When a child is first diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability, the child and parents can sometimes enter what feels like a whirlwind rollercoaster ride of assessments, goal setting, therapy appointments, home activities, and more therapy appointments. So much time and effort is put into helping the child to learn new skills, integrate those skills into their every day life, and build their independence… And then the cycle repeats…. Set goals, learn new skills, integrate the skills into everyday life, build independence….
But what happens when, after a few cycles of this, your child has progressed and no longer needs such intense or regular therapy? What if your child’s therapist recommends a decrease in therapy?
In our experience, the first time a decrease in therapy is recommended, the first reaction from parents can be fear. Parents have shared with us that they are worried that their child will go backwards without the regular therapy they have been receiving. They worry that their child’s progress will stop, that they won’t continue to make gains without the regular therapy. They worry that if they don’t use all the allocated funding, then they will lose funding and won’t be able to get that funding later if their child’s needs change. And although the parents have not directly expressed this, but I sometimes wonder if, underlying these fears, parents also worry about whether they will be able to “do it on their own” – whether they will be able to continue to support their child to be the best person they can be, and to live their best life, without the help of regular therapy appointments.
Change is always hard. But I want to flip this fear for parents, by sharing some alternative perspectives to help parents celebrate their child progressing on in or from therapy, rather than fear it:
Progressing on in therapy or from therapy is success story, and a time for celebration!
When your child reaches a point where they no longer need the same intensity of therapy as before, this is a time of celebration! The reasons for progression will always vary:
- It might be that your child has progressed to a point where they have learnt the basics of the skill, and now they need to just be given time and opportunity to integrate it and practice it in more real life scenarios. This might occur when the child has learnt to tie their shoes for the first time, and they just need to practice it daily in order to get faster and better at doing it in real life.
- It might be that your child has progressed enough that they are now “doing their own therapy” in their everyday life. For example, for a child who has difficulties with low muscle tone and learning gross motor skills, once they learn to crawl, pull to stand, and walk, every time they do one of these movements they are building strength, reinforcing the new movement patterns, and refining their own skills – all without any direct therapy input.
- It might be that your child’s needs have changed, and something that was a priority before has become a lesser priority compared to other areas of their development.
- And finally, it might be because your child has just doing so well, that the need for therapy to help them to progress in their skills has decreased.
All of these reasons are cause for success and celebration!!! It is wonderful that all the hard work that you, your child, and your therapy team has put in has paid off, and your child has achieved their goals and is ready for the next phase in their therapy journey.
Progressing in or on from therapy opens up new opportunities for your child and family
Decreasing the intensity of your child’s therapy, or changing the type of therapy your child receives can open up new opportunities for your child to achieve new goals, or for your child and family to thrive. Your child might be able to progress to a group setting, giving them opportunity to meet other children, and build their social skills and self identity. Your child might be able to progress to an Allied Health Assistant program, where they are supported to learn to incorporate their skills into real life scenarios, like using their new gross motor skills to learn to play and climb at the park, or using their new fine motor skills to practice cooking at home. Or your child might be able to decrease the type of one therapy to allow them more time and opportunity to work on different skills in another type of therapy.
Another opportunity that decreasing the intensity of therapy opens up is the opportunity to have more free time to spend doing everyday ‘kid things’ or time to spend together as a family – rather than going to therapy sessions. It is important not to underestimate how valuable these things are to your child’s independence and their development of their self identity.
Progressing in or on from therapy does not mean that you will no longer have our support
Children with developmental delays or disabilities, even after they progress and are out and about just living their best life, are likely to have issues or needs that come up from time to time that they will need support for. At Move and Play, we recognise this, and will make plans for regular check ins with your child and family, to review how things are going, to screen for any new issues, or to plan supports if something new has come up. These check ins may be monthly, or quarterly, or six monthly, depending on your child’s needs, and they may happen in person or over the phone.
We don’t want to leave any families feeling like they have been ‘left out in the cold’ when progressing on from therapy with us.
Progressions in or on from therapy do not mean you won’t be able to access funding and therapy supports later if your child’s needs increase.
Although I can’t speak on behalf of the NDIS, I do know that the disability sector as a whole recognises that the needs of children (and adults) with a disability will change over time. Sometimes those needs will decrease over time as the child gains new skills and processes. And sometimes those needs will increase over time, which may be due to deterioration, or simply due to a change of circumstances such as finishing high school, moving house, development of a secondary condition, or the addition of a family member.
When a change in circumstances occurs, there are specific processes in place within the NDIS to request a change of circumstances, which may result in additional funded supports to help meet your child’s additional needs. And from our point of view, we specifically only book one term in advance so that we can make adjustments to each child’s changing needs as they progress. So this means, that if you child’s needs increase at some point in the future, after you have decreased their usual therapy – both the NDIS, and our team at Move and Play have processes in place to ensure you will be supported.
So if you child’s therapist recommends that your child progresses in their therapy – whether that is by decreasing the intensity or frequency of sessions, changing the format of therapy from individual to group or community programs, or even having a break for a little while…. Please remember that it means that your child is doing really well, that the effort you and your child have been putting in is paying off. So make sure you celebrate this important milestone! Well done!!! And please know that we are always here to help you if anything changes for your child or family in the future.