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  • Writer's pictureJenn

Therapy Session: Expectations vs. Reality




crying child
Therapy Sessions: Expectations vs. Reality

As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, it is almost inevitable that at one point, you may hear your child's therapist relay, "He or she was super dysregulated today and had a hard time focusing," or "I tried to put the compression vest on him/her, but he/she wanted nothing to do with it" or "Your child bit the therapist today while they were working with the PECS book after the therapist refused access to a preferred item." It is only natural to want our children to do well, succeed, and be happy. Therefore, receiving these reports can elicit many responses, especially if the report is unexpected. Naturally, many emotions may overcome us when put in these situations. It may be easy to feel disappointment, shock, vulnerability, anger, embarrassment, sadness, confusion, apathy, or despair.


Conversely, you may feel none of those emotions but instead have an innate need to try and figure out the root problem so that you can attempt to find a resolution. We may also respond one way in one instance and then entirely differently in another. As parents of a child or children on the spectrum, we wear many hats, and the job is not for the faint of heart. Regardless of your response type, it is crucial to recognize that you are human and entitled to a knee-jerk or emotional response. However, these emotions have a time and place, and our lasting reaction is the most important.


It is vital to remember that, like us, our kids have days in which they are not feeling well, prefer to play instead of participating in therapy, are too sleepy, or are just not in the mood to have a session or sessions. Moreover, our children never misbehave themselves because they purposefully look to make us upset, annoyed, frustrated, or angry. If anything, these behaviors are because they feel dysregulated or have some head or belly discomfort. Perhaps they are hitting a growth spurt and have a voracious appetite that day, a smell is making them nauseous, the temperature is not quite right, or that little tag on the inside of their shirt is irritatingly rubbing their skin. Moreover, these sessions do not define our children and their abilities, nor was the session a waste of time. Every situation allows us to learn from our children, their environment, or their therapists. Likewise, even if our children were 90% distracted, there may have been one piece of information they heard, saw a peer model, or read that they will carry with them.


When you encounter these days, please remember to give yourself some breathing room and the situation a bit of patience. Holding negative emotions in the forefront can easily mask answers hidden in plain sight. Also, remind yourself of your child's progress daily, as these will most certainly outweigh the less desirable sessions.

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