way. Achieving your final target often does take time. However the little gains along the way do add up; be sure to recognise and highlight the small victories to your child and celebrate those.
Communication is Key: Make sure all the professionals that are involved in your child’s care are on the same page. This means they are familiar with and understand the management plan that is in place, have agreed to the goals of therapy, have articulated their role and how they will contribute to the attainment of specific goals. It is crucial that they provide regular progress updates to be shared with the team.
Recognise your Own Worth: As your child’s principal advocate, you will find that from time to time you must acquire new skills and knowledge and the learning curve may seem steep at times. However your team of health professionals are there for that very purpose –to guide, support and inform. You are and will remain the best advocate and coach your child could possibly have.