You as parents can be one of the key ingredients to maximizing your therapist’s efficiency in occupational therapy. You spend the most amount of time with your child and while we can’t expect every parent-child interaction to target therapy goals, there is so much we can do to empower you to become consistently active participants in the therapy process, from day one to discharge.
Here are 4 steps you can take to get the most out of your child’s therapy sessions.
Step 1: Establish routine communication with your OT
I tell parents that after an initial period of rapport-building and establishing therapy goals, you will assign them “homework” in the form of specific, brief, but frequently conducted practice sessions. If possible, I bring parents into the session at least every month for a few minutes to show them what we are working on and how their child is responding. If this isn’t possible, I try to communicate over the phone for a few minutes. I personally prefer this to email because I’ve found it’s more efficient (despite the occasional games of phone tag) and effective, resulting in fewer misunderstandings.
Step 2: Ask for recommendations for at-home OT activities
Ask your therapist to be specific with recommendations and homework. You as parents are busy and often have to juggle many different stresses and responsibilities. Understanding exactly what your therapist is recommending and assigning at home will save you time and reduce frustration.
Step 3: Realistic time expectations for at-home OT activities
The third suggestion I would make is to be realistic. Your therapist should assign no more than five minutes of homework every day. We all lead busy lives, so understanding what you will be able to consistently do with your child is important. Even this seemingly small amount of time will have a huge and lasting impact on your child’s success in therapy.
Step 4: Tailoring at-home OT activities
Finally, make sure your therapist tailors the home-based therapy program to your individual family. Let your therapist know your capacity to follow through. Are you tech-savvy? Or do you prefer handwritten instructions? Also, become a partner with your therapist on implementing a reward system in your home and during therapy sessions that really motivates your child. Do frequent little rewards work best? Or does your child prefer to work up to a larger goal over time?
Partnering with your Occupational Therapist
It’s important to remember that your therapist and you are partners in therapy and should be actively engaging your child as much as possible as soon as possible. This requires open lines of communication, being realistic and specific, and putting some thought into how each home-based program may be translated into your home environment. If you follow these 4 steps, I am sure you will see great success in your child’s abilities!