Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How Much "Therapy" Do You Really Do?

Let's play Two Truths and a Lie.

I'm going to tell you three things, two of which are true and one of which is a lie.  See if you can figure out the lie.

#1   I am married to a preacher and we just celebrated 20 years of marriage.

#2   I have three daughters, one who will be attending college in the fall, one who will be driving in the fall, and one who will be 6 years old in the fall.

#3   At home, on my own, I do every single therapy technique suggested by Lily's speech, occupational, and behavioral therapists.

So.  Can you find the lie?

If you've spent any time around here at all, I'm sure it was easy to pick out the lie.  And even if you are new to these parts, but have a special needs child yourself, I'm pretty confident you can identify the lie.

So if you chose #3 as the lie, you are correct!

Here comes my true confession for today:

I don't do all that much therapy around the house.

Don't get me wrong, I want Lily to improve.  I want to see her reach her highest potential.  I want her to accomplish all kinds of things in spite of her diagnosis.

But I have to be honest.

I don't want to be the therapist.  I want to be the mom.  I want to have fun with Lily.  I want her to look forward to spending time with me.

Lily is at school Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM.  That is a long day when you're five years old, people.  Heck.  That's a long day when you're 42!

After all her hard work at school, the last thing I want to do in the evenings is drag out the matching cards, the puzzles, the magnetic alphabet letters, or the lacing cards and insist on more work.

Don't all kids, even our kids who need so much therapy, deserve some downtime?

Now, we do spend some time on Saturdays and Sundays doing our Birdie Boot Camp, exploring all kinds of therapeutic activities through play.  But I still don't really have her at the table "working" like she does at school.

I don't want to be the reason Lily doesn't become all she is supposed to be.  I don't want to be the one who holds her back.

Lily has about eight therapists in all.

But I'm the only mom she's got.  And I want to be a good one.

So I have to try to strike that balance between therapist and mom.  But if the scale tips one way more often, I'd rather it lean to the mom rather than the therapist.

What about you?  Feel like making a confession of your own?  How do you balance it all?  Thoughts?  Let me hear it.


  1. I'm guilty too. There just aren't enough hours in the day to be a mother AND be a therapist. And... it's not fair to me OR Little Miss if I try to be both. So I do what I can to reinforce and leave most of the therapy to the therapists.

    Do I feel guilty about it? Absolutely.

    1. I think we all reinforce therapy at home because we've been doing it for so many years, it's almost second nature and we don't think of it as "therapy", even though it is! Let's let that guilt go together, ok Karla?? :)

  2. Wow...can I comment as someone who has been in Lily's shoes with a mom that acted as therapist?
    I lost my hearing at age 4. My Mom took me to speech therapy which included aural training, chiropractor appointments, etc. She was my advocate fighting for whatever I needed at school for optimal success and equal communication access. Honestly, looking back...I am SO THANKFUL that mom took so many hours to be my therapist at home! It (for me) NEVER took away from the fact that she was my mom. Yes, there were many days I threw a fit and rebelled against the therapy, got tired, cried, became frustrated, told mom I hated her, etc. But in the end, I still had a very close relationship with Mom. I think Mom's trick was to just incorporate the therapy into our everyday activities. For about an hour every day we were at a table doing clinincal-style therapy, but the remainder of the day my practice exercises were incorporated into our daily life. This allowed me both the therapy training as well as the benefit of having a mom who did fun stuff with me. For example, washing dishes with Mom...she used the time to get me to talk, corrected my pronunciation, asked questions for my lipreading practice, asked what I heard when a sound was made, etc. My family loved to listen to music, so mom sat on the couch every evening mouthing the words to the song. I sat next to a speaker so I could feel the beats as I watched mom's lips. This was therapy but I never realized it. Today Mom is my best friend. She taught me to be independent, to work through the tough times, to deal with the frustrations, to appreciate family bonds, and to never obsess over what I "can't" do, but rather to revel in what I "can" do, because God designed me for greatness and anything less would be disrespectful to Him.
    How about just being a mom that reinforces at home all Lily is taught away from home. She'll then get the best of both worlds, even if she seems frustrated with you. As a child who had a "therapist mom" I can tell you in spite of our struggles, we rarely have any confusion over who "mom" is, and we usually develop a much stronger bond with Mom as a result of that additional label she may wear with us.
    And to show you how much difference it husband's mom left the training to the therapists and did not continue at home, preferring to allow him to just be her son and nothing more. Huge difference between how both of us relate to our families and how we see the world. Trust me, I got the better deal! :)

    1. WOW - I so appreciate your comment! And I think many other special needs parents will, too. It's nice to hear from someone who can understand our kids' point of view, especially since so many of our kiddos can't tell us how they feel. After reading all the comments, I know I do more therapy around here than I really even think about. Some of it has become just a part of our daily routine so it's easy to forget that it's actually therapy, or reinforcement of. But your comment gives me much encouragement and hope. Thanks, Pam!

  3. If I've learned anything in life it is this. . . "Confess NOTHING".

    I think at the end of the day if we even hold Lily accountable for 80% of the stuff she does I call it a kickass parenting day.

    Lily, pull up your pants, Lily turn on the water, Lily wash your hands, Lily dry your hands, Lily say goodbye, Lily, Lily, Lily. . .

    Very few things will Lily do unprompted. So there's a tremendous amount of prompting and a tremendous amount of . . . screw it, I'll do it myself.

    Forget about "therapy". I'm having a tough enough time just "parenting".

    1. Yes, sometimes confession ISN'T good for the soul, right? :)

      I forget that holding "our Lily's" accountable with that prompting is actually reinforcement of therapy. Think I just tend to think of working at the table tasks but pretty much every portion of our lives is "therapeutic parenting". What do you think of that term?? Pretty good, right?

  4. Cameron: At first I tried to do daily therapy time but quickly realized that as long as we are going to formal therapy, it seems like overkill to carry it over into the home on a daily basis. He needs a break, I need a break and we need to just be us. I do sneak in some things when we are playing, but in no way are we doing anything structured.

    Sarah Hazel: We do quite a bit at home but that is because she can no longer go to her therapy. Also having that somewhat structured homeschool time makes it easy to incorporate therapy time. If it wasn't for that school time, I don't know how much we would be able to do in the home.

    1. What I'm discovering through the comments is that all of us do more therapy than we think we do. Maybe it's not the structured tasks that we tend to label therapy but through prompting, play, and just daily living, there's a whole lot of therapy going on.

  5. I think you'd be surprised what you actually are doing as a parent that you do not recognize as therapy the way therapists do it. I know of no one else who does a "Birdie Boot Camp" like you guys do and that is AMAZING! You may not really recognize all the ways you are giving Lily therapy when you are not "sitting in a chair" doing an ABA program but our lives incorporate therapy in every single thing we do.

    Tootles loves for me to have him "work for" something to get through his dreaded homework or the highly despised grooming tasks he must complete. This means we're doing ABA in a way. I correct his pronouns and make him restate questions or sentences whenever I catch them (speech) and we will tickle or squeeze or rub lotion on dry skin or crash and while it's like play it's also OT. Never sell yourself short. We parents do a lot more than we "think" we do... ;)

    1. You're 100% correct, Miss Karen. And by the time I read through all the comments, I had pretty much reached this conclusion, too. I told Jim I think what all of us do is "therapeutic parenting" and it's just so much a part of life, we forget that there's actually much learning going on.

  6. I agree with Karen V. You are doing more therapy than you probably realize.

    Therapy should be fun and a part of life, not a time set aside for work at a table. This is especially true for young children. When I worked for a school system, all the kids would beg to have therapy. Why? Because my "kids" would run towards me with obvious anticipation for all the "fun" we would have in treatment.

    Yes. There are some treatments that are not that fun, but it shouldn't be more than 15 minutes. That's exactly how long I spend on my son...doing clinical, boring therapy...15 minutes a day. That's not long and it certainly is easier to incorporate than a whole hour. The rest of the time therapy is play. This is appropriate because play is a child's main occupation.

    As a child ages, they can also "help" around the house. Cooking is a great place that they can help. They can help count how many pieces of broccoli go into the soup. Or they can organize the vegetables by matching them to the right colored plate. They can help throw away the discarded pieces. They can help you count as you cut the meat.

    This kind of concrete, functional task can be used to teach numbers, colors, organizing, steps, cooperation, etc. This is the best kind of therapy. Children are generally this type of task is how they learn best.

    One day, when I have more free time...I will start writing a series on how to incorporate "therapy" into everyday life. The most important thing is to make everything fun. When you're having fun, you forget that you're doing therapy. That's when everybody wins!

    1. Bea - This is really good stuff! Encouraging for those of us who think of therapy as more structured time to realize we're doing more than we think we are. I would LOVE for you to do a series on incorporating therapy into daily life - that would be super! Let me know if and when you do so I can let everyone know and direct them to your blog! Free time is hard to come by so I'll be hoping you get some soon so you share your knowledge with all of us.

  7. I'm with you, I wish I did every single thing the therapists tell me to do at home but I don't. Then if I let my self think about it too long I feel tremendous guit!!!! Thank you for reminding me that I'm Sadie's only mom. That is what I want to be first and foremost!

  8. I think us mamas do a pretty good job, too! :)

  9. I feel the same. I don't want to play the role of therapist, either. Sometimes I feel really guilty about this, especially when I read other blogs where the moms seem to be SO on top of everything, and every moment is teachable, etc, etc. More often than not I find myself just being a regular mom to K...the kind of mom I would be if she didn't have autism. I think it's a good thing, but when I sit in meetings and they give me a list of things to do...ugh. I feel like I am somehow going to cause K not to make progress or's hard.


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