The interview inspired today's post because, in retrospect, I think a big part of the reason therapy wasn't working for Jaimie in the beginning was my own resistanceto it. I quickly learned the importance of therapy when I realized that not only was Jaimie learning skills she needed to function in her world effectively, I was also learning strategies on how to guide her and advocate for her. And that is gold, believe me.
So, today I'm going to share, from my personal experience, 10 reasons why caregivers shouldn't fear therapy. OH! And be sure to add both The Coffee Klatch as well as Kid Companions to your Favorites. They are both invaluable resources for caregivers of children with special needs.
1) Your child learns about herself. Therapists are trained in their area of speciality and are able to teach your child about her specific condition. They are also there to show your child all the things she can do using the tools and strategies they teach her. Just remember, caregivers: They aren't there to replace you; they are there to enhance what you're already doing.
2) You learn about yourself. I'll be honest with you. I was so not okay with someone coming into our home and working with my little girl initially. I wanted to help her. I had her in my body for nine months; I gave birth to her and I did everything humanly possible to take care of her. It hurt to see that another person...a stranger, essentially...understood Jaimie's needs better than I did. It's a normal human (Mama-gut) reaction, but you cannot allow these feelings to interfere with your child getting the help he desperately needs. By being strong enough to stand aside and allow that professional to assess, diagnose and work with your child, you are, essentially, giving him the gift of life again. The first time, you brought him into the world and now you'll be giving him the tools to finally enjoy life in that world. That's pretty powerful. You learn about your inner strength, courage and abilities going through therapy with your child. Believe me.
3) Your child's condition becomes less powerful. Your therapist gives you information, guidance, resources and knowledge as your child goes along her therapy journey. All of these things help you see the condition as something living with your family and not controlling your family. Something is only scary if you don't understand it. One you know about SPD in general and your child's specific form of it, SPD doesn't seem as big or daunting. You have the power to cope with it.
4) You begin to see your child for who he really is. So many of us refer to our kids as 'my Aspie kid' or 'my child with SPD', etc. For those of us who have been dealing with it for a long time, we understand that that condition is only part of who our child is. And therapy will help with that too. Initially, all we see are the sensory issues or the Autism because we don't have the tools to see past it. Therapy not only teaches us about the condition but also pulls the child out from around it so we can finally say, "Wow! There you are!" I mean, caregivers have always been able to see her but now, finally, everyone else can too.
5) You have a team behind you who can help. Once your child has a therapy or SPD Team (as we call them), you have back up. You are no longer alone along your journey because you have experts who can help get your child what he needs to function in his world. Never be afraid to talk to them, ask them questions or turn to them when you run into a wall. That's what they're there for.
6) You meet other families like yours. Guess what? You aren't alone in this journey anymore. Nope. There are thousands of us out here just waiting for you to connect with. Just click on the link to the right to be taken to the SPD Network or go to the SPD Foundation's website and read their blog. Your therapist can also connect you with support groups in your community where you can reach out, or be reached out to, by families going through exactly what you are. Parent-to-parent support is so extremely important.
7) You learn about Advocacy and how to achieve it. One of the most important things I learned through therapy with Jaimie (and Xander) is how to advocate for my child in school, the community and in life. We need to understand that because most of advocacy is educating others. We need to make people understand what SPD (or whatever condition your child lives with) is, what it isn't and how it interferes with your child's functioning. Then we can teach others how they can be a part of our child's life in the most comfortable and effective way.
8) Your child learns to advocate for himself. This is another powerful gift therapy brings your child. We are learning to advocate for him while the therapist is teaching your child what his needs are as well as what he need to take care of those needs. While watching you advocate for him ...while learning more about himself, he's learning how to advocate for himself. The moment I saw Jaimie teaching others about SPD, about her sensory tools and not feeling any shame or embarrassment about that, I knew therapy was making a difference for her.
9) It teaches you how to be a 'sensational' family. You already know this but when your child has special needs, the entire family is affected in some way. Therapy teaches us how to be a family and cope with this condition together. Not only do we learn what we can do to help the child with the needs, we also learn our individual attributes and important contributions to the family. This is extremely important for siblings.
10) You learn to love you. When you're a special needs parent, you are vulnerable to becoming so absorbed with your child's needs you forget your own. You forget you. Through your child's therapy, you learn--as your child is learning--that those high needs are only a part of who you are. You are more than a 'special needs parent'. You are also a woman (or man), a wife (or husband), a friend, a talented __________ (fill in the blank). Therapy gives us courage to be all of these things.
These are only a few of the things I've gained from therapy. Despite initial apprehensions towards it, I came to the quick realization that the gains are worth so much more. One thing I'll add at this point is that once you slowly gain knowledge, you are able to pass it along to other caregivers who were in the same position you were in at the beginning of your journey. How fantastic is that?
As I always say, "The sensational Journey can be a long road with many hurdles to overcome. Be patient, stay strong, trust your heart and, most importantly, listen to your gut."