Your child’s therapies: why it’s important to get involved
For children and teenagers with disability, autistic children and teenagers, and children and teenagers with other additional needs, therapies are important for building skills to take part in everyday activities. This helps children learn, develop and thrive.
Your child will get the most out of their therapies when they can practise these new skills with you and other familiar people in everyday play, routines and activities. That’s because your child learns best when they feel safe, supported and included.
When you get involved in your child’s therapies, you:
- get to know the skills your child is working on
- learn about the strategies your child’s professional is using with your child
- find out how to use these strategies in your child’s daily life.
This gives you skills, knowledge and confidence, which means you’re better able to help your child practise their skills at home and in other familiar settings every day. And if your child can’t attend therapy sessions for some reason, it also means you can help your child keep learning at home.
Working as team with your child’s disability professionals
One of the first steps to getting involved in your child’s therapies is working as a team with your child’s disability professionals. You, your child and your child’s professionals are all part of the team, and you all have important roles:
- You know your child’s interests, strengths, needs and goals, and you can help and encourage your child.
- Your child knows their own interests, strengths, needs and goals.
- The professionals have expertise that can help your child develop skills and meet goals.
When you get involved and work as a team with your child’s professionals, you can help your child get the most out of their therapies. You can do this by:
- telling the professional about your child’s interests, strengths and needs and what works well for your child
- encouraging your child to communicate with the professional about their interests, strengths and needs
- sharing your child’s therapy goals and talking with the professional about how your child can work towards them
- working with your child and the professional to develop your child’s goals
- being honest and sharing concerns about the strategies or your child’s progress
- encouraging your child’s professionals – for example, teachers, doctors and therapists – to communicate with each other.
At times your child might need intensive support and frequent therapy sessions. At other times, when things are going well, your child might need less frequent sessions. It can be a good idea to arrange appointments when your child needs them instead of having regular weekly or fortnightly sessions, if the professional can do this.
How to get involved in your child’s therapies
Children of all ages
- Make time to talk with the professional by yourself. This could be an occasional whole session or regular time at the start or end of sessions. It gives you the chance to share concerns, ask questions, monitor progress and discuss next steps.
- Let the professional know how your child is progressing.
- Let the professional know which parts of the therapy are working well and which could change so your child gets more benefit.
- Ask questions and make sure you understand the strategies the professional is using, how they’ll help your child and whether they’re backed up by good evidence.
- Let the professional know if you have concerns about strategies. For example, it’s OK to say that you don’t have the resources, knowledge or time to practise certain strategies at home.
- Learn and practise strategies together with your child and their disability professional.
- Talk with the professional about how you can adapt strategies to fit in with your family’s everyday routines and activities like bath time, bedtime and mealtimes.
- Arrange for sessions to be in your home or other places where your child spends their time.
- Go with your child to both face-to-face and telehealth therapy sessions, if you can.
Older children and teenagers
- Ask your child how they want you to be involved in their therapies.
- If your child wants to go to therapy sessions alone, or if sessions happen during the school day, you can ask your child about the strategies they need to practise at home.
- Ask your child’s professional how you can support your child at home
- Ask your child and the professional about helping your child to advocate for strategies and adjustments they need at school or work or in other settings.
If therapy sessions are at your home or by telehealth, try to make appointments at different times of day. This way the professional can help you and your child build strategies into family activities and get other family members involved too. For example, if your child’s goal is to learn to take turns, family meals can be a great time to practise this skill.
Practising strategies and skills during daily life: examples
Here are examples of skills children might work on in therapy sessions, plus ideas for helping your child practise them during everyday play, routines and activities. You can adapt these examples and ideas to your child’s situation:
- Sharing and taking turns: play card games like snap and say ‘Your turn, my turn’. Or encourage your child to take turns on the slide or share picnic food with friends in the park. Or use a ‘talking stick’ at family mealtimes – the person holding the stick takes a turn to talk.
- Managing emotions like anger and stress: work with your child’s professional to create a social story for your child, and ask your child’s teacher to use it at school. Or encourage your child to use a feelings thermometer.
- Communicating using Key Word Sign: communicate with your child throughout the day using the signs that you and your child are learning in their therapy.
- Developing homework skills: make time for homework and assignments in your child's daily routine. And help your child to make a weekly or monthly planner that shows when assignments are due and what your child needs to do each day to complete them.
- Making requests: work with your child’s professional to create a script that your child can use to ask for things at school or in other settings. Encourage your child to practise the script with you at home before they use it at school or in other settings.
- Strengthening upper body: take your child to play on the monkey bars in the park. Or go rock climbing together at the adventure playground. Or play arm wrestling games.