My Child’s Therapist Doesn’t Like Him. What to do?

I wanted to share an email with you, that I received from a parent a few days ago.  In this e-mail, the parent talks about her son who is on the autism spectrum.  He is verbal and communicates very well but, by her own admission, he can be quite challenging in terms of his behavior.

The reason she decided to contact me, was because she is concerned that her son’s speech therapist doesn’t like him.  She said the therapist tends to be short and irritable with him and always appears frustrated, sometimes even coming across as “cold”.  As a parent, she is unsure how to handle this particular situation.  On the one hand, she wants a warm and nurturing environment for her child, but on the other hand, she realizes that his therapist is a professional who knows how to achieve the goals they are trying to achieve.

I have a feeling that there are many other parents out there who have come across a teacher or therapist who appears to dislike their child.  As a therapist myself, it saddens me that any parent would have to feel that way, especially if those feelings are pertaining to a professional who is supposed to be helping their child reach his or her full potential.

I believe, parents need to consider two things.  One, therapist are human and just like everyone else, they can get annoyed.  Bad behavior is bad behavior, whether it’s coming from a normally developing child or a special needs child.  Those same behaviors that drive you crazy as a parent, can drive therapists crazy as well.  I can recall several instances where I have become annoyed with a child’s behavior, especially if that behavior is getting in the way of his or her progress.  And in rare instances, I have had to work with a child who caused me to stop and take a deep breath before I went to get him or her from the waiting room.

Having said that, I need to stress that I have never ever disliked a child, and the odds are, that your child’s therapist doesn’t dislike your child either.  Therapists have the difficult job of trying to get a child to achieve something that is very difficult for that child to do.  They are constantly having to try new approaches to therapy, evaluating and adjusting what works and what doesn’t work.  In addition, it is most often done under the watchful eye of your child’s health insurance carrier who can deny coverage at anytime, if required progress isn’t being made.  This means, there is a lot at stake and a lot to be accomplished, in what is often a short amount of time.

That being said, therapy should be a positive and fun experience for your child.  It isn’t school.  Your child should be engaged.  A skilled therapist should be able to put on a positive face for your child and guides his or her behavior with a patient and affirming voice.  There are times when it’s perfectly acceptable for a therapist to let a child know that his or her behavior isn’t acceptable.  However, a true professional will never let a child feel that he or she is not liked as a person.  Getting frustrated is acceptable, but reflecting an air of dislike is not!

Always keep an open line of communication with your child’s therapist.  Talk to him or her.  If you still feel that the therapist dislikes your child, then you may need to look at making some changes.

I hope all of you are building great relationships with your children’s therapists, and as a result, are achieving the goals you have set!  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at any time.

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Jason Spear Miller