Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Finding a Therapist OR The Quest for the Holy Grail

I am a member of a couple of mommy-support boards (Hi Ladies!). These are lovely, amazing mommies who are dealing with a lot of the same issues as we are. One of the most common ‘threads’ on these boards pertains to “getting a therapist”. What kind? Where? How much $$$? What do you do if you don’t like your therapist? What if your child doesn’t like therapy? Etc, etc, etc…

We are lucky. When I called St David’s School (my old work), we were able to be evaluated by a Speech Language Pathologist (Katy) pretty quickly. At that evaluation, we fell in “like” with Katy. She was great with Jonathan… playful and fun. She spoke to us in terms we could understand, and she was open to working with a child so young. He was only 16 months at the time. Of course, St David’s in a non-profit private agency. That means insurance. She quickly submitted a request for therapy services with the evaluation report. Thankfully, we were approved!! We still had to pay co-pays… and drive of nearly 20 miles one-way… but having a therapist that Jonathan responded to was sooo important to both of us. She also recommended Occupational Therapy, which we started in the fall with Janet. Expensive… $80 a week for all this therapy (our copay). But he responded to them and was engaged. We decided we couldn’t skimp.

In June, the Birth-to-Three program had finished all of its evals and started sending out an Early Intervention teacher to our home. It was lovely to avoid the drive and the cost (FREE!), but we struggled a little with the teacher. She was very nice and very well intentioned. She tried so hard to work with Jonathan. And I really did want it to work out with her. But after about 5 months, things between Jonathan and the teacher had not gotten better. His progress was slow, too, and I was getting concerned that he wasn’t getting enough out of the sessions. He would be so avoidant and get so easily frustrated. Plus, she had her agenda… Her plan… and did not take the “child led”, floortime approach I had been reading about (more later). She expected Jonathan to do things he was just not ready to do… sit at a desk (at 18 months??)….

So, I fired her.

Ok, that is harsh. Actually, I called up the Care Coordinator for Jonathan’s case and asked if it would be a very big deal to try another teacher. I felt awful… she tried so hard! But I was going with my gut. I had to see if he could work better with someone else. He worked so well with Katy and Janet. I knew it was possible.

And then came Kristin. It was LOVE at first sight. She engaged Jonathan right away!!! He giggled and laughed the first day he met her. He NEVER does that! He started following her directions. She made some suggestions to us the first day… which we implemented right away… and he responded immediately! In fact, as a result of those responses, Jonathan has started down a whole new track! In the last month we have made more progress with him than we have the 6 months before! So… we feel like we have won the EI Teacher Lottery! She was willing to come more frequently, work with us more, and start WHERE HE WAS. It is wonderful!

I don’t know if I can pass on any great wisdom for advice about getting good therapists. I think the only things I can pass on are that you have to trust your gut. Ask questions. If a therapist is doing something you don’t understand, ask. Sometimes there is a method to the madness. BUT, feel free to challenge them. I really feel that the therapy needs to be more of a collaborative effort between the parent and the therapist. Be involved with the therapy. When we first started speech therapy, Katy wanted me out of the room. Well, Jonathan was 16 months old. And if you know ANYTHING about a 16 month old, they do not appreciate being separated from mommy. So I stayed. And I still do… because now I am a PART of the therapy. As I should be… I am with him all the time. I work with him at home. In many respects, what mommy and daddy do at home is WAY more important than what happens a few hours a week in therapy. So take every opportunity to learn what you can!

One great resource for mommies is the http://teachmetotalk.com/ website. The DVD on this website is an awesome resource for working with your child at home. Stuff that MOMMY can do!

Whew… all for now!



Nancy. said...

While I work and killing time I was randomly clicking "Next Blog" over and over again I stummbled on to your blog and fell in love! You have the most aborable little boy. I will be reading :]

Tahna said...

Pia, it is GREAT that you are writing this all down. So many parents are looking for help in this area and it's so confusing when you're first starting out. Your blog is going to help a lot of people :) and it will be great to look back on for yo.


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