“Special needs” is a broad term encompassing any qualitative impairment that a child may suffer and need additional support. Depending who you speak to, this can include food allergies, learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, terminal illness, medical conditions, developmental delays, sensory integration, and other psychiatric concerns, such as Autism, ADHD, panic attacks, and major depression. Navigating all of the roads to access the needed services, specialized therapies, setting appropriate goals and accommodations, and gaining a clear understanding of your child’s special needs can overwhelm any family and increase family stress.You may be at the beginning of your journey with assessments, reaching out to the school district for a 504 plan or an IEP, or reaching out to the Regional Center, or you may be a pro at this, but realize your journey wasn’t a sprint, but a marathon and the stress is becoming too great. No matter where you are on your journey, seeking support for your child and family is highly recommended. You do not need to suffer and celebrate your child’s special needs alone.
I have concerns for my child, socially, emotionally, behaviorally, and/or academically.
As a parent and a child therapist, I fully understand all of the emotions that can boil up when worried for your child’s success and happiness. You may be here because:
- Is having trouble socially, either making or keeping friends.
- Is having trouble academically, even though they are bright.
- Has difficulty with self-regulation skills.
- May have an IEP or 504 plan and they are still struggling.
- You need help navigating all of the services available, such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and social skills groups etc.
- Is difficult to parent, most parenting book strategies don’t accommodate special needs children.
Children who are suffering may have a hard time communicating, which can lead to conflicts.
Developmentally, special needs children are often unable to verbally communicate how they feel effectively. We’ve all heard it or even said it, “use your words” to encourage a child to express and communicate their needs clearly, how else can we help them if we don’t know what they need? A child may not be able to use their words to communicate their needs well, but all children give us clues, including infants who communicate their needs non-verbally through their behavior. Melting down speaks volumes. With therapy, a parent can read a child’s behaviors to help their child develop healthy ways to communicate, and calm, often reducing conflict and strengthening their social and emotional intelligence.
How will therapy help my child?
Psychotherapy focuses on the social and emotional growth of each child. These are two very important areas of development. Our social capacity refers to getting along in relationships. We are surrounded by social relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, therapist, and friendships etc. Working on specific skills to develop healthy relationships with social awareness and social thinking, will promote close relationships. Emotional development is important for emotional regulation. Understanding our own emotions and others is an important aspect of growing up successfully. Having emotions that don’t fit the social situation or having difficulty managing emotions that are too high or too low can greatly affect our lives. A person can be academically successful and still be an unhappy person; however a happy person who struggles academically but has a strong social and emotional capacity tolerates their challenges well, and are typically more motivated to work towards their academic potential. Therapy focuses on the skills to develop a child’s social emotional growth and well-being.
Why choose Bess over all the other therapists?
Choosing the right therapist for your child and your family is a very important decision. The “right” therapist is different for every person. Ideally there will be a true connection for therapy to be helpful. I’ve dedicated my life’s work specializing in children and families. I have worked with the special needs population and supporting families for over 11 years, 7 of which I spent at the Child Development Institute located in providing families with Floortime Therapy, family advocacy and support. Additionally, I have received an endorsement from the California Center for Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental health organization, honoring me with a certificate that describes the extra years of early childhood and family training I’ve dedicated my learning to beyond the basic requirements for licensing as a child therapist.
What do I tell my child about going to see a therapist?
Many children enjoy coming to therapy and are ready and willing. Other children are hesitant not sure what to expect. Discussing some basics to clear up misconceptions can help. Young children may be concerned that they will be getting a shot or that their peers may find out about them going to therapy. You can reassure them that neither are true, in fact going to see a therapist provides them with a very safe and private environment to talk about things. If a child is resistant, you can mention that we will try therapy three times. This is usually enough time to build an initial connection and calm any concerns the child may have about therapy.A lot will depend on how the parents feel and talk about therapy. If therapy is used as a punishment, for instance if a parent says, “If you don’t start listening to me, you’re seeing a therapist!” Don’t worry, if you’ve said this we’ll work through it. The repair of a relationship is more important than the things we say in desperation. If one parent doesn’t agree with therapy or is hesitant, children will resonate with the hesitation and this could cause some resistance. Lastly, you can mention that there are games, toys, and arts & craft to play with while we talk. This buffer helps most children to feel comfortable. You can also mention that they are not in any type of trouble; it’s a safe place for us to talk and get along better. If you have specific concerns, we can navigate that during an initial phone conversation to make sure that you and your child is comfortable to begin therapy.
You may still have questions about the therapeutic process:
- My child doesn’t want to go to therapy; won’t it make things worse if I force them to go?
I trust that you know your child well and know whether or not what your child is going through is a phase that will pass on its own or is a more concerning issue that the support of a therapist is important. Children want to feel good and happy, just as you want them to. I always suggest meeting with parents first to make sure I’m a good fit for your child and family, as well as gather history, along with your concerns. Between your expertise of your child and my psychological understanding of children and their development, I believe together we can help your child, even if therapy isn’t the answer. There are other options parents don’t always know about and I would be happy to direct you in those ways if they would be helpful for your child.
- Our schedule is very impacted, how will we add one more thing?
I do try my best to work out a schedule that will work for your family. With a little flexibility on both our parts, the schedule tends to work out. Since I primarily work with children and families my schedule evolves frequently, meaning spots open up when children’s activities change throughout the year, they may move to a different appointment time, often freeing up a time that a new family prefers. With that said, consistency and commitment to therapy is important for a good outcome. I work Tuesday – Friday and afterschool appointments tend to fill up quickly. If my schedule cannot accommodate you, I will do my best to place you with a trusted therapist.
- Can I afford therapy?
This answer is different for every family; however with your consent I am happy to bill your mental health insurance as an out-of-network provider for you as long as it is a PPO plan. This typically works well, only being responsible for the coinsurance or copay amount. There are some insurance plans that have high deductibles, low reimbursement rates, or does not cover certain diagnostic codes that could make the cost of therapy difficult to manage. With certain special needs there is a parity diagnosis that is often seen as a medical necessity and frequently reimbursed. I’m happy to check into your insurance benefits for you, and with that information you can make an informed decision about seeing me, or possible going with an in-network-provider on your plan.
- This is informative, but I’d like to speak to a real person about my concerns.
It’s best to call me to discuss your specific concerns. I typically return non-urgent calls within the same day you leave a message, unless it is on a weekend or holiday. I recommend leaving a message with some good times to call you back. I’m often unable to pick up calls immediately when in session.