Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Value of Special Needs Therapy

This post is part of Best of the Best, Edition 9: Special Needs Therapy. If you check the above link from August 14 onwards, you'll find a whole host of similar articles by other authors.

I'm presuming that most people will be writing from the point of view of parenting their own children. I could do that. My children have been through speech and occupational therapy (both of which were excellent), listening therapy (which quite frankly I found unhelpful) and a couple of other formal therapies. They've also had plenty of chances for informal therapy - did you know that simply owning a dog can be theraputic too?

As usual though, I'm going to try to be different. I want to talk about what it's like going through therapy and how it helps.

Speech Therapy
When I was a child, I went through a couple of different types of therapy with the two biggies being speech and occupational therapy. I wasn't diagnosed with aspergers then but simply had a hearing loss (speech therapy) and was somehow recognised as "different" (occupational therapy).

I don't remember a huge amount about the speech therapy because most of it happeneed in my very early years but I can tell you that without it, I'd be a very different person.

The speech therapy got me enunciating my words correctly and gave me the opportunity to participate in discussions. In later sessions, they tried to work on my flat tone to give it more of an emotional base. Unfortunately, my parents like most other parents - even today, didn't have the money to continue the therapy once I could talk normally so I didn't get enough lessons on tone.

I've tried for most of my adult life to get my tone working better. Even before aspergers, I knew that there was something flat about my tone. If I'm reading a book to someone, my words and tone are exaggerated but in normal speech, it still falls quite flat. I think that permanent tone adjustment really needs to happen when you're very young.

Occupational Therapy
I'm not entirely sure how and when my mother twigged that I was different but as a parent, I know that mothers develop a sense about these things usually between the ages of two to five. In my case, the realisation may have been early but the occupational therapy came much later.

I remember coming home from school only to have to go to a lady at our local hospital. She would put me through a series of fun exercises (which my sister longed to do but wasn't allowed). I'm sure that the exclusivity of these exercises was part of the attraction for me. The exercises included walking along a rope on the floor, swinging, climbing, crawling through tunnels, skipping and stretching exercises.

The therapist would do all of these exercises with me. It was like having my own adult playmate - something that I loved because I really didn't have a lot of friends back then.

It was all quite different from the subdued occupational therapy that I see my kids doing today but perhaps, being at the hospital, my therapist was just so much better set up in terms of funding and equipment.

It wasn't until years later that I realised just how important and beneficial that therapy had been. Obviously I had been recognised as having low muscle tone, motor control problems and balance problems - all things which affect children on the autism spectrum today. My therapy gave me the tools and confidence to take those beginnings and to press on with unofficial therapy in the playground.

In other words, I learned how to climb, play and balance on play equipment in the park. Doing this on weekends helped me to build up core body strength and overcome some of my natural weaknesses.

There's just no underestimating the value of good therapy.


Anonymous said...

One of the things I find really frustrating is that we have funding (the 'helping children with autism' funding) which provides $6000 of therapy a year (as long as the child gets the diagnosis before they turn 6 - this is Australian Commonwealth funding)but the availability of therapists is so ad hoc, we have the $$ but no provider! The waiting lists are long...are there so many kids getting diagnosed now that getting a therapist is as difficult as getting a tradie to show up!!?

Lisa Quinones Fontanez said...

Great post! It's interesting to hear your perspective.

Martianne said...

I am so hoping the OT and Behavior Mod we are doing with my son helps in the long run and he can look back over time and be grateful for it.

Thx for your perspective.

Jane said...

I highly recommend anyone with AS to go to a speech therapist. I am finding it incredibly useful to help me learn the sort of social skills that seem to come naturally to most 'neurotypical' people.