Why We Took A Break From Therapy
It’s been an interesting journey parenting four daughters, three of whom are on the spectrum. We have definitely approached therapy differently for each daughter — starting with the major onset delay in accessing support for Sno due to her later diagnosis, then positive regular OT sessions for Wilding in our home environment and now therapy with Beans.
Over the years, it has become clear to me — as it is with most things in life — there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the effectiveness or purpose behind accessing therapy for autistic children. Maybe it was because Beans is my fourth child, third autistic daughter, and I feel I can grasp her needs without having to pay a professional to tell me what she needs or what her strengths or weaknesses are. Maybe it’s because my view of the point of therapy has changed. Maybe it’s both. But Beans was diagnosed last year and over the last eight months she’s only been to a few sessions of occupational therapy.
Here are my two main reasons why:
1. Therapy appointments can actually be counter productive.
Waiting rooms are no place to spend a childhood, and being shuttled back and forth to appointments is draining and tiresome…for everyone involved. It also takes time for some autistic children to get to know and trust strangers and be their true selves around them.
And most importantly:
2. Many therapy models seem to try to alter a child to suit society’s expectations or interpretations of “normal” and “acceptable.”
Over the years I guess I’m just not sure whether I care about my kids fitting into the few limited molds on offer. The truth is, there is no “right” way to behave and my girls have really taught me — and continue to teach me — they dance to the rhythm of their own tune, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK, in fact it’s awesome, it’s brave, it’s beautiful and it’s something I want to encourage — not stifle or change. Having the courage to be who you are in a society bent on insisting everyone buckle under pressure is an incredibly admirable thing.
So while I do believe some types of therapy and some situations are warranted and helpful, I’m not sure it all is.
Not all therapists are the same, either. I have found it helpful to get sensory profiles done for my girls so I can address and understand their sensory needs and provide them with the types of input they like. But once I have that, I do all the ongoing support at home. Our house is basically equipped like an OT’s office, it’s pretty amusing. Therapy in the form of psychology is also very useful in terms of teaching my older autistic girls how to handle their emotions and live with their anxiety, encouraging them ultimately to learn to independently self-regulate by understanding and being aware of their triggers, too.
But Beans and I have taken a break. We continue to work on core-strengthening at home for her hypo mobility and low-tone. We go to the beach for sensory play, we climb trees, we incorporate fine motor and gross motor strengthening fluidly into our every day doings in ways she enjoys. There is no force, there is no push to conform, there is no rewards or bribery.
In finding our flow, my girls are free to be who they are, embraced for their unique ways and encouraged to be fully and wonderfully their true selves.
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Getty image by Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy