When we are working with kids in therapy we are often asked by parents what they can do to help their children make improvements towards their goals. My answer is to be consistent and to carryover what they are learning. I have said in the past that one of the biggest factors for kids is their motivation and curiosity and willingness to explore, and this holds true. However, from a parent or caregiver standpoint consistency and carryover are extremely important.
Look at it this way, if your child is getting 1 hour of therapy a week, that means that there are 167 more hours in that week. Now I know that some of them are devoted to sleeping but the other hours are great opportunities for you to help your child progress. This doesn’t mean that you have to become the therapist but you can create opportunities to work with your child during your day to day tasks. One of the challenges is that often our schedules are rushed and its a lot faster to just do it for your child rather than to let them do it for themselves.
For example, if you are working on teaching your child to use a fork and spoon to eat, it will take longer to help them to eat than if you just did it for them. Maybe you can make a compromise though. Pick one food that they will feed themselves and then you help them with the rest. And even them doing it themselves may involve you ‘helping’ them by holding their hand with the utensil.
Another example is teaching a child to sit up. Its a lot more convenient to just pick them up and put them in sitting than to encourage and help them to sit up on their own. Just think, if every time you wanted them to sit up you helped them to go through the steps rather than do it all for them. How much faster do you think they would be at learning how to sit up?
I could go on like this for hours with examples, hopefully you are starting to get my drift! What I would encourage you to do is talk to your therapist about how you can incorporate the skills they are working on into your day to day life so that your child will maximize their therapy and make faster gains. You just have to be willing to take the time and be vigilant in not ‘doing it for them’!
This also goes for higher level skills like playing with a ball. If your child can kick a ball then play with them with a ball and kick it back and forth so they become better at it. If you don’t do this consistently you can’t expect them to be able to play soccer! Same goes with play structures. Teach them how to climb but then expose them to different structures so they can utilize climbing in a variety of different environments.
YOU can be the biggest influence in your child’s development and can have a great impact by being consistent with practicing and carrying over the skills they are learning.