Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When the siblings come to therapy

You have a diagnosis. You have the referral. It's time for you child to start therapy... but you've got to bring along another child (or 2 or 3) and aren't sure how this is going to work.

No fear! This can be done. I've been doing it almost from the beginning of our journey with Apraxia.

When William was first evaluated I was VERY pregnant with Alanna. Shortly after she was born, Will started his therapies in earnest. Lana has been attending her brother's therapy her whole life, she knows nothing else. I have people ask how I do it and I shrug and say, "you do what you have to do."

Here are some tips with what to do with the sibling(s) when your child has therapy.

Find a sitter. I have known many families who will leave the other child or children at home with dad, or grandma, or auntie, or friend. There were a few times I have been able to do it... and loved it! It relieves a lot of stress. You can be more involved in therapy or you can take a time out to spend on yourself. This is an awesome solution, but not always practical. We don't have family nearby to help and spending more money for a sitter wasn't worth it for us, so Alanna is pretty much always in accompaniment.

If you can leave the facility: DO IT! William had 90-120 minute block therapies at one point. During that time I would leave and go to the YMCA for a workout while Lana played in child watch. It. Was. Awesome! I've also taken a long therapy session for a time to run errands - grocery shopping, post office, take dog for grooming, etc. The other kid would just tag along, like usual. It was very helpful to be productive with our time. If the scheduling works out, you might even have the sibling signed up for a special class like ballet, karate, or swim lessons so they are doing something when it is time for therapy.

If you can't leave the facility: Not all places allow parents to leave the property while the child is receiving services. We are facing that now. I have an almost 3-hour chunk of time to fill while sitting at an office with Alanna. So what do you do?
  • Small Baby
    • If at all possible, schedule to have therapy during naptime. When we had in-home services it was great for me to have the baby put down so that I could be involved and interacting with the therapists. We also had office therapies. It was wonderful when she would nap, but that wasn't always the case. I think it was easier when Alanna was so little because it wasn't too much work to hold a baby or let her have tummy time while big brother was doing therapy.
  • Mobile Baby 
    • This is when things began to get harder. Baby wants to go, go, go! I wanted to participate in the therapy sessions so at times we would include Lana in them (like at feeding therapy) or just let her move about the rooms doing her own investigating and checking out sensory toys. Most places of therapy for children are very accommodating of siblings. Alanna was always nearby, but it can be distracting. If the baby was too much of a disturbance we would leave the session and hang out in the lobby. Make sure you bring your own toys and food* to keep the little one occupied.
Playing outside with the flowers while waiting for brother at Hippotherapy. Yes she's dirty, but she was having fun!
  • Toddler
    • Have any concerns about the sibling's development at your child's therapy? A lot of places will give a free or informal evaluation, especially if they are familiar with you. Just by observing, some of the physical therapists commented on Alanna's "W" sit she would always do, so they brought it to our attention and even physically evaluated her joints. No worries though, she's fine. It is a relief to be around professionals who can give you a heads up if something is wrong or ease your concerns - if one child has issues you fear the other might as well.
    • A toddler can also be difficult at therapy. Around this time we slowly had to transition from participating in all of Will's therapies to sitting more in the lobby. This, thankfully, was also the time when we would go to the gym. BUT, if we did stay I would bring small activities to fill up our time. Basic coloring, playdough*, favorite toys, a new or rarely played with toy, books... we were even allowed to go play in a therapy room by ourselves that wasn't in use. And if behavior disintegrated too much, we would just wait in the car outside so as not to disturb everyone.
Yes, my daughter is in pajamas and rubber boots with un-brushed hair. It's those early morning therapy sessions... you do what you have to do.

  • PreSchooler
    • At this point, I think things begin to get easier. PreSchoolers are inquisitive and active. We would bring simple activities like sticker books, coloring, a special toys to play with, and books to read. By this age most children will watch movies or programs (some even in the toddler years), so we would bring the LeapPad or the iPad with fun apps and movies to help fill our time. If you're lucky, the facility might also provide a television or play area in the lobby to entertain the sibling.
  • School Age
    • We are finally reaching this stage. Hallelujah! A lot of things you do with a preschooler can be used in the school age category. The plus is that by this time the sibling probably has homework. Being at therapy allows a time to actually get it done. They will act bored anyway, you might as well get something useful done. And you can give the incentive that if they can get their homework done, then they can do the other "fun" activities until therapy is over.
I have heard other parents make comments that those who sit in the lobby aren't involved or just don't care as much about the work their child in therapy is doing. I kind of want to slap them. I'm being honest. We work hard with our son on a daily basis and if I could I would probably sit in on almost all of his services. That just doesn't work for us. Something you might miss if you never sit in the lobby is the support and friendships you can make with other parents of special needs kids. I have met some very interesting people and learned about some amazing services or doctors or testing that can be done just by talking with the other parents in the waiting room.

Best of luck on your own therapy adventures.

* Be conscious of the rules at your place of therapy. Some places will not allow food or playdough because of allergens.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT post!! Thank you so much for your comment about parents staying in the waiting room not meaning that they don't care/want to be involved. When Butterfly started therapy (twice a week, usually at 8 or 9 am), I had a 2 year old and a 3 year old in tow each time. Occasionally I was able to get a babysitter, but most of the time I couldn't. There was no way I could take them with in the therapy sessions. I wanted to be in there with Butterfly, but it just couldn't happen. The therapists were so great about going over everything with me afterwards and taking time to answer my questions and suggest things - I felt included when they did that.

    Also, some places have Child Life Rooms - where siblings can explore, read or play to their hearts content. :)

    Since we had therapy at such an early hour, I often brought breakfast to therapy, which helped pass some time as well.

    Thank you for posting! :D You're been such a trooper with William's therapies and you inspire us other moms who are new to the world of therapy. *hugs*