On a recent consultation, a parent confided in me that an occupational therapist had recently recommended that her child with ASD continue working with her for an additional 6-9 months. The global goals had all been met, but there were some new education-based goals that the therapist thought could use some attention. This confused my parent as Kindergarten was to start in only three months, and all the other therapies were either fading out or had already been discontinued. The idea that her child might need more therapy in order to succeed in Kindergarten made her feel nervous and guilty. This also felt urgent as though if she did not fulfill these extra months for her daughter, she might not succeed in Kindergarten. In fact, she may even get singled out. All the intervention, all the hard work over the past three years could come out empty should her child not be able to keep up with the work. This is what played out in my parent’s head. Sound familiar?
It is so easy to grow accustomed to the child’s intervention. It starts out so intensive in several areas, often occupational therapy, speech therapy, and behavior therapy. There may be preschool or special day class, social/playgroup, physical therapy, and others. Much of the day is spent driving the child to and from one therapy to another. Then rushing home just in time to make it to in-home behavior therapy.
But most of the time, the goal is for the child to become independent and highly functional to be fully included in a general classroom and make friends, play on the playground, participate in the science fair and the school play, and so much more. That is, the goal is to do less therapy and do more life with other kids and with fewer adults.
Transitioning into life with ASD is scary, especially for the parent of the child with ASD. There are more “what if’s” than you can count. But one of the first steps of stepping into life is stepping out of therapy. This means that if many or most of your child’s therapists are discharging her because she has met all of her goals, this is GOOD! It is time for the next step. One of the next steps will be for her to try out all of her new skills with her peers at school. But this also means that the safety of the “driving to the therapies” is over. And it’s time for her to move a step away from your complete protection. This is also good. There is no other place for her to learn how to apply all of those skills but in the safety of that little classroom, and, no offense, but without you there. And without the speech therapist there, and without the behavior therapist there, and so on.
So, back to my parent…she did the best thing she could think of. She trusted herself as the mother of her child. She knew her child better than all of the therapists combined. She gradually decreased OT over three months outside of school hours and set up two playdates per week for her daughter. She knows that this is just another stage. There will be yet another which will require her and her family to weigh and measure things. But she is always willing to listen and collaborate intently with her team of professionals and trust herself to make the best decision for her child and her family. And guess what? Her daughter did beautifully in her Kindergarten class. She loved her teacher. She made friends. She had required just as much assistance as any other peer in her class. She thrived!
About the Author
Andrea has been working with neurodiverse children both as a behavior therapist and an educator for 25 years. Her work has been conducted in small groups and on a one-on-one basis. Early on, Andrea received a Master’s in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Early Intervention. As her practice developed, Andrea went on to pursue a multi-subject credential. She also received training in BartonⓇ, Orton GillinghamⓇ, and Making Math RealⓇ. She is very excited to be a part of the Learnfully team.