How to Help Prepare Your Child for His First Therapy Session

It is common for individuals to be hesitant when experiencing the unfamiliar. For children with autism spectrum disorder, this hesitancy may manifest as fear or anxiety due to their need for routine. That’s why behavior analysis specialists recommend that parents be forthcoming with their children about their upcoming therapy sessions. By explaining this new part of your child’s life, you can better prepare him for this change to his schedule and prepare him for the upcoming introductions to unfamiliar people and activities.

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Discuss the Therapy Process
Going into a building or office with no idea as to what is about to happen can be jarring for kids and adults alike. To ease your child’s nervousness , explain to him why he’s attending therapy and what will happen while he’s there. You can tell him that he likely will be playing while also working on tasks that are currently difficult. Be sure to let them know that the process will be challenging but also fun and that there are many other kids that he can learn to play with as well. Depending on his age and ability to understand language, you can modify this discussion by showing pictures of items he can play with, a picture of the location. Visit our website so he can see images of our staff and location. Use simple sentences. “We are going to go play at The Behavior Exchange”. “We are going to make new friends”. “We are going to learn new things”, etc. Hearing a positive tone and knowing on a basic level what lies ahead can be reassuring. Once familiar with our staff and location, your child is sure to enjoy the process.

Make Him Feel Secure
As the therapist will need to pick-up your child and bring him back to the therapy area, we will try to ensure as pleasant and smooth of a transition as possible. However, he may become afraid if he sees you leaving the room. To put his mind at ease, reassure him that you are just on the other side of the door. If possible, show him exactly where you will be sitting if he needs you and reassure him that you will be there when he is finished. He is welcome to bring a toy/preferred activity that can be used within the session and to help ease the transition back into the therapy area.

Encourage Him to Express Himself
As communication and language training is the basis of everything we do at The Behavior Exchange, be sure to let the therapist know how your child best communicates. Is it through gestures, pictures, the IPAD, verbal language or a combination. Are there certain signals that only you understand? If your child is verbal but has poor articulation, share the verbalizations that he does make and what they mean with the therapist so we can be sure to honor his requests and attempts to communicate. Bring pictures/IPAD or any other communication mechanisms that will help facilitate interaction and our understanding of your child during those first sessions. Our goal will be to develop rapport and build a positive relationship FIRST. Only once trust and understanding is achieved, can we begin skill building and the more intensive procedures that produce dramatic and positive change for your family.

The Behavior Exchange offers private, personalized care for children in the greater Dallas and Plano area. If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, let our therapy sessions help him become better acclimated to social interactions. Call (972) 312-8733 or visit our website for more information about our services and applied behavior analysis.

Written By Tammy Cline-Soza, MS, BCBA

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