5 Signs You May Have Found a Great Child Therapist

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Our family was blessed to have an amazing therapist for almost five years. Then in January of this year, she told us she was moving her practice out of the area. We could stay with her, but we’d have to drive an hour and a half each way if there happened to be no traffic. Before she left, she gave us several names of counselors we could contact. In February, I called those numbers and either received no response or was told they didn’t take our insurance. Since my daughter was so stable at the time, we decided to stop our search for awhile.

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Little by little my husband and I saw the signs in instability creep back in. Then in August, the dam broke. We saw several maladaptive behaviors emerge in ways that we hadn’t experienced in a long time.

I tried looking on our insurance’s website for a qualified therapist but came up dry. Finally, a former high school buddy of mine who follows my Facebook page reached out to me privately. She said that she was an insurance broker and wanted to help me. I called her the next day. Within minutes she had pulled up a list of over 80 professionals who practice in or near my home town. She just happened to mention that one name stood out to her. It was a therapist named Miss A.

Later that day I called Miss A and a few other therapists to get a feel for who might be a good fit. Miss A called me back a few hours later. She explained she wasn’t able to see me until the end of the month. I hesitantly booked an appointment for the last Saturday in August.

A week before our appointment, Miss A. emailed me to tell me she’d read over my daughter’s medical and educational history. She was concerned based on the intensity of my child’s previous hospitalizations she wouldn’t be a good fit. She only saw patients once a week and felt like my daughter needed more. I assured her she had a lot of supports at school, which included two separate counselors. Our family decided she needed a private therapist for additional support. Once Miss A heard this, she decided to move forward.

Finally, the big day arrived. After our appointment, I can truly say my husband and I are cautiously optimistic Miss A will be a good fit for our daughter. The appointment with our daughter’s new therapist was actually just part of the interview process. We’d been in contact via email several times that week. Miss A really tried to get a flavor for my daughter’s unique and challenging needs. Knowing what I know now, I can confidently say there are a few signs all parents should look for when searching for a child therapist.

1. A qualified therapist will call any previous therapists and professionals to confer with them. 

Miss A asked me to sign releases of information for my daughter’s private therapist, psychiatrist and school staff. Then she took the time to contact them. I’ve had several instances where professionals have asked for releases, but never took the time to contact those who know our story.

2. She has names and numbers of other professionals you can add to your child’s team. 

My husband and I have been talking about getting our daughter a more formal autism diagnosis. This will hopefully make more services available to her. After telling Miss A about this, she produced a list of people who took our insurance. Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning?

3. A highly qualified therapist will provide practical solutions based on your child’s unique needs. 

When we told Miss A my daughter was taking things that don’t belong to her, she suggested some useful tips. One of which I was already doing. (Telling my daughter to say, “I’m struggling” when she feels tempted to take something.)  She said, “Consequences for impulsive behavior will not work with your child. Instead you need to have a plan to prevent this behavior.”

4. You hear the phrase, “I will let your child lead our sessions. She’ll choose what we play with.”

Miss A told my husband and I all of the different play options that were available to her. She definitely knows the direction she’s going in, but she wants to make it a fun experience for my daughter.

5. As you leave, your child’s therapist tells you she can’t wait to meet your child next week. 

It gave me and my husband great comfort hearing this. Just knowing a stranger who knows my child’s challenges still wants to take her on as a client gives me peace of mind. I’m entrusting this professional with my child. It could either be a struggle to get her to the therapist each week or this could be the start of a wonderful patient/therapist relationship. If it’s not a good fit we could see more instability. If it’s a great fit, this could help my child grow into a mature young lady. After seeing these signs, I’m hopeful this will work out.

Follow this journey on Raising a Drama Queen and like Cate’s page on Facebook

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What I Wish My Boyfriend’s Parents Knew About Me and My Disability

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My boyfriend and I have been together for about five years. He is able-bodied, and I walk with canes. He’s never been phased by my cerebral palsy (CP) and actually seems to enjoy assisting me throughout our life together, such as carrying my laundry, tying my shoes when there’s no place for me to sit down to tie them myself or dreaming up ways to make activities accessible for the two of us — something that I appreciate and feel is quite nice.

Not wanting it to ever seem like he may have been hiding it, my boyfriend was very up front with his parents about my moderate cerebral palsy after our first few dates. I’m not sure why, but they were immediately devastated that their son would choose to date someone with such a permanent, restricting condition, which they assumed could only ever negatively affect his life. Although we have met a few times over the years, for the most part, I have been kept on the outside of their very close family. They refused to accept or acknowledge my being in their son’s life. I’ve faced discrimination for my disability before, but never had it held in such a constant position, dictating a large aspect of my life.

Only recently have they begun to come around to the idea of our relationship and allowing me to participate in family activities. I’ve only ever wanted them to get to know me as more than my CP. Simply put, here are 12 things I wish they understood about me:

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1. I’m in love with their son; he’s my best friend.

2. A disability is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s also not optional, so I have to live my life.

3. My disability is a part of me, but in a lot of ways, I am just like everyone else, and thus, deserve to be treated as such.

4. But the things that make me different (I’ll never dispute the fact that I am different) have also made me a stronger and a more open-minded person with a unique perspective.

5. I will never be completely bedridden and dependent.

6. My having a disability will not get in the way of their son’s career.

7. My disability is not genetic; I have just as much chance of birthing a child with disabilities as anyone else.

8. If they have questions about my condition, or me in general, they should just ask me.

9. How they have treated us, as well as the at times outrageous assumptions they have made about my abilities, or lack thereof, have hurt me in ways I never expected.

10. However, I am not going away, so we should just work on, at the very least, coexisting.

11. I love the love their family has for each other, and all I’ve ever really wanted is to be a part of it.

12. They have raised two smart, great men with an endless ability for love and compassion, which should make them proud.

I came face-to-face with my boyfriend’s parents this weekend for the first time in about four years, since I was a plus-one at a retreat thrown by his family’s business, with the intention of reintroducing me to his parents. Although they were not the most welcoming, we’ve made progress in that they politely tolerated my presence. Not wanting to rock the boat too soon, I didn’t approach them about these things or their concerns — speaking for myself for the first time — but I’m not giving up. I’ll respectfully bide my time at family events until, hopefully one day soon, we are comfortable enough with each other to have an open and honest conversation.

This is the only thing I can think to do. Fighting and rudeness would only give them a real reason to disapprove of me. And obviously, hiding didn’t work because you can’t get used to someone you never see. I hope my dream of being accepted will come true with time.

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When My Son Answered a Group of Kids Asking Questions About My Scars

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My son is 3 years old and he “gets” it. He understands that burns, scars or physical differences don’t make a person “bad” or “weird.” It just makes them different. He started noticing my scars when he was about 1 and a half. He would gently run his finger along the dark brown scar on my left cheek and say, “Ouchie.” And I’d say, “Yes, it was an ouchie, but it’s all better now,” and he’d move on to something else.

I knew there’d come a time when he’d notice someone else notice my physical differences. I hadn’t really prepared myself for what I’d say or do, so when the time came I just handled it in the moment. A curious little girl (about 6 years old) kept smiling at me the park. I’d smile back and say, “Hello!” Finally, after a few exchanges, she walked over and bluntly asked, “What happened to you? What are those scars on you?” I smiled and explained that I’d been burned, but my scars were all healed up and I was all better now. She then proceeded to ask me, “But what happened?”

So, I told her I’d had an accident. She insisted on getting a more detailed answer, following up with a confused, “A car accident?” By this time a group of kids had gathered around, some shyly listening, while others were touching my arms as I held them out. My son was within earshot when I said, “Yes, a car accident.” The little girl said, “Ohhhh, there must’ve been fire.” And I responded with a simple “Yes.” Satisfied with my answer they continued to laugh and chat with me while we played a game of tag.

Anytime I encounter children who have questions about my scars, I am happy to answer them. I’d much rather have a child ask me openly than point and stare and never get the opportunity to interact with me. In my experience, parents have scolded their children or hurried them along when they’ve commented on my skin or started asking me a question. And I always tell parents it’s OK. I often have to convince them that I’m open to share, and I encourage them to let their children talk to me so that I can show them that I’m not “scary” or “strange.” Rather, I’m a person with feelings and a story.

My experience has allowed me to teach my son something very special, and that’s compassion. I realized that he “got it” when we were at (yet another) park playing. In this instance, a group of kids joined our usual game of “monster” and they began to ask questions. But this time before I could get a word out, my son said, “It’s just burns, guys! From a car accident.” A part of me giggled as he said it so matter-of-factly. I was proud of him. I in no way expected him to assume the responsibility of answering for me or sticking up for me, but he did. It was a complete shock, but I am proud nonetheless. He didn’t see it as a big deal or as something that should stop their fun, so he addressed it, made eye contact to confirm they were OK with it and then they happily moved on. Who knew?

Still another part of me worried about how his accepted version of a car accident might confuse him when he gets older and learns the truth. For now, I’m OK with it. He’d overheard me tell another child that my burns were a result of a car accident, so that’s how he made sense of it all. It’s totally appropriate. When he gets older, we’ll have a more detailed conversation about the facts and we’ll process it together. Until then, if he wants to tell other children that my scars are from a car accident and there’s no need to be afraid of me, I’m OK with it. I’m thankful he and I get to be both the teacher and the student on this journey, and I couldn’t be more proud to be his mom.

Follow this journey on Burned Beauty.

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When a Movie Gave Us the Hope We Needed for Our Son With Down Syndrome

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On November 15, 2014, our lives were forever changed. They changed not just because our first child, Kayeden, was born, but that our first child was born with Down syndrome. We chose not to have genetic testing done, so the diagnosis came as a complete shock. We had no idea what that meant for our son’s future and what new challenges were ahead.

We were given multiple books, websites, DVDs, you name it, to educate ourselves on Down syndrome. It was so much to take in and was extremely overwhelming. There was a huge part of us that was still in denial. This wasn’t what we’d imagined. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Our son has Down syndrome? Were the doctors sure?

Every time we looked at Kayeden, we didn’t see Down syndrome. All we saw was the most beautiful, perfect baby boy. It felt like we were living a dream. How was it possible that this perfect baby boy would grow up to have developmental delays? Would he ever live on his own? Go to college? Get married?

Shortly after Kayeden was born, my husband, Craig, and I heard that a movie, “Where Hope Grows,” was going to be playing at the Kansas City Film Fest where we live. It featured a young man (Produce) with Down syndrome who worked at a grocery store. We were curious what life might be like for Kayeden, so we wanted to see it. The night the movie came out, we all (Kayeden included) headed out. This was going to be Kayeden’s first movie.

After the movie was over, all we could do was smile. There was hope. Produce had a job, lived on his own and did everyday “normal” things just like everyone else. Also, David DeSanctis (the young man who played Produce) was acting, had to memorize lines and interacted with everyone just like any other actor would. It was so inspiring to see. “Where Hope Grows” gave us that last little bit of hope we needed to know that Kayeden’s life, and our lives, were going to be just fine. We knew it was going to be possible for Kayeden to do all the things David (and Produce) could do and even more.

When we were in the hospital, someone told us that all Kayeden needs is someone to believe in him. We can without a doubt, say that we truly do believe that Kayeden will be able to do anything that he wants to do. He will struggle just like any other person will, and he will succeed at anything he puts his heart into. We know this is what our lives were supposed to be like. We believe this was God’s plan all along. We can’t imagine life any other way. We have the perfect baby boy we’ve always dreamed of.

The Andersons: Craig, Emily and Kayeden

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability and/or illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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10 Things We’d Like Restaurateurs to Know About Our Special Needs Family

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Like all families, we adore days out. Being parents of a beautiful little girl with profound special needs, these days out altogether are so precious. To make them as enjoyable as we can, we tend to go out during off-peak times so there isn’t as much hustle and bustle. But even so, we love being right in the thick of life.

Like every other family, we get cabin fever if we’re stuck indoors for a long period of time. Here are the 10 things we’d like restaurateurs to know when we do get out:

1. If we’re eating in your restaurant, we’ve probably checked it out in secret about five times. (Yes, you recognize us from our heads peeking in the window!)

2. If we are there, you’re doing a great job with accessibility. Well done.

3. We really, really want to be there. Days out are often few and precious.

4. We might need a small bit of extra space because we don’t travel light.

5. Your food is delicious (remember our five secret checks), but we can’t always wait the 20 or 30 minutes for it to be served. Sometimes it can be really hard to occupy our little girl, who might be unfamiliar with this new environment and be tipping into meltdown territory as soon as your incredible steak arrives to our table.

6. If we smile apologetically and gently inquire as to how long our meal might take, know that this time our great plan is falling apart, the day is going pear-shaped and the family meltdown is hurtling towards us. We would probably prefer at this stage to abandon ship, but we’ve already ordered and would never do that to a business, so please hurry!

7. Our absolute wish would be that we could call ahead with our order and time that we would be there when it’s served. This would save those pesky 20 or 30 minutes.

8. A great family experience out will be one of our cherished memories.

9. If our child looks uncomfortable, upset or in our case, bent over with her head touching her feet, understand that we are not bad parents bringing her into a situation she’s unable to experience. We would never ever do that. Understand that children with special needs are like every other child and often exercise their fabulous right as a child to act up, have a tantrum, be a little monkey and cause rascally havoc, and this is just one of those times.

10. When you accommodate us well — and we have be accommodated fantastically — we think you’re rockstars, and we tell all our friends!

Thank you,

Ann, Charlene and Miley

Follow this journey on Mommies Swing Me Higher.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Robin Williams’ Daughter Has a Message for Those Who’ve Experienced Depression

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This weekend, Zelda Williams shared a beautiful moonrise photo with her Instagram followers, captioning the moment with a positive message for anyone who’s experienced depression. The message comes a little less than a month after the one year anniversary of the death of her father, Robin Williams.

Avoiding fear, sadness or anger is not the same thing as being happy,” she wrote in the picture’s caption. “I live my sadness every day, but I don’t resent it anymore. Instead, I do it now so that the wonderful moments of joy I find are not in order to forget, but to inhabit and enjoy for their own sake. It’s not easy.”

Towards the end of his life, Williams’ father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dealing with depression. He died by suicide last August, and his now 26-year-old daughter has been speaking up about mental health issues since.

She encourages those who have experienced depression to hold onto hope, and concludes her message with a promise.

“And for those suffering from depression, I know how dark and endless that tunnel can feel, but if happiness seems impossible to find, please hold on to the possibility of hope, faint though it may be,” she wrote. “Because I promise you, there’re enough nights under the same yellow moon for all of us to share, no matter how or when you find your way there.”

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Read the message in its entirety below: 

Moonrise on the lake. I spent this night shivering and laughing under a clear, cold sky full of stars with people I love just to witness something beautiful. We mooned the moon and laughed ourselves hoarse, and I’m so incredibly grateful for every silly second. I came to a realization this year that I feel compelled to share here, for whomsoever may need it: Avoiding fear, sadness or anger is not the same thing as being happy. I live my sadness every day, but I don’t resent it anymore. Instead, I do it now so that the wonderful moments of joy I do find are not in order to forget, but to inhabit and enjoy for their own sake. It’s not easy. In fact, I’d say it takes much more effort to consciously do than it does to just stay sad, but with all my heart, I cannot tell you how worth it it is. And for those suffering from depression, I know how dark and endless that tunnel can feel, but if happiness seems impossible to find, please hold on to the possibility of hope, faint though it may be. Because I promise you, there’re enough nights under the same yellow moon for all of us to share, no matter how or when you find your way there.

Related: Zelda Williams Gets Sentimental Tattoo to Honor Her Late Father

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