Parents as Co-Therapists For Special Needs Children: How It Transforms Their Life

Parents as Co-Therapists For Special Needs Children: How It Transforms Their Life

Parenting Challenges

Parenting is a difficult task and being a parent of a child with a disorder is challenging. Parents may face many challenges because of their lack of awareness about the condition. In addition to that, the social stigma attached to developmental disorders is hard for parents to overcome, not just in India but globally. This leaves parents isolated within their own communities and often within their own families. They need support, and with the right kind of support, they can help their child develop and rise above the challenges of their disorder. Global research has proved that parents can be trained to help a child with a disorder such as autism spectrum disorder, and that parent-led intervention can deliver excellent, long-lasting results.

The severity of special needs children’s behaviour, speech, and other problems, as well as characteristic difficulties in the generalization of newly-acquired skills across different tasks, underline the importance of increasing the number of intervention services available and providing support services in more than one environment. Thus, parental participation in child treatment can contribute significantly to the rate of progress. A well-documented parent-training program enables parents to serve as home tutors or as co-therapists for their own children with special needs.

Therapy at Home: How It Works

Parent training begins as a dedicated child psychologist engages in relationship building with the concerned parents. Subsequently, the therapist and the parents pursue a sequence of activities that includes:
● identification of the child’s present skill strengths and areas of improvement
● collection of baseline data
● development of the new intervention program or IEP, and implementation of the program in school or therapy centre
● parents’ observation of the program at school or therapy centre
● parents’ training and supervised use of the program at home and
● parents’ ongoing observation and implementation of the program at home, with regular support and monitoring from the child psychologist.

This is a continuous cycle of home program activities; when the child achieves a particular developmental goal, another home program is initiated. This innovative model includes tested procedures for encouraging parents’ continued involvement, assessing the effectiveness of intervention programs delivered by parents, and getting parental evaluations of the training and support received. Underlying all these steps is an emphasis on a family centred approach that entails customized training for parents, as well as individualised programming for children. The model can be effectively implemented in special education and different treatment programs for special needs children and has been shown to successfully prompting ongoing parent participation, thus increasing the total time spent on intervention provided to children.

The Effectiveness of Therapy at Home

When therapeutic support for special needs children at the centre is accompanied by parents acting as co-therapists and working on their child’s skill development full time, it increases the effectiveness and boosts progress in development. Daily self-care tasks and similar simple tasks can be a challenge for special needs children, thus they are broken down into steps and learnt through behaviour modification techniques. However, it takes a long time to see significant improvement in acquiring such skills if the parents are not involved. With the opportunity to act as co-therapists, parents can drive progress by knowing exactly what to do to encourage adaptive behaviours and tackle roadblocks in skill development.

As the therapist and the parents work together and coordinate with each other, it doubles the effectiveness of the therapeutic intervention, which leads to the child acquiring crucial skills to become self-sufficient earlier in life. This is also a game-changer for parents because understand how they are capable of helping their child in a concrete way. They acquire a better understanding of their child’s disorder and they learn how to advocate for their child in their community. This can lead to a bigger goal of greater social awareness and sensitivity towards children with special needs.