Friday, 5 October 2012

On therapy

In case anyone was wondering, by 'therapy' I mean the services offered to my daughter as part of the early intervention program thorugh our local DS clinic. Therapy usually consists of OT (occupational therapy), SLP (speech language pathologist), PT (physical therapy) and possibly feeding therapy or developmental therapy. I would say that most people have therapists who come to their homes or to their child's school, daycare or dayhome to work with the child on various skills. For those who are not familiar with early intervention, the idea is to have our kids learn the proper skills at the level they are at developmentally. It is not to accomplish skills sooner, it is to perform them properly.

I've come to realize that our particular model of EI is fairly unique in terms of service. Our therapists work out of a central office and we go in every once in a while to meet with them. I tell them my concerns, and they observe where Phoenix is at and then they give me written instructions of how I can work with her to facilitate her growth.

It's a brilliant system. Not only do I not have to take a boat load of time off work to meet with therapists who work their magic with Phoenix in isolation, but I become a very competant 'therapist' by working with her myself. This model actually builds my capacity as a parent and allows me to work 'therapy' into our daily life whenever we feel like we have the time.

I think because this model is so ingrained in my life I find the therapy schedules that other family's keep to be crazy. Like, revolve their whole life around therapy crazy. I mean, really. Who wants to revolve their whole lives around therapy?

So, what does this look like?

We work on gross motor skills by going to a play gym once a week with typical kids. Phoenix loves it and it is good exposure for both her and the other kids. No one has ever said anything about her being different and the other parents are very accepting; it's a really positive experience for both of us. I often have to show Phoenix how to climb the play structures by placing her hands and feet where they need to be, but she is gradually getting the hang of everything. This is a really authentic way of working on PT. She is learning and using authentic skills in their proper environment. In my opinion, this is how therapy should be done - not as separate lessons done in segregation with therapists, but as a real life experience.

We work on OT by encouraging independence skills at home. Phoenix climbs up and down the stairs herself and on and off of furniture. She places her own clothes in the dirty laundry bin and helps me with laundry by placing dirty clothes in the washer and transferring the clean clothes to the dryer. She has her own drawer in the kitchen where she puts the plastic containers. She tidies her own toys and books (with assistance) and feeds herself with her hands and with a fork. Often she feeds me with her fork and I feed her with my fork. I give her manageable groceries to transport from the front door to the kitchen after we grocery shop. These are all self-help skills that can be encouraged in young children. It makes then feel useful and makes them use their body in purposeful ways - which is the whole point of OT.

We work on speech language by singing songs, watching educational videos (Signing Times, Meet the Sight Words) and using sign language. We practice saying the alphabet during bath time. I try to help her target specific sounds in multi-syllabel words (hi-ppo). I talk constantly to her about what we are doing, where we are going, what it is time for etc. I try to encourage her to put two words together (Mom, help or Mom, look). She now repeats the final word of any particular phrase back to me, often from songs she listens to. Much to my chagrin she has also successfully said her first curse word - after her father called her a pain in the ass.

Note to self: start spelling curse words around the child.

None of this is particularly difficult. Much of this I have figured out myself and when I can't I go to the DS team for help. However, I know, without a doubt, that my confidence as the manager of her program comes from the tips and support I have been receiving for the last 2 and a half years from the DS team. This is the REAL benefit of a parent-driven EI model.

Because to me, therapy looks a heck of a lot like parenting. It is just intentional, purposeful parenting that is supported by a team of consultants. 45 minutes ago · Like · 1..


  1. love the last line! loving reading your posts! so much of it reads so true for me and is so familiar! looks a lot like parenting to me too!

  2. Thanks Jess! It's been really therapeudic to write these past few weeks. Now I just need to start downloading pictures from the camera and start trying to post some of those too. I love the pics you post of Sophie:)