When to stop therapy

A lot of parents ask us, “Am I ever going to be done with occupational therapy?”

And we say, “No!”

Just kidding. Your child will eventually discontinue OT services and transition to the community.  Often times there’s a false hope that develops when your child starts to get better after they’ve been in therapy for maybe 6 months, and families start thinking, “Hey, they’re doing a lot better! We should discontinue services!” 

But it’s kind of like when you take an antibiotic, and the doctor says “Please make sure you take the full dosage!” You often begin to feel better within the first 3-5 days, but the doctor will tell you to complete the entire dosage, or else you might end up with problems down the road.

When you start seeing improvement:

It’s the same thing with our therapy. Your children may improve a lot, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to discharge from therapy. It’s really important that you coordinate with your clinician, because they are looking at things that you might not be able to see, because this is their area of specialty. And a lot of times things look better, but it’s a false positive—we’re heading in the right direction, but it’s not solid. 

We’ve had three children return to therapy just this year because they left therapy early. They were looking better, and they were good for about three months; but when they got into school in the fall, it was a disaster. We’ve had parents call us upset, even crying, and we’ve even had doctors saying that the kids left therapy too soon. 

So please consult very closely with your therapist. We never recommend a treatment without a transition—we’ll drop you down from two times a week to one time a week, for instance. We’ll also do things like develop a home exercise program for you to do. We will help to transition your child into the community. We will have your child take more control of the appointment. 

There is so much involved in moving from “a lot better” to being complete. It’s all in the fine tuning, and sometimes that fine tuning and that cementing of the information is very critical, because what we’re doing is neurologic.

Transitioning from therapy:

A lot of times discharge, and the whole process of transitioning, can take six months to a year. This is often misunderstood, but it’s not like “I’m in therapy today, but tomorrow I’m not.” Stopping abruptly makes it very disjointed for your child and for the clinician, because they’ve built a bond and a relationship, and they have specific targets they’re meeting. 

Discharge is something that we all work on together, and when we work on it both you and your child know the goals. Remember, we’re a medical model, and we are responsible to provide progress and documentation of progress to your insurance providers. If we weren’t still making progress, we would not continue to see your child, and your insurance company would not want to reimburse for that service.

So make sure you’re keeping up on those goal checks and progress reports and working with your clinician to know how that’s happening. If you have any questions, please give us a call!

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