And, of course, where should my child attend therapy sessions?
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.
School Therapy: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
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.
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.
Private Therapy: In Home & Teletherapy
A speech, occupational, or physical therapist can see your child for sessions in their home either by coming there in person or through teletherapy.
Improved Child Participation
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.
More Parent Involvement
- 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!
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.
Home carryover and practice of therapy goals throughout the week is essential to a child’s progress!
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.
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.