Parents often ask the therapists whether they should sit in with their child during therapy sessions or if they should stand back and let the therapist work alone. If the parent(s) are available to be present during the child’s session, the therapists highly encourage them to participate in the activities and ask questions. For example, if the child is learning how to practice using sign language to communicate his/her wants and needs, it would be beneficial for the parent to be present at the sessions. This way the therapist can encourage the parent to take part in learning and modeling the signs in order to help the child work on this goal outside of the session. Knowing that each therapy usually occurs once a week for an hour, it is important for the parent(s) to practice the strategies while the therapist is there so that they can then carry the strategies over into the week, increasing their child’s chances of learning the new skill.
We realize that not all parents can be present during their child’s sessions. In those cases, it’s important for the therapists to talk with the child’s caretakers at the time (teacher, nanny, extended family, etc.) and give them tips on how to help the child work on specific goals in their daily environments. Knowing that it is not always feasible for a parent/caretaker to accompany a child to each session, it is important that the information is communicated to the parent/caretaker at the end of the session – including demonstrations of the skills – so they can expose the child to the skills throughout the week.
Therapists should encourage the parents and caretakers to ask questions during or after a session so they fully understand what they are asked to do and why it will benefit the child. Overall, therapy sessions that include parental and caregiver participation not only teaches the adults how to learn and incorporate the developmental strategies into their child’s routines, but works on continually building a relationship between the parent/caregiver and child.
Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LSW, DT