Wednesday

Do Your Children's Therapists Listen to You?

Our little guys have been in therapy for years now. We've had/have some therapists we love and some that weren't the best fit for us. One of the biggest issues we've had over the years is that some therapists simply don't seem to listen and we end up getting some fairly unhelpful advice on what we should do to address certain challenges.

I ran into this problem today and thought I'd blog about it, since I've seen other parents run into the same issue in forums I'm involved in and feel unsure of what to do.

Today, our youngest's interim speech pathologist (his regular speech pathologist has been out on maternity leave) had her last session with our guy. She sat in on his OT session so that she could make some recommendations to our youngest's OT therapist who is working with him on feeding (among other things) since she apparently has a background in feeding therapy.

When she came out she asked for one of us to step into a room with her to discuss things away from our little guy. I went with her, expecting something profound or different ... or at least somewhat helpful. Instead, I was basically told that the biggest struggle for our little guy is the fact we're (according to her) talking about his vomiting at dinner too much.

I sat there listening to her, digesting what she was saying before responding.

I find it's always good to let people speak in situations like this so that they feel you've fully heard what it is they have to say, otherwise they'll focus on the fact you responded to quickly and not fully appreciate your feedback.

What I found most interesting and frustrating about this was that she didn't preface this suggestion by asking about our typical dinner behavior. She didn't ask if we talk with him about eating, how we present his food to him, whether or not we require he try to eat foods he gags on or vomits every night, etc. She simply decided, for reasons unknown, to determine that one of the major root problems was the fact we apparently discuss vomiting, gagging and our son's eating at every dinner.

Interesting.



After she finished, she then suggested that in addition to not talking about his food aversions/vomiting/gagging at dinner that we allow him to eat "preferred foods" only for a week and help us prepare meals with foods he can't eat (keep in mind these foods are primarily meats--which would be dangerous--and foods he won't even touch with his hands in most cases because he has a number of sensory issues). As an example, she suggested allowing him to stir something in a crock pot while it cooked.

Yes, you read that right. She suggested I allow our hyper-impulsive 6 year old who struggles with some fine and gross motor skills to stir a bubbling dinner in a hot crock pot. Keep in mind, we actually don't cook with a crock pot and I would never let him do this anyway, but this was her suggestion.

*GIANT SIGH*

At that moment I felt more justified in the fact that her suggestion was simply not appropriate for us in a number of ways.

She's an interim therapist, but she's been with us for about 4 months now. We've had therapists for far fewer sessions that have asked the right questions, listened and made far more appropriate suggestions.

Here's the reality of our dinners:

  • we DON'T talk about the fact our goal is that he avoids gagging or vomiting prior to him eating
  • we DON'T force him to eat foods he can't tolerate at every meal or every dinner
  • we DON'T talk about his eating issues with him day in and day out
I calmly explained to her that he weighs almost 40 lbs at nearly 7 years old. We don't have the luxury of allowing him to vomit at every meal or even every dinner and as a result began putting far less demands on him after speaking with his OT therapist a while back (who currently does some feeding work with him). I also explained that we don't talk with him about his vomiting/gagging/food aversions beforehand. Our son brings it up the instant he asks what dinner is (we always tell him "wait and see" to avoid adding to his anxiety by fueling the anticipation of foods he doesn't like) and then again the moment he sees his plate if it has something he doesn't like on it. Again, we don't force him to eat foods he can't tolerate daily. It just isn't good for him or for us. We went a long time with him vomiting up his dinner and anything he'd eaten prior only to have to find something he could eat after to try to make up for some of the lost calories. Too much anxiety for everyone!

The long and the short of it was she didn't listen to what I had to say and stuck to her original recommendations and has now made note of it in his file. She also made this recommendation to his OT therapist, so we'll have to speak with her separately when we see her next to discuss why this isn't an effective solution for us.

I suppose I wanted to share this story for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to vent a bit. It's often hard to explain these scenarios to people who haven't dealt with something similar and I find it helpful to know that others are going through similar situations sometimes. Second, I wanted to encourage parents to never forget that they know their children best and even if a professional has gone to school and studied in a particular area, it doesn't mean he/she has all the right answers for your child--especially if he/she doesn't ask the right questions and listen to the answers.

Were this a regular therapist for us I would have to find a different one to work with as this has been a constant issue. One of the most important aspects of our relationships with our boys' therapists and specialists is that they listen. Making suggestions like this, not asking questions beforehand and not listening to my feedback after shows me this isn't a good fit and this person does not know my child and isn't working in a way that can help them.

Have you dealt with anything like this with your little guys in therapy or with doctors you've seen?

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