Parental Involvement

When school is back in session and students transition to a new classroom, with unfamiliar faces and routines we see an uptick in the number of occupational therapy referrals. This is true in both school referrals and clinic referrals. Family schedules quickly get jammed with after school activities. Often time one parent shuttles one child and the other parent shuttles a sibling somewhere else. As a parent and therapist, I understand very well that our lives are very full. So, how do I manage to get parents involved in their child’s therapy sessions? And, why do I want parents involved in treatment sessions?

Typically, therapy sessions for children are 30-45 minutes in duration. The frequency may range from one time to two times per week. If my math is correct, each week has 168 hours, although sometimes the week feels like it has much less. This means I spend, on average, one hour per week with my clinic children. I focus on each and every goal during my sessions. The child gives me 100 hundred percent. Then they leave and have the balance of 167 hours left outside of therapy. We want to see progress. Generally, most want progress sooner rather than later. I tend to combat this issue, by inviting parents into every therapy session, even if it is for the last 5 minutes. I run through the daily activities the child completed. Most importantly, I give a related home program to be completed daily by the child and parent. This mini parent-child co-treatment session is key to achieving my therapy goals with each child. Parents receive much valuable information regarding their child’s diagnosis and methods to help. It’s a win-win situation for all parities.

Recently, I came across a research article that substantiated home programs in a profound way. Scientists investigated whether a relationship existed between parent-child attachment and sensory modulation (see last blog on sensory processing disorder). As predicted, a relationship does exist between the two Let me share an example. A newborn, with sensory issues, may cry and arch their body when cuddled. A new parent may become less confident in their caregiving ability. This puts the attachment relationship at risk. Maybe the parent will offer less contact because of the infant’s feedback. A negative cycle could potentially start at this point (Pineda et al, 2015). As a clinician, this drives home the point of parent co-treatment and education. It is my role to inform the parent that their caretaking efforts are on point and needed, but just slightly modified to suit their child’s particular sensory state.

Center for Children’s Therapy parents don’t forget to look in your child’s therapy folder for tonight’s therapeutic activity. Maybe I gave you a specific exercise to strengthen a muscle group or to enhance a sensory diet. Perhaps you will find worksheets with vision exercises or writing or cutting tasks. Most importantly, have fun while practicing your child’s occupational therapy goals at home. I can’t wait to see the progress in sessions.

Pineda, R. et al, (2015). Correlational Research to Examine the Relation Between Attachment and Sensory Modulation in Young Children.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69 2-8.