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Benefits of Therapy at Home & in Least Restrictive Environments

Asian toddler boy student doing online therapy
When it comes to your child’s speech, physical, or occupational therapy, parents are faced with some important decisions.
Who will the therapist be? What qualifications should I look for in a therapist? When can I fit weekly appointments into our family’s busy schedule? What skills do I want my child to improve upon?

And, of course, where should my child attend therapy sessions?

If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and he or she receives therapy through a public school, the sessions might take place within the classroom or in a therapy room.
As far as private therapy goes, there are several options for where those sessions can happen – an outpatient office at a hospital, private therapy clinic, in the home, or over teletherapy.

According to research and educational laws, the best, most effective places for a child to receive therapy may be in the least restrictive environment at school, and in the home.

Here’s a look into the benefits of therapy in these settings, and how to get your child started!

School Therapy: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Tackling how to navigate therapy through the public school system can sure be a complicated journey!

If you’re just starting out, then there’s a term you should become familiar with. It’s Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

Your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) outlines how he or she, as a student with special needs, will receive the necessary support to succeed in school. It should also ensure that the school meets the LRE mandate.

Least Restrictive Environment, in a nutshell, refers to the idea that students with disabilities should spend as much time as possible in a general education classroom and among their peers who do not have a disability.

What does this mean for your child’s therapy services?
Well, it might be recommended that those therapies take place within the child’s classroom, among their peers. Why?

It’s been suggested that working in the classroom helps with generalization of skills. That is, a child can learn to apply skills they’ve gained in therapy sessions into everyday, functional situations.

Let’s say your child is working on improving auditory processing skills in Speech Therapy. The teacher gives multiple instructions for completing a science experiment in class. The Speech Therapist can cue the child to use therapeutic techniques to decode and remember their teacher’s directions.

Receiving therapy in the child’s least restrictive environment also allows the child’s therapist to collaborate with the classroom teacher.

Together, they can come up with a plan for supporting the child’s educational performance in ways such as:

  • Implementing strategies recommended by the SLP to support a child’s communication skills in the classroom
  • Adjustment of Speech Therapy goals based on the child’s educational needs
  • Developing the teacher’s awareness of the student’s sensory needs through input from the Occupational Therapist
  • Suggestions for classroom seating, visual supports, and ways to improve the child’s functioning and attention such as intermittent breaks.
When the child is able to receive therapy services in the least restrictive environment, it can really improve the synergy between the child, classroom teacher, and the therapist to best support the student’s learning!

Private Therapy: In Home & Teletherapy

What is the ideal environment for the child to receive private therapy?
For many of the same reasons the child’s least restrictive environment is recommended as a therapy setting at school, there are several benefits to a child receiving therapy in their own home.

A speech, occupational, or physical therapist can see your child for sessions in their home either by coming there in person or through teletherapy.

Let’s take a look everything in-home therapy can offer!

Improved Child Participation

In-home therapy, whether in person or virtual, can encourage the child to participate more in sessions.
Children are likely to be more comfortable in their own home. There, it’s a familiar space where they have their own toys and family members are nearby.

When receiving therapy outside of the home, some time might be needed to work with the child on transitioning to and from the office.

Especially for very young children such as toddlers, feeling comfortable in a therapeutic environment can take weeks or months.

All of this can take away from time spent addressing therapy goals. So by engaging in therapy at home, the child’s speech, occupational, or physical therapy sessions can potentially be more productive.

More Parent Involvement

When therapy occurs in the home, parents are present for sessions. This allows them to:
  • Actively participate in sessions.
  • Communicate with the therapist about therapy goals (understand current goals and provide insight into their desired goals for their child).
  • Observe and practice therapy exercises strategies.
  • Feel more confident about practicing therapy techniques through daily routines throughout the week.

Teletherapy sessions often involve the therapist coaching the parent to be the one providing the intervention. And according to research, this can be either just as effective or even more effective at helping their child than the therapist herself!

For example, a parent of a child with an expressive language delay might be coached over teletherapy to provide the child with choices in a desired food during lunchtime.

According to research posted by the Hanen Center, when parents are coached and provide the intervention themselves for speech therapy, their child’s language skills improve, parents feel less stressed, and late-talking toddlers show a boost in communication skills.

Greater Generalization

Many children receiving OT, PT, or Speech Therapy might be taken to a therapy office for a total of a few hours per week. But when it comes to developing and maintaining new skills, more time is needed.

Home carryover and practice of therapy goals throughout the week is essential to a child’s progress!

When children receive in-home therapy, caregivers can easily see how to incorporate work on therapy goals into everyday routines like snack time, diaper changes, and playtime. That means the “therapy” can continue all week long, leading to more progress and less time needed in direct therapy!

Whether a child is working on sequencing skills through cooking a new recipe, playing basketball in the driveway to work on gross motor skills, or holding utensils during breakfast to work on fine motor skills – in-home therapy makes it easier for the child to relate therapeutic skills to real life.

Additional Resources

Therapy that takes place in the child’s least restrictive environment at school, and natural environment at home, can improve their engagement and overall performance.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language, fine motor, or gross motor skills, he or she may benefit from specialized services from a Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, or Physical Therapist. An initial evaluation can help determine what difficulties your child is having. Ongoing individualized therapy can include techniques and activities to help improve these areas.

TherapyWorks offers Speech Therapy, Occupational and Physical Therapy both in person and through teletherapy. If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

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