So You Think Your Kid Might Need Therapy

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So you think your kid might need therapy.

Maybe you’ve suspected it for a while. Maybe your child’s teacher mentioned something that has you concerned. Maybe other people have started hinting that your child needs some help that you can’t provide. 

Whatever the reason is, I want you to know two important things: 

  • You are not a bad parent.
  • You are not alone.

We do a lot of therapy in my family. My son is on the Autism Spectrum so he has been in Behavioral Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. One of my daughters had some balance problems so she did a stint at Physical Therapy. Another daughter struggles with anxiety. She has not needed therapy yet, but it’s on my radar – especially as she gets older. 

Right now, our family’s after-school schedule includes different therapies on four days of the week. I sometimes call myself a “Therapy Mom” in the way other moms say they are Soccer Moms or Dance Moms. 

My relationship with therapy doesn’t just stop there. I also work part-time as an administrative assistant for a Marriage and Family Therapy clinic. I work with professionals who are very good at helping other people sort out their problems. I am in awe of what they can do.

I want to pass on a few nuggets of advice that I’ve gleaned over the years from both my role as a parent and from my role at work. 

It’s not your fault.  We need to say this loud and often: It is not your fault. Even children in the best of homes have problems that their parents can’t solve on their own. Seeking therapy for your child is not a sign of failure as a parent. In fact, getting your child the help they need means you are doing a good job as a parent. 

It’s okay to miss school for therapy. At work, when I help parents schedule therapy appointments for their children, I often hear, “I don’t want to take him out of school” or “She’s already missed so much school this year, I don’t want her to miss more.”  I get that it is disruptive to take the child out of school. But therapy is important – especially if you are working on mental health. That hour at therapy is worth missing school.

Think of it this way. If your child had a broken bone you would do everything you could to get them to the doctor as soon as possible and to make it to the follow-up appointments.  The school would completely understand if your child had to miss class to go to the doctor for a broken bone.  It is the same with mental health. Your child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. 

If you are still concerned about your child missing school, see if you can schedule an appointment during the first or last hours of school. These are times when it is less disruptive to pull a child out of school. 

Get used to paperwork. There is a lot of paperwork involved in being a parent anyway, and having a child in therapy seems to double it. You’ll fill out demographic info, questionnaires, insurance paperwork, etc. It can seem pointless and daunting. But don’t let the paperwork keep you from getting your child the help they need. A little work filling out paperwork is worth the benefits that therapy will bring.

Call around. Unfortunately, therapy providers can get booked up quickly. You may make a phone call to the office you were hoping to get into, and then find out that all the therapists have a 3-month long waitlist. Don’t get discouraged. Ask to be put on the waitlist, but don’t just wait. Call other offices. You may find another place with someone who could see you sooner.

Focus on one thing at a time. If your child is having problems in multiple areas, it can be tempting to try to solve all the problems at once. Sometimes that is the best approach. For me, that is too overwhelming, and I suspect it would be too overwhelming for my son. Instead, I’ve gradually ramped up my son’s therapies. We started with Behavioral Therapy. Once that had been part of our routine for a year, I added Speech Therapy. After a year of Speech Therapy, I added Occupational Therapy. This gradual approach allowed us to get used to each new therapy without feeling like we overcommitted.

Use school resources. Private therapy is great, but there are also resources your child can access at school. If you think your child could benefit from Speech, Occupational, or Physical Therapy at school, then write an email to the school principal asking for your child to be evaluated in that area. (Make sure you do this in writing.) If you know who the Special Education teacher is, you can copy them on the email for good measure. The school should have your child evaluated and then let you know if they qualify for services.

If your child is struggling with mental health challenges, talk to the school counselor. When my daughter first started showing signs of anxiety, we had a meeting with the school counselor and her teacher. My daughter really appreciated that meeting because it showed her that we were all willing to help her.

Use community resources. If you are wondering how to pay for therapy, I encourage you to apply for Medicaid. Even if you have insurance, you may qualify to use Medicaid as secondary insurance. If your income is too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid, you may still qualify for the YES (Youth Empowerment Services) or Katie Beckett Medicaid. These are programs that help pay for services for children whose parents make too much for traditional Medicaid. There will be paperwork and some leg work involved, but trust me, these programs are worth the paperwork. 

For more information about the Katie Beckett program or YES go to  https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/services-programs/medicaid-health/about-katie-beckett-program or https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/services-programs/medicaid-health/youth-empowerment-services-yes.

If you feel you need help understanding the application process, reach out to Idaho Parents Unlimited. This non-profit organization is dedicated to helping parents of children with disabilities and is very knowledgeable about the application process for many services. Learn more on the Idaho Parents Unlimited website: https://ipulidaho.org/.

Don’t forget your non-therapy kids. Your other children might get a little jealous of how much attention you are giving the child who is in therapy. Find ways to support your other children. Over the years, I have done this a couple of different ways. Sometimes I have put my other children into their own extracurricular activities. Right now, one of my kids has requested that we have “Mommy Time” where we lay on my bed and watch Youtube together for 30 minutes. I literally have that scheduled weekly on my calendar. However you do it, make sure that your other children know they are a priority in your life too.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with this list.  Like any new activity, starting therapy can be intimidating.  But it is doable. You’ve got this.

And remember, you are not a bad parent and you are not alone.

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