Your Child as a Whole: A Simple Framework
Being a parent is tough. There’s always so much to learn and do and it feels like you just figure out one thing and something new comes up. Being a parent of special needs is even tougher. There’s even more to learn and do and it can easily get overwhelming. When your child needs extra support it’s important to understand what supports are available so that you can better help your child. Sometimes when you have a child with special needs it feels like everything is this big long list of separate problems and it’s hard to wrap your head around it all or organise that information.
At Therapy Alliance Group we try to do everything we can to simplify things to make life easier for parents of children with any kind of special needs. One way we do this is by educating parents. We try to provide as much education/information for free as we can. Something that we do as Allied Health Professionals (Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech Pathologists) working with children is look at the whole child. When we do this we are looking at each overall skill area and then the little skills within that overall area. This creates a framework for us to hang new information about a child. Today we are sharing with you the key areas that can impact on child development with a few ideas around the supports available for each. These areas form a framework where you can hopefully start to “hang” little bits of information you gather about your child so that you’ve got an idea of their overall development. Communication: This includes how a child understands and uses talking or other forms of communication (e.g. signing, AAC/symbols or a communication device). Speech Pathologists specialise in assessing and treating a vast array of communication difficulties. Social Engagement and Skills: Getting along with others, making and keeping friends, maintaining and improving relationships can be hard to do and that can be really tough because everyone wants to feel like they belong and they are safe and loved. Often children with social difficulties are cast as “behaviour problems” when really a behaviour problem is simply a difficulty knowing or being able to behave in a socially appropriate way. Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Psychologists can help children learn the social and behavioural skills they need and learn to use them more consistently. Motor Skills: A child needs to be able to use their body to do things. These skills are usually broken into two main groups, gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are big body movements and include things like walking, crawling, standing and balancing. Fine motor skills are small, controlled body movements and include things like holding things, drawing, cutting and playing a musical instrument. Physiotherapists help children with gross motor skills and Occupational Therapists help children with fine motor skills. Cognitive Skills: This includes how we use our brain and learn. Some people think cognitive skills are all about getting good marks at school but these skills actually start developing even before a baby is born! Psychologists and Occupational Therapists are who you need to see if your child is needing assessment or therapy to help support their cognitive skills. Memory: How well we can remember and recall (bring back) information. This can include short term and long term memory as well as different types of memory for different types of information (e.g. things we see vs things we hear). Occupational Therapists, Psychologists and Speech Pathologists all help children with different aspects of memory. Attention: Most people know about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which is a well publicised form of attention difficulty. For some children getting and staying focused is really hard. Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologists help children with attention skills including looking and listening. Physical Regulation/state: Babies need lots of help to learn how to regulate and cope with their bodies and sometimes children really struggle with this.Children can be in an over activated state (e.g. they are easily startled or their breathing is too fast or they get overexcited or hot very easily) or a under activated state (e.g. slow to move and sleep a lot) and need help to learn how to help their body be in a “just right” state. Occupational Therapists are great at helping identify and support children who struggle with physical regulation. Emotional Regulation/state: Just the same as our physical body needs to be able to regulate itself we also need to learn how to regulate our emotional state. Some children change emotional state very quickly and experience extreme emotional responses to something that might not bother another child. Occupational Therapists assist children with emotional regulation and Psychologists also often assist with this skill. Speech Pathologists can also assist by helping a child communicate their emotional state more effectively. Academics: Although this is closely related to a number of other areas like communication, cognitive and memory skills we like to separate it out as many children are good at other areas but struggle when it comes to formal schooling. Speech Pathologists can help with literacy (reading including dyslexia and written expression) and concepts needed for science and maths for example. Occupational Therapists can help with tailoring the educational environment to give a child the best chance to succeed as well as skills like handwriting and cutting. Psychologists can also assess and support academic readiness and skills.
Using this framework, it’s important to remember that all of these skills can impact on each other and as you can see from the examples of which types of therapy can help children with different skills there are lots of way the team at Therapy Alliance Group (TAG) in Toowoomba can help your child.
If you would like a free information session about these key areas and how to support children with special needs for a community group, school or centre then we would love to chat to you.
– by Rachel Tosh
About the Author
Rachel is a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist (CPSP) with a wide variety of clinical experience in inpatient and outpatient paediatric care in both Australia and the UK which enables her to translate theory into real life application across diverse clinical contexts. Her latest adventure, Speech Parent is changing the face of paediatric speech pathology internationally by empowering and educating parents of children with communication and feeding difficulties. She describes herself as a recovering work-a-holic (we all know she isn’t actually recovering – seriously who else sends emails at 4:30am!?). Rachel is passionate about: business leadership; literacy and feeding difficulties; educating and empowering others; and optimising therapy outcomes. Although these interests may seem diverse, the recurring theme through them all is a love for facilitating growth and development in others so they can achieve their own unique potential. Things I like: “Lamb roast, reading, helping others and creating systems that work…I may or may not enjoy these together!” Things I don’t like: “People not respecting each other and children missing out because of bad care or broken systems.” Favourite colour: “Can I have the whole rainbow?” How the TAG team describe Rachel: “Passionate”; “Hard working”; “Creative”.
“Be there for others but never leave yourself behind” -Dodinski