Wondering if therapy could help your child? Read on to find answers to some common questions.
Is my child too young?
It's never too soon to get the help you need. Our therapists are able to see children from 18 months of age. Assessment for all children includes gathering information from parents and carers and for younger children also includes observation of children in play based activities. Therapy is also tailored to children’s age and developmental level. For younger children this involves play based activities as well as support for parents to help them develop their child’s skills in daily activities at home.
Is my child just lazy?
Kids who need extra help are not lazy. Sometimes parents who bring their child for an assessment ask "Is my child just lazy?" They may find that if they break a skill down into steps and help their child that their child can do the activity. Later the child may not be able to do that skill correctly again when they are trying to do it by themselves. This does not mean the child is just lazy. There are a number of steps in learning a new skill and the child is only part the way along.
Therapists help children learn to do new skill independently by moving children through a number of stages. They ask parents to help children practice at each of these stages because like any skill, the more practice, the quicker the progress. Playing games and activities as you practice means kids want to practice more and so learn quicker. With this support children learn to do the new skill “all by themselves”.
My child seems smart. Why would they need therapy?
Some of us are good at some things and not so good at others. We may be good at sport and less skilled as a handyman, or good at spelling and hopeless at cooking. Children are the same. Smart children may still struggle with speech sounds or handwriting. Some children are good at maths and poor at spelling. Younger children may walk early but talk later. Therapists will work out which areas your child would benefit from support with and target those areas specifically.
Won’t school provide what my child’s needs?
Schools have a limited amount of money allocated to spend on helping children who have additional needs, so they have to prioritize. Children therefore receive funded support based on their scores on specific tests. Children who have mild or moderate difficulties in these tests may still have severe difficulties in other areas, but don’t qualify for extra school funded support.
Schools provide students with an educational opportunity. They typically work very hard to help their students learn, but some children have learning challenges that require specialist help. Many children need the support of trained professionals who can help them to learn so they can benefit from the opportunities presented at school. I think sometimes we as parents hope for more than what schools can reasonably provide. If your child has additional learning needs, a professional in that field is the best place to go for assistance. Teachers are teachers, not speech pathologists, occupational therapists, medical practitioners, and all the other things we parents wish they were. They are trained how to teach a class full of typically developing children and then do the best they can to accommodate those that need something different.
I wonder, if their children were drowning in the ocean and the life guards were busy saving somebody else, would parents refuse to pull their child out of the water? I think not! Children need their parents to advocate for them and to help them when nobody else will. Great parents (and we are fortunate to work with so many in our practice) are parents who get their children the help they need even if they have to put their hand in their own pockets to do so. If you won’t do it for your child, can you reasonably expect someone else to?
If my child really needed help the government would provide it so they must be doing OK?
Schools and Government funded services have a limited budget. There are thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of children who NEED help that aren’t going to get it through public services. People who work with children and families I believe all wish they could spread themselves further, but they are typically already stretched to capacity. Would we like to see every child who needs help get it for free from the Government? The answer is a resounding YES! However the reality is that there aren’t enough resources to go around. Only the most severe or those who fit into specific groups will get some services. Whether those services are enough is another question. Again, sometimes parents need to step in and say “My child deserves more and I’m going to make sure they get it!”
Will therapy really help?
Our therapists use techniques that are “evidence based”. This means that they have been scientifically researched and found to be effective in improving children’s skills and development.
Therapists assess a child’s needs and plan therapy targets to develop the skills which are of the highest priority for that child’s individual needs. They also draw on what they have learned in their study and experience in working with other children to choose the most effective methods and techniques to help children develop the skills they need in the most efficient way possible.
Labels are not good for kids, are they?
Not all children who come for an assessment will get a “label”. Often an assessment simply provides a description of a child’s skills and challenges. Some children may receive a label to describe their pattern of development. Parents often worry about “labelling” their child however a label will not change a child. They will still be the same person with the same mix of skills, challenges and personality.
A label can however help others to understand the child better and can sometimes help the child to access more appropriate support. Sometimes when children do not have a diagnosis they are incorrectly called “dumb” “rude” or “naughty” because of their challenges. If a child has a label parents do not need to share this with everyone. A child’s diagnosis need only be shared when there is an advantage for the child to do so, such as to help school understand and support a child.
For older children understanding their diagnosis can help with self -understanding and acceptance. If parents are unsure they can receive help to talk to children about their diagnosis in a positive way.
Won’t my child just grow out of it?
Some children may show slower development or difficulty with learning a specific skill and then may “catch up by themselves”. Often though, children who are developing slower than others their age continue to develop more slowly without extra help to “catch up”. If a child’s development continues to be slower than their peers they will fall further behind. This may have an impact on their future learning as well as their social interactions, self- esteem and sometimes behaviour as well.
It is hard to tell which children will grow out of their challenges and which will not so if you are at all concerned about your child’s development it is best to check with a professional about what may help.
Can’t kids just be kids?
There can lots of demands on kid’s time with swimming lessons, music lessons, sport, dance and more. But therapy is not the same as these “extra” activities. Therapy is for children with a specific need and so is an essential service like going to the doctor if you are sick, getting glasses if you need them or going to school to learn. If your child needs a therapy service it is something that is vital to their development and learning as well as their future and not an “added extra”.
When is the best time to start?
The best time is NOW! A child developing 25% slower than his peers at 2 years of age will be six months behind and need to make 18 months progress in the next 12 months to “catch up”. Without assistance if this child continues to develop at this slower rate by four years he will be 12 months behind and need to make 24 months progress in the next 12 months in order to catch up to his peers and be ready for school. As children make rapid advances in development between three and five years this will be difficult and it is likely that the child will begin school at risk of developing difficulties with reading, writing, spelling and learning. By contrast early support can help a child develop the necessary skills to lay the foundations for future learning and help parents learn how to best support development at home.
Do I need a doctor’s referral?
Families are able to refer themselves for assessments and therapy. While a doctor’s referral is needed to access rebates through Medicare it is not needed for rebates through private health funds.
How long will it take?
Children’s need vary. Some children may only need a few sessions while others may need long term support over a number of years. It is hard to predict how long therapy will take for an individual child. It depends on their needs and the amount of practice that parents can do at home. Your therapist will keep you informed about what progress your child is making.
How often will we need to come?
That depends on your child’s needs and your family commitments. Most children come weekly or fortnightly but attendance is negotiated with each family individually.
Is it worth the money?
There is a cost associated with getting support from a trained professional but this is an investment in your child’s future. All our therapists have four or more years of university training. Some families really may not be able to afford private therapy for their child however others if they were honest should say “It’s not a priority for us” rather than they can’t afford it. People make choices about how they spend their money and sometimes children’s educations are sacrificed for more tangible, touchable items. We understand the financial burden of paying for therapy or tutoring with specialists as many of us have children with additional needs. We too have made sacrifices to pay for the support our children need, just like our clients do.
How can I make it more affordable?
We work hard to make our service as affordable for families as possible. There are also some options that may assist some families financially including government funding through NDIA and FAHCSIA, Medicare and private health funds.
Talking Matters provides speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology services to kids of all ages in Adelaide, South Australia. To find out more about our team and what we do browse our website and see how we can help your family.
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