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Therapist Jumping

By Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah

Ed.D Educational Psychology & Special Education

There is a phenomenon amongst parents that have children with disabilities or challenges that I will term as “therapist jumping.” Therapist jumping annoys most therapists and is detrimental to the progress of the child.

Firstly, I will say therapist jumping will only have a negative effect on the goals that you have for your child. Therapy doesn’t happen overnight and some parents expect results immediately. For example, some parents of nonverbal children expect their children to start speaking words within one to two weeks. This is not a logical or an attainable goal for a child that is nonverbal.

I once had a parent that changed four therapists within the span of only one month. The reason—the child did not start speaking and acting “normal.” I happened to know two of those therapists, and I know they are two of the best speech pathologists locally. The parents did not give these therapists a chance to help their child. Most of the time, I won’t take a child whose parents are therapist jumping; I know my work will go unappreciated and the work that I put in will frankly be a waste of my time and the child's, for the parents will probably jump to another therapist in a week or so.

Expecting your child’s behavior, cognitive skills, or speech to improve within a week or even within a month is an illogical and unattainable goal. Parents need to educate themselves on the condition of their child and understand it can take years for their child to reach certain goals. They should also STOP asking therapists when their child will be “normal.” Accept and love your child as they are and get them the services they deserve and need.

Secondly, when starting to work with a child, a therapist will take two weeks or more to assess that child, get to know the child, and make the child comfortable so that they can work with them well. They will also evaluate the goals that they have for the child’s therapy. So giving a therapist a week or two to work with your child and expecting a result is unreasonable. We can compare it to expecting your kindergartener to graduate high school at the end of the academic year.

Parents should not expect to see many improvements for their child for at least 3-6 months into therapy. Especially when it comes to speech therapy, non-verbal children and children with hearing implants may take quite a while to see improvement. Don’t rush the process and allow the therapists to do their work properly and systematically.

When we talk about children with intellectual disabilities and autism, these children usually will need lifelong therapy. Moving them from therapist to therapist will affect the results they receive. They will not achieve the goals that have been set for them, because every time you move your child, they have to go through the assessment phase and the child has to adjust to a new therapist all over again. So you are just starting the process from the beginning. For a child with autism, adjusting to a therapist and achieving a level of comfort with them can take up to a month and sometimes more. Patience is important.

Lastly, some parents like to therapist jump because of cost. Trained therapists went to the university for many years to learn how to help children; they also go through a lot of practical training in the university and train at different clinics or special education centers before they can start officially working. Many have master’s degrees and doctorate degrees in their fields of study. Most of them have many years of experience. They did not go to school and become therapists to make peanuts. Many parents are choosing therapists who aren’t trained therapists so they can pay 5 OMR per session. If a therapist is asking 5 OMR per session for your child, I can guarantee that they are not a certified therapist. They may be an unqualified tutor who thinks they can do therapy by watching a few videos.

Parents need to understand that therapy isn’t a magic tonic. It has systematic techniques that will help your child. It is not something that can be rushed; it is not something that will happen overnight. It can take months or years to see massive improvements, depending on the needs of your child and the severity of their case. Changing therapists often will be detrimental to the progress that your child could make and will cause setbacks.

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah is an educational psychologist and special educational specialist. She holds an Ed.D in both educational psychology and special education. She has over 25 years experience working with children with different educational, intellectual, and emotional challenges.

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