Parents As Autism Therapists?!:
Can a parent provide meaningful autism therapy? The answer is absolutely yes - under the right circumstances. The fact is that few autism therapies are rocket science, and with little or no formal training parents can become effective, low-cost, in-home providers of developmental, behavioral, speech and other therapies. Often, they are coached by a qualified therapist who develops a program and provides direction; sometimes they learn from books, DVDs and lectures.
Of course, the fact that parents CAN provide therapy for their children doesn't mean that they SHOULD. Is do-it-yourself therapy right for you?
You Like the Idea of Providing Your Child's Therapy:
This is a simple but critical issue. If you think it would be interesting, engaging and satisfying to provide your child's therapy, it's worth looking into the possibility. If you think it would difficult, dull or depressing, on the other hand, chances are you'll do a not-so-great job of engaging, reaching and teaching your child. Native abilities and training aside, your personal enthusiasm and energy are key to providing effective therapy.
You Get Along Well with Your Child:
Not every parent feels entirely comfortable with his or her child with autism. Of course you love, care for and support your child - but wanting the best for your child doesn't mean you enjoy hours on end of 1:1 time together. Since therapy requires nothing BUT extensive hours of togetherness, it's important to be honest about your feelings.
It might make more sense for you to spend extra hours working to earn any funds you might need to hire a professional therapist.
You Feel Competent to Learn About and Provide Therapy:
While professional therapists often have advanced degrees, it's possible for a parent to provide solid therapeutic support to their child without a college background. The key for any parent not skilled in therapy, though, is to get help putting your child's program together - and then to get any training or support you need to build therapeutic skills. If you feel that therapy is beyond your capabilities, you may feel differently when you learn about play and developmental approaches - which are surprisingly intuitive. Only, you, though, know what you can really do.
You Have the Time to Provide Your Child's Therapy:
Some therapies require only a few hours a week of your 1:1 time. You may, for example, be able to provide your child with some solid help in physical therapy (with the guidance and direction of a trained therapist) after work and on weekends. Others, like Applied Behavior Analysis, may demand most of your day. If you're working or coping with many competing demands for your time, providing therapy may be just too much to manage. Remember that a good therapist should be able to provide undivided attention as much as possible (though involving siblings may be a good solution some of the time).
You Have the Money to Provide Your Child's Therapies:
Of course it's cheaper to BE a therapist than to PAY a therapist, if you're comparing direct dollar to direct dollar. But to really gauge the cost, you need to consider what you WOULD be earning if you were in the workplace; the costs of training, consulting services and/or supplies; and the emotional cost (if any) to you and other family members.
You Have the Resources to Provide Therapy to Your Child:
If you're not already a trained therapist, you will need to build your skills, call in professional consulting services, and/or learn through books, videos and tele-courses. Depending upon the therapy you want to offer, you may or may not have access to all you need. Luckily, many training programs, consulting therapists and applicable resources are available online, or through Skype and other telecommunication systems. Review your resources, and be sure you have what you need before making a commitment.
Who Should Provide Autism Therapy to Their Own Child?:
If you are a parent who...
- Is energized by the idea of providing therapy
- Enjoys extended 1:1 time with her child with autism
- Feels competent to learn about and provide therapy
- Has the time, money and resources available