A version of this post originally appeared on Bringing the Sunshine.
My daughter, who will be thirteen at the end of this month, has cerebral palsy, and my son, who is five, has Down syndrome. During their short lives, I’ve spent too many hours to count taking them to therapy in a variety of settings in four different cities. I’m a therapy parent veteran, and after all this time, I’m here to tell you:
It ain’t no fun.
Between the two kids, we’ve done physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. We’ve done it at home through early intervention, as an inpatient at a hospital, at school, but mostly in private therapy offices. Some experiences are universal, such as three reasons why I hate therapy:
1. I Hate Having to Watch
Therapy is work, no matter how much fun the therapists try to incorporate. I don’t always spend a whole hour working out, but at times my daughter has been expected to spend FOUR hours exercising with little break, and therapy is never less than an hour. Kids should be reading, playing, and having fun – not working.
2. I Hate Not Being Allowed to Watch
At speech therapy, my son goes back without me. It’s easier that way because he’s more willing to cooperate. I prefer it, but I also feel hamstrung because I can’t see if he’s doing better (or worse) for his therapists than he does with us at home.
3. I Hate Seeing the Other Kids in Therapy
You’d think that I’d enjoy the opportunity to be in a place where we are “typical” instead of “different,” but I don’t. If a child functions more easily than mine, I’m jealous; if a child doesn’t function as well, I feel guilty. When my daughter was small, I especially hated seeing the teenagers without any cognitive or speech delays, because I hated hearing them talk about the accommodations they received or the battle they’d had to fight at school to get X, Y, or Z. They seemed so mature – not like kids at all! – and that made me sad (although now that my daughter is older, I see it as a blessing!)
But there’s one thing about therapy that I love: the personal attention that my kids get.
We’ve seen a lot of therapists in the last decade, and every single one of them has had my child’s best interests at heart, and they get to know the kids (and their quirks). Not only that, but they’ve become friends. One of my daughter’s therapists handed down her son’s outgrown clothes to my son, and another former therapist (who lives four hours away) drove in to be on my son’s first Buddy Walk team. Another of her therapists has walked every year for him. Let that sink in – she’s walking, not for her patient, but for her patient’s brother.
Therapists who work with children are special people; they make the experience as fun as possible for the kids AND the parents.
Hug your therapist today!
Andi Sligh is the author of There’s Sunshine Behind the Clouds: Surviving the Early Years as a Special Needs Mom, an ebook for parents at the beginning of their special needs journey. She is an ordinary mom living an extraordinary life on the Alabama gulf coast with a daughter with cerebral palsy, a son with Down syndrome, an adventurous husband, a wild Westie, a rescued Schnoodle, a camera, and a worn out pair of running shoes. She blogs it all at Bringing the Sunshine and tweets a little @AndiSligh.