There are numerous misconceptions about pediatric therapy out there. I hear parents reporting to me all the time that they “heard from a friend,” or better yet, “saw on the internet” that developmental therapy does not work and that pediatric therapists “just keep kids in therapy” with no real improvement.
Below, I will address the 5 biggest myths out there regarding Pediatric Therapy:
Myth 1: My child will “mature” and this will not be an issue.
I have heard this numerous times from parents about their children. Will the child “mature” and develop eventually? Sure, probably to some extent. My question back to them is: at what cost? What would be the consequences of not addressing the specific issues that the child demonstrates? How would these issues play out in school? Would the child be teased, bullied, or unable to progress to the best of his or her ability? There are obviously certain developmental stages that children reach at certain times, but some children develop at a slower rate than others . The goal of pediatric therapy is to enable these children to catch up with their peers and prevent later consequences. Additionally, research has demonstrated that the earlier the developmental issues are addressed, the better that child’s long term prognosis will be.
Myth 2: I saw on the internet that you can “cure Autism.”
If only it were that simple. Autism, by definition, is a pervasive developmental disorder, and the behaviors and personality characteristics that comprise this disorder are usually lifelong. However, this by no means indicates that there is no hope for Autistic children. What we as professionals need to target is not a “cure,” but rather specific strategies to improve the various behaviors and characteristics that the children demonstrate. With effective therapy, these children can oftentimes learn to compensate for their areas of weakness.
Myth 3: I was told there is a one-stop program for all my kids needs.
Pediatric therapy needs to be individually based and developed around each child’s specific needs. “Cookie cutter” therapies are limited in that they do not account for individual differences. As parents, you should pay close attention to what specific goals the developmental therapy team is working on, how they developed those goals, how and how often are you going to be notified about improvements, and when the therapies are not working.
Myth 4: Pediatric therapies just keep kids forever.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this is a major issue. There are some pediatric therapists that do keep children indefinitely with no mention of goals or success. A good pediatric therapist will set up specific and measurable goals based on parent, doctor, or school concerns. The therapist will keep the family informed about all developments and clearly communicate how the child is progressing toward his or her goals. Therapy must be an ongoing process, not just taking place one hour per week in the clinic setting – the therapist should work with the family on exercises and activities that have to be done during the week in order to ensure progress. Think of it along the same lines as a child learning to play the piano. If the child does not practice the piano at home, it is a waste of money to send him or her to the piano teacher once a week as there would be no chance for long-term improvement.
Myth 5: Behavior therapy is so simple, anyone can do it.
Are the components of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) basic? Yes, to some extent. ABA seeks to first identify why behaviors are occurring by observing the child in his or her natural environment. The analyst would identify the antecedents (what occurs immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (what happens directly after) of the behaviors in question. Then the analyst would develop specific and practical reinforcements strategies to increase the frequency of on-task, appropriate behaviors while extinguishing off-task, negative behaviors. Sounds simple, right? My question to parents at this point is, why hasn’t it worked? All parents have attempted some reinforcement or punishment strategy to change their child’s behavior. However, oftentimes we either are not targeting the correct behavior or are not using the correct reinforcement. I strongly implore parents to use a Board Certified Behavior Analyst a behavior analyst who has a BCBA when developing a behavioral plan. These individuals have extensive training in identifying the specific behaviors in question, as well as what is specifically reinforcing for any child.
There are a lot of myths about pediatric therapy out there. Some of them come from the internet; some come from parents who have unfortunately worked with a bad therapist. It is important to keep in mind that like any profession, there are good and bad pediatric therapists. Parents, do not be afraid to ask the therapists questions, including: How are you developing my child’s goals? How often will you inform us on the progress of the therapy? Will you be giving exercises that I can use with my child during the week?
In the end, good communication between the therapist and parents is crucial to ensure that all of the child’s needs are met. Would the child “mature” and develop on his or her own? Perhaps, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the peace of mind to know that you do not have to wait?