Should I Stay in the Treatment Room With My Child?

17 Español

When I evaluate a child for the first time, one of the first questions parents ask me is if they should attend the therapy session as well.  Parents often find themselves awkwardly standing in the waiting room, uncertain if they should go with their child, wondering if they’re allowed to go with their child, or if they should just wait in the waiting room while the child attends his or her therapy session.

As a therapist, this is what I tell parents.  For the first visit, parents should absolutely attend the therapy session!  For all of the following visits, that decision needs to be made on a case by case basis.

During the first therapy session the therapist will perform an evaluation of the child, and for this evaluation, parents need to be present.  The purpose of the evaluation is to gather as much information about the child as possible, and much of that information has to come from the parents.  Therapists need to know what behaviors you are seing or not seeing at home.  Of course, therapists are also watching and talking to your child and most likely also administering some type of standardized assessment, but personally, I have never found the initial meeting with the child to be a good indicator of what his or her abilities are.  It tends to be overwhelming for children to be in a new room, meeting a new person who is asking them questions, many of which they aren’t really sure how to answer.  Therefore, the most useful information from comes from the parent.

The second question is whether or not you should attend the following treatment sessions. That entirely depends on your child.  Some children do better by themselves, some do better with mom or dad in the room.  Some children are so dependent on the presence of a parent, that they don’t know how to function or communicate without them present.  In that case, the therapists goal will most likely be to have the child directly communicate with the therapist without going through the parent first.  At a certain age, it is no longer appropriate for a child to cling to his or her parent, constantly seeking confirmation from mom or dad before answering.   The goal of communicating independently, will most likely not be reached, if the parent remains in the treatment room during therapy.

However, I’m also not in favor of taking a child from his or her parent in the waiting room, and spending the next 3 or 4 therapy sessions listening to him or her scream and cry.  It’s not good for the child or the parent, and frankly, not good for me.  Separation from the parent has to occur gradually.  I often have mom or dad come to the therapy room to attend the session, but during that session, the child and I will leave the room for brief periods of time.  We’ll go to the swing room before returning to the therapy room to “check” on mom or dad.  Then we might go to the play room for a while, before again, returning to the therapy room to check on mom or dad again.  Eventually, mom sits out in the hallway, moving further away each session.  But there certainly does not have to be a permanent removal from the therapy room.

So my answer to the posed question is plain and simple.  It is your child!  If you prefer to attend therapy sessions with your child, you certainly can.  However, think very carefully about whether your presence during therapy is helping or hindering your child’s progress.  But more importantly, please don’t be offended if a therapist suggests that you leave the room.  The therapists are trying to meet goals, some of which might be easier to meet without parental interference.

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Jason Spear Miller