It’s been an interesting journey parenting four daughters, three of whom are on the spectrum. Starting with the major onset delay in accessing support for Sno due to her later diagnosis, then positive regular OT sessions for Wilding in our home environment and now therapy with Beans.. we have definitely approached therapy differently for each daughter.
Over the years it has become clear to me that, like with most things in life, there really is no one size fits all when it comes to the effectiveness or purpose behind accessing therapy for autistic children.
Maybe it was that Beans is my fourth child, third autistic daughter and I have my head fully grasping her needs myself without having to pay a professional to tell me what she needs or what her strengths or weaknesses are. Maybe it’s just that my view of the point of therapy has changed. Maybe it’s both. But Beans was diagnosed last year and over the last 8 months she’s only been to a few sessions of Occupational Therapy, and here’s my two main reasons why:
- Therapy appointments can actually be counter productive. Waiting rooms are no place to spend a childhood and being shuttled back and forth to appointments is draining and tiresome.. for everyone involved. It’s also pretty full-on for autistic children to get to know and trust strangers and be their true selves around them. This is something that takes time and can be pretty confronting. And most importantly;
- Many therapy models try and alter a child to suit society’s expectations or interpretations of “normal” and “acceptable” and over the years I guess.. I’m just not sure whether I give a shit about my kids fitting into the few limited moulds on offer. The truth is, there is no “right” way to behave and my girls have really taught me, and continue to teach me – that they dance to the rhythm of their very own tune, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay in fact, it’s awesome, it’s brave, it’s beautiful and it’s something I want to encourage – not stifle or change. Having the courage to be who you are in a society hell-bent on insisting everyone buckle under pressure and confirm is an incredibly admirable thing.
So whilst I do believe some types of therapy and some situations are warranted and very helpful, I’m just not sure it all is. Not all therapists are the same, either. I have found it helpful to get sensory profiles done for my girls so I can address and understand their sensory needs and provide them with the types of input they like, but once I have that – I do all the ongoing support at home. Our house is basically equipped like an OT’s office, it’s pretty amusing. Therapy in the form of psychology also is very useful in terms of teaching my older autistic girls how to handle their emotions and live with their anxiety, encouraging them ultimately to learn to independently self-regulate by understanding and being aware of their triggers, too.
But Beans and I have taken a break. And so we continue to work on core-strengthening at home for her hypo mobility and low-tone, we go to the beach for sensory play, we climb trees, we incorporate fine motor and gross motor strengthening fluidly into our every day doings in channels she enjoys. There is no force, there is no push to conform, there is no rewards or bribery.
In finding our flow, my girls are free to be who they are, embraced for their quirky ways and encouraged to be fully and wonderfully their true selves.