The Therapeutic Connection With ASD – How to Know When It’s a Good Fit!
As a parent of someone on the spectrum (child, teen, adult), you are likely familiar with the process of navigating a variety of services. In my office, parents of older kids frequently recall specific therapists along their journeys who were game changers.
These therapists saw inner strengths and potential in their children that had otherwise gone unseen; they were knowledgeable and practical; they valued their child’s individuality and focused on connecting with the child). Finding the right fit for your child is complex! It is not a “one size fits all” model. Further, someone who might be the best fit for your six-year-old may no longer be the best fit when your child progresses to their teen years.
Research supports that the therapeutic connection (how well the therapist and your child “get” each other) can be the greatest predictor of favorable outcomes. When evaluating your providers, questions you might ask yourself include:
- Does your therapist seem to like your child, and does your child like your therapist? This seems pretty simple and straightforward, but I cannot tell you how many times I have had families tell me that they have felt otherwise. If your child can sense the therapist isn’t 100 percent on board, it’s not going to work!
- Therapy is hard work. Whether it is counseling, speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, etc., your child is spending his/her time developing skills in areas that have been challenging. It’s normal for a child to be tired of therapy every now and then. It’s not normal for every single session to be a battle to get your child in the door!
- Does it feel like an alliance? Is my child aware of and motivated to work toward targets because he/she understands they will ultimately help? And…because they trust the clinician who is daring him/her to be courageous?
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Maybe after looking more closely at your services, you decide it is time to shop around and see what’s available in your area. Finding the right therapist is much more than looking for a 5-star Google review. Consider trying:
- Talking about services with your tribe of autism parents (if you don’t have a real-life group of fellow parents, find a local online support group). Make a note of the names that stand out amongst groups (both good and bad!), and start to create your list.
- If you do have a provider you have trusted in the past, reach out and ask who he/she would recommend. Providers network and often have insider knowledge as to who may be the best fit for your child.
- Call your insurance provider and request a list of all providers within network. Services are expensive! Know who you have access to and start making phone calls.
- Interview your potential providers. Most clinicians are happy to chat over the phone about your child prior to meeting for an evaluation or first appointment. You know your child best! Talk about the clinician’s philosophy and approach to therapy and consider whether or not that would be a good fit for your child.
Taking a moment to step back and consider the connection your child has with his/her therapist can have a significant impact on progress. Undoubtedly, it’s easy to get stuck in the hustle of getting to your child’s appointments! However, it can be argued that investing your time and energy in finding the right fit now will lead to greater impact over time/pay dividends over time.
Mallory Griffith, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist living and working in Fort Collins, CO. In her office, she primarily works with people on the spectrum, coaching social communications skills. Mallory has co-authored two books with her colleague and friend, Rachel Bédard, PhD, including Raising a Child on the Autism Spectrum: Insights from Parents to Parents, and, You’ve Got This!: The Journey from Middle School to College, as told by Students on the Autism Spectrum and Their Parents.
This article was featured in Issue 87 – Building ASD Awareness and Communication