CHOOSING THE 'RIGHT' THERAPIST FOR YOUR CHILD
There is no guarantee or sure-fire way to choose a therapist. Therapists have a wide range of knowledge, experience, training, skill, and even talent.
We've put together the 3 P's to help you sort through your online search and recommendations from family and friends. We hope this approach gives you confidence that your therapist is a good match for you, your child, and your family.
Image courtesy of http://www.freepik.com
There are some important factors that you may want to consider when making your decision, including the depth and breadth of your therapists' clinical experience, and the collaboration the two of you will share.
Ask yourself; do they have clinical experience with children with similar needs to your child? How long have they worked specifically in the area that you need?
All therapists undergo continuing education and training. Some however have specialist training in specific treatment modality, developing advanced clinical skills through training and practice. Does your child require a specific treatment modality, or a clinical specialist?
Some families access therapy for relatively short periods of time, whilst others require more long-term treatment. Consider, can the therapist provide ongoing developmental support if your child requires it? What is the age of clients that they see?
Ask yourself; do they regard parents and caregivers as intervention partners? Will they value you as the expert when it comes to your child?
Are they good communicators? Do they openly demonstrate and explain what they do? Are they willing to engage in communication and liaison with others involved in your child's care?
You'd be surprised how much a website, Facebook page, bios or response to your initial inquiry can reveal about a therapist or a practice. Observe the feeling you get; can you imagine working alongside them? Do you think your child will get along with them?
You want someone who is child-friendly, who truly sees your child and is interested in them. Consider, will your child be willing to interact with them? Will your child have fun whilst learning?
It's personal. The body language, voice, appearance, manner, age and gender of the therapist, along with the atmosphere of the setting, matter. Are you and your child drawn to the therapist and practice? Do they instill you with confidence and a sense of hope? Does the level of parental or caregiver expected involvement match your expectations?
“The best therapists ... see the child ... they will know how to laugh and play and have fun, but also how to impose discipline in a kind and consistent manner. Your child will really enjoy being with these people and learn best with them. If you come across one you should try to hold onto her (or him) for as long as possible.” (The Australian Autism Handbook, 2018)
Sometimes, the complexity of modern-day family life presides over our final decision. You may need to give thought to location, availability of appointments, therapy specifics, costs, or funding available.
Is the proximity of the clinic to your home essential to you? Consider the effect of travel on your child and yourself. Does the therapist or practice have the capacity to provide school visits, home visits, or day care visits?
What days are appointments available? Do they offer Saturday appointments; or before and after school hours? Are you able to find a time that is mutually convenient given your family's schedule?
Some therapists or practices may have guidelines on how they deliver therapy. Consider how therapy is offered and whether it matches your child's developmental level and needs. Would your child benefit from individual or group treatment sessions, or a combination of both? Is there flexibility in the length of the session and the frequency of appointments?
D. Cost, Payments and Rebates
Cost or affordability plays a differing role in the decision-making process, dependent on your personal situation. Nevertheless, it is worth obtaining clarification of costs involved, payment options, rebates, and funding available. Does the assessment fee include a report? What are the costs of treatment sessions? If you sign up for a group, when is payment expected? Do they have a cancellation fee?
Many therapists or practices have HiCaps available to allow on-the-spot processing of Medicare claims and private health rebates. Consider; how are payments processed at this practice?
If your child has received Department of Social Services (HCWA and Better Start) funding, then services must be accessed from a suitably registered provider.
If your child has an NDIS plan, the way the funding is managed may determine who you access services from. Is your funding NDIA managed? If so, your therapist needs to be a registered NDIS provider. If your funding is self-managed or plan managed, then you are able to choose your preferred provider.
Once you have engaged a therapist, remember to assess if your child is making progress, and also if you are satisfied overall with the service that you are receiving. Raise any concerns
with the therapist as they come to pass. You need to keep in mind that you
and your child have entered into a relationship with the therapist, and as
such, it requires time and open communication to thrive and operate effectively.
(This blog was initially published on another website on June 1, 2018)
Maria' professional paediatric Occupational Therapy experience spans rural, public and private practice. She is passionate about working with children and their families. When she isn’t working she can be found supporting her four children’s sporting and artistic endeavours, or walking the family’s crazy cocker spaniel with her husband.