In an intervention programme, a therapist may see your child twice, or even thrice a week, spending a few hours with them each time. Some parents may think that that is sufficient. In this article, we will be looking into the benefits for the child when parents are actively involved in an intervention program and why parents play such a pivotal role in the way a child responses to any program.
As therapists are trained to give specific responses to help a child learn appropriate behaviours, the child is usually able to adjust to the feedback accordingly. However, when the session is over, the child may receive inconsistent feedback or untimely ones from their parents, understandably so as they may be frustrated by a lack of receptivity to repeated instructions or the appearance of other undesirable behaviour. While this is understandable, it may cause them to unlearn the appropriate behaviours they have managed to just get the hang of during the session. On the other hand, when a parent’s feedback is in line with that of the therapists, in other words, consistent with theirs, appropriate behaviours of the child that we hope to increase will be reinforced instead of fading away after a session is over. In fact, a study by St. Catherine University, Minnesota has shown that parents’ involvement significantly increase developmental skills and progress of a child in an early intervention programme.
Because of the limited amount of time therapists get to spend with the child, the opportunities for the child, for instance, to use words to request for something is also limited. Therapists can only contrive this many scenarios. Furthermore, the child should also be able to generalise their knowledge and use their skills with more people, not just with therapists. At home, they are very likely to have more opportunities to express their desires, for example, reaching for something out of reach, asking for help to open a container and more. Such day-to-day situations are useful opportunities to encourage a child to speak or request in the right way! In some cases, when a child throws a tantrum, for example, parents who do not give them the right feedback and give in in hopes of quieting them quickly will only end up encouraging the child to do it more often in the future. That’s because the feedback received by the child is that kicking up a huge fuss is the quickest way to get their parents to do what they want!
Since we have talked about consistency being an important factor in the intervention a child is receiving, another reason why a parent’s involvement is important is that parents are usually the ones who are in charge of their day-to-day routine. If they have strong instructional control with their child, they will be able to cope better with tasks that the child finds challenging. By being involved, parents are better able to learn how to do this and not undo any positive behaviours a child has picked up. They would also be more aware of a child’s abilities. As a result, they would know when something is too easy or too difficult for them. With this additional understanding, parents would be less frustrated and be better equipped to pinpoint when the child is being cheeky or actually stressed out about a task. This works both ways; the child will also be less frustrated and temperamental when parents show an understanding of their needs. In this manner, it creates a more positive environment that allows the child to form a deeper bond with their parents.
Essentially, for better results and improved bonding, we strongly encourage all parents to be actively involved with the intervention programme they are with!
Written by Claudie.