Communication between parents, caregivers, and a therapy team is vital for successful treatment. Most music therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech language pathologists know this, and have a system in place to communicate treatment outcomes, expectations, and other important aspects of the treatment process to the parent's of their pediatric clients.
But it's always good to have a refresher course, especially for parents who have just recently received a diagnosis. The whole process can be a bit overwhelming, and sometimes communication falls by the wayside. So what questions can you ask your child's therapy team to ensure effective treatment?
1. What can I be doing at home?
Just as one does not master an instrument by picking it up once a week, or train for a marathon by jogging for an hour a week, therapy takes daily effort and work, even when you're not at the clinic. Therapists should be able to offer a simplified intervention that parents can practice at home with their children to help reinforce and strengthen skills learned. Additionally, practicing these skills outside of the therapy room will help generalize the skills learned to all settings. And let's face it, if what we do in therapy isn't generalizing to other settings, we're not really being effective, are we?
2. Are my child's difficulties in the home/classroom setting present during therapy time?
Many children show behaviors that disrupt his or her ability to learn at school or at home, but often these behaviors do not occur during the therapy setting (or vice-versa). The different environment, one-to-one attention, different therapists, or lack of peer influence can affect a child's behavior. However, addressing these issues is often a goal of various therapies, and if these behaviors are not present in the therapy setting, this can prove difficult. If they are not present in therapy, be sure to throughly explain both the behaviors and your concerns with them, as well as the kind of effect they're having in the classroom setting. A meeting between your child's therapy team and teachers could prove helpful to all parties involved.
3. What can I expect from my child's next re-evaluation?
As your child makes progress to their goals, re-evaluations are an essential part of ensuring continued success. Goals need to be reworked, rewritten, or discharged so that the work done in therapy is relevant to your child's needs. Be sure to communicate openly with the therapy team your concerns so they can be incorporated and examined during re-evals. You are the eyes and ears for your child's therapists. You know your child better than anyone, and we rely on you to let us know what is happening outside of the hour or two per week we see them!
4. How did he or she do today?
While it's important to remember that pediatric therapy is often a long-term process, and a hyper-focus on daily ups and downs can cloud our vision of long-term outcomes, communicating with therapists about daily outcomes is important. This one falls more in the court of the parents. If your child didn't sleep well the night before, is fighting a sinus infection, had a major routine change recently, changed medications, etc., it's essential that you communicate this to your therapist. These type of changes can often have a major effect on treatment and your child's ability to focus and work towards their goals in therapy time. If parents don't tell us beforehand, we have no idea and are less able to adjust our methods and approaches to better address their current needs. In addition, you'll want to track how these recent changes in your child's life is affecting him across all settings, including in therapy.
As a music therapist, I want you to ask me questions about what we do. I do my best to communicate what is happening in therapy to parents, but if one of my parents has questions, I would love to answer them! But unless they bring their concerns to my attention, I have no way of knowing. So please, ask away! Grill me! Keep me on my toes.
Have questions about music therapy, but don't know where to start? Interested in learning more about music therapy, but not quite ready to sign up? Let's talk!
Photo credit: Colin_K (http://images.cdn.fotopedia.com/flickr-2200500024-hd.jpg)