Be honest: have you ever felt like saying “I quit!” when it comes to your child’s therapies? The question of whether, and when, to take a step back from therapy can be a thorny one. As always, my advice here is mostly from the perspective of a mom (albeit one who also happens to be a pediatrician) of a child with disabilities. None of the advice in this article should be considered medical advice; if you have specific questions about your child please discuss them with your child’s therapists and/or physicians to get their recommendations.
When it comes to scaling back on or discontinuing therapy altogether there may be many factors at play. Let’s walk through some of the scenarios and decisions that may play a role in deciding to take a break.
It’s no secret that therapy can be time-intensive. Between the driving, the session, packing up gear, etc a single therapy session can easily take several hours out of a day. Add on to that, other children who may need to be cared for, time off from work or school, and even a single session can feel overwhelming. Sometimes it starts to feel like it’s just not worth the time. If you’re feeling that way, know you’re not alone! Reach out to your therapist and/or the front desk about whether there are options that may help (stacking sessions, finding a different time slot, etc). But sometimes you need to decide whether the time cost is worth the benefit, which leads to my next topic…progress.
In my experience, one of the hardest things about therapy has been the long periods of time where it feels like very little progress is being made. When you factor in the time and financial cost of attending therapy every week it’s no wonder that we sometimes feel like calling it quits. So how do we know when it’s time to say enough is enough? Here’s where I think a very honest discussion about goals and progress is important. If you’re feeling discouraged with your child’s progress, it’s time to speak up to their therapist. A frank and honest discussion is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page.
This factor is one of the hardest, in my opinion, to quantify. Sometimes a particular therapist or a particular therapy just doesn’t seem to work for a particular child. Even great therapists aren’t great for every child. It’s a matter of finding the right fit. Of course, there is often a transition period when starting with a new therapist that can be difficult for everyone, but if your parent/caregiver gut is telling you that something isn’t clicking, it’s time to speak up. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of discussing goals and techniques. Together you and the therapist may be able to troubleshoot how to make things work better for your child. Or maybe you’ll decide that the fit just isn’t right, and that’s ok.
Finally, I want to talk about what happens when it’s not you as the parent/caregiver who is requesting the therapy break but rather the therapist. Sometimes hearing this from a therapist can come as a bit of a relief if you already had doubts. But it can also be painful to hear. It may feel like the therapist is giving up on your child, casting doubts on your child’s abilities, or judging your child or your family. These can be painful feelings. Take some time and then talk to your child’s therapist. If you’re honest with each other you will very likely find that the therapist has reasons much like the ones I outlined earlier to consider a change in therapy. Talk through what a change in therapy might look like and whether they have ideas about when it would be worth trying again. Perhaps they can recommend a different therapist or different type of therapy or suggest a timeframe for trying again.
To conclude, here are some things to remember:
- Try to be clear and forthcoming about your goals with therapy. The more your therapist knows what is important to you the better they’ll be able to work on those goals and assess whether your child is making progress toward those goals.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. I recommend communicating with your child’s therapist at regular intervals to catch up and address any issues that may have popped up. But if issues arise between those regular intervals, don’t be afraid to discuss it with them sooner.
- Be honest with yourself and your child’s therapist. It can be hard to admit that you’re just not certain that a particular therapy/therapist is working out, or to admit that the time commitment is too taxing on your family. Remember that ultimately you and your child’s therapists have the same goal: to help your child. If that’s not happening the way you’d like it’s time to readdress!
And finally, don’t forget that a break doesn’t need to be forever. Sometimes a short-term break or adjustment is all that’s needed. Take some time to consider your options and start fresh!