Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is Your Therapist Better If She Has Children?

I used to have a very well-known pediatrician treat my kids. She was named a Top Doc in New York Magazine and that is a very hard status to achieve. But, after three and half years of having my children under her care, I decided I had had enough of her. Why? Because she kept dismissing my concerns with stories of her own children which ultimately led me to make VERY poor decisions for my kids.

For example, when I complained about Logan's poor feeding habits, she said, "Don't worry. My son took two months to get back to his birth weight and now he's the tallest in his class."

When I complained of how Logan was hitting other kids in preschool, she said, "That's nothing. My daughter bit the other kids. She's fine now."

But my kid is not fine now! He has serious issues and we missed them all during a time he could have had early intervention therapy. After a long period of blaming me for his behavior, she finally sent me to see a specialist and then after having him evaluated, we found he had multiple delays and issues. I brought the results to her but she never once apologized to me for missing the signs.

My youngest son, Spencer, now 2, has a great team of therapists treating him and coincidentally, three of them have boys around the same age as him. At first I thought this was a great plus but then I started hearing similar refrains that my former pediatrician used often. The therapists would say things like, "Oh my son does that all the time," or "he's just being a typical 2-year-old. What I did was....." When I heard them say this, I slightly cringed because I felt that they shouldn't be comparing my special needs child to their typical children. Then I wondered if therapists were more effective if they themselves had children or if the opposite was true.

I asked a bunch of parents online what their thoughts were and most said they preferred therapists who had children of their own. Some felt that therapists who have children can definitely empathize with the emotional and real-life challenges that you have as a parent. Debbie from Ottawa, a parent of 2 special needs kids, who is also an ABA therapist said that one advantage was that she knew all the kids' favorite shows, movies, and songs that therapists without kids would have to learn while at work. I definitely see that the therapists with young children know all of Spencer's favorite songs by heart and he loves that. On the flip side, one mom felt that a therapist without children could be more objective and I could see that too.

For me, I think I've learned just one lesson from my former pediatrician. That is, I have to listen to my gut even if my gut is telling me bad news. This is why I have decided that the best way to help my kids is to have up-to-the-minute knowledge on their progress and challenge the therapists' opinions when I think I'm right.

For me, this is hard to do because I hate confrontations but on occasion, I have forced myself to say things like, "I understand that it's typical 2-year-old behavior but I'm concerned that he might not grow out of it like other kids do because of Logan's history." It feels weird challenging people who know much more about child development than I do. However, while I'm still responsible for my two little guys, I will have to trust my gut and have the courage to speak out when it's necessary.

Picture: Susanna Siles, one of my son's ABA therapists and mother of a teenager feels that it doesn't matter if a therapist has a child or not. A good therapist will know how to work with all different types of children AND their parents to produce the best outcomes for the children.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenn,

I am an ABA Line Therapist and a mother of a 3 year old Austic son.

You are very wise in following your gut all the time. All of my kiddos (therapy kidds) are older than my son, but I still feel as though I can see the needs of the my therapy kiddos much better than the other therapists.

Personally, I think the personality of the therapist makes the difference.

Good Luck and take care!