If you want to learn more about how to get started with OT specifically in the US, check out episode 30. This episode focuses more on getting help from a professional in general, not specifically OT.
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The first thing we need to address is a question that usually sounds like:
“How do I know if it’s time to get my child assessed or if this behavior is normal?”
“When is it time for me to seek professional help for my child?”
If you asked me this question a couple of years ago, I probably would have rattled off a list of “red flags” or signs and behaviors that would fit on a list of reasons to seek a referral from a professional or developmental expert.
But now, after a couple years and hundreds of clients under my belt, I have a different approach.
Here’s my answer.
You should seek support, get your child assessed, talk to a professional when… you feel like you need it.
When you, the caregiver feel like your child’s behaviors (normal or not) are perplexing, intense, confusing, hard to manage, or hard to support then it’s time to ask for help. It’s very case specific because not everyone is working with the same resources and same knowledge as others to be able to feel competent and capable of supporting a child at home.
So when you feel like you need help, start looking for help.
Keyword: START looking for help, because unfortunately, getting professional help for your child’s behaviors and neurodiversities isn’t as easy as it is to walk into a dentist office and make an appointment.
OK, now that we got that down, let’s talk about where to get started when you decide it’s time to seek help.
Are you noticing behaviours and challenges that come up in school or at home aren’t certain what to make of?
Maybe it feels like it’s sensory to you, maybe anxiety, maybe a learning disability, maybe Autism?
Developmental pediatricians have a closer view on development than general pediatricians, but they have a wider scope on development than specialists like Occupational Therapists or Speech Launguage Pathologists or mental health professionals.
They will help narrow down a good place for you to start in terms of seeking any supportive interventions.
The developmental pediatricians themselves do not provide treatments or interventions or therapies, but they will do assessments for things like Autism, ADHD, other learning disabilities or cognitive disorders and developmental delays and point you in the right direction.
You could also go to neuropsychologists for specific assessments for a diagnosis, including learning disorders or Autism, but I find that they are mostly private pay and extremely expensive.
Child therapists, social workers or other mental health professionals
Are you noticing a lot of these around fears, anxiety, traumatic experiences, particular challenges within relationships between caregivers or other family members, or just having extreme emotional regulation challenges and big meltdowns?
A lot of child therapists will often recommend OT in conjunction and I love that. OT and mental health services complement each other so much, especially for neurodivergent children.
Speech Language Pathologist
Some Speech Language Pathologists can assess for Autism in addition to other language and communication delays and disorders.
This is a good place to start if you’re noticing that your child’s behaviors are surrounding social interactions, or eating.
Speech therapists don’t just teach kids how to pronounce and say words, they teach them different ways of communicating, including how to make and keep friends and other relationships.
They also help with eating, when your child may have oral motor difficulty with chewing and swallowing certain textures.
Let me start here- it’s not within our scope of practice as Occupational Therapists to be able to diagnose any kind of disorder or disability.
We can assess for functional outcomes and use standardized tests to see how your child’s skills measure up to normative samples, but an Occupational Therapist cannot actually provide a diagnostic label.
This tends to confuse people because people always hear “My son’s OT diagnosed him with SPD”.
I’m not going to get into the details of why this isn’t possible, but if you want to know more about the SPD diagnosis head to episode 5.
But if you’re noticing behaviors or challenges related to- fine motor, gross motor, completing daily tasks at home or in the community and emotional regulation challenges, an OT is a great place to start.
Now in terms of how you actually get in with one of these professionals, that changes so much across states, countries, insurance plans, resources etc but I would at least start by doing a local search to find resources in your area and start from there.
Lastly, I’m going to put a plug here for working with a mental health professional for yourself and/or your parenting partner if you have one.
After doing therapy for almost 2 years straight now, I can attest that I am a better parent when I understand my own triggers and my own mindset on the things that come up as a parent to a neurodivergent child.
These are things I could never process on my own, not even with any book or instagram post. It helps with processing so much of the burden that comes with parenting a neurodivergent child.
The therapist I work with is someone who specializes in pediatric anxiety, and she actually used to do play therapy with Liliana and I, but then I transitioned to working with her myself- so she understands and knows Liliana and uses that to help coach me/counsel me through the parenting stuff and my own anxiety.
So I would recommend finding someone who specializes in some sort of childhood anxieties and knows how to work with the parents about that.
Learn how to look at behavior through an OT lens and start decoding your child’s behavior into sensory and non sensory triggers, so you can start supporting them more effectively. Check out the Sensory IS Behavior mini course.
Laura, I’m noticing my child’s behaviors X, Y, Z. How do I know if this is normal or if it’s time to seek support? My answer is, you should seek support or get your child assessed or talk to a professional when you feel like you need it. When you, the caregiver, feel like your child’s behaviors normal or not. Perplexing, intense, confusing, hard to manage, or just hard to support daily. When you feel like that, then it’s time to ask for help to look for support. Welcome to the Sensory Wise Solutions podcast for parents where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura, OT and Mom to Lilian, a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. [00:01:00] Consider me your new OT mom. Bestie. I know my stuff, but I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Okay, mom, enough about me. Let’s start the podcast. Hello everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Today we are gonna talk about when it’s time to seek support for your child. So maybe you have identified, um, maybe from my Instagram posts, maybe from other people’s Instagram posts, or from someone that you know, but you’ve identified that your child might be differently wired or neuro divergent, or there’s just something going on that doesn’t feel right to you. We’ll just leave it. now what? What do you do? When is it time to seek support? Who do you seek support from? Where do you even start? So that’s what I’m gonna attempt to answer for you as succinctly as possible in today’s quick episode. [00:02:00] But real quick, if you want to learn more about how to get started with OT specifically, and particularly in the us, check out episode 30, so the ot butterfly.com/thirty. Um, That will give you more of like a step-by-step process in which setting to seek support from based on what things you’re noticing in your child. But this episode focuses more on just when it’s time and how to seek help from any professional in general, not specifically ot. So the first thing that we really need to address is a question that I get often and it’s usually phrased like, um, how do I know if it’s time to get my child assessed or if this is normal behavior, or like, how do I know when I need to seek support? So, If you asked me this question a couple of years ago, I probably would’ve [00:03:00] rattled off a list of red flags or signs, um, behaviors that would fit on a list of reasons that deviate, or a list of reasons really to seek referral from a professional or developmental expert based on things that felt atypical or like deviated from a standard developmental pattern. But, After a couple of years of being in therapy myself and extra years of parenting my child and hundreds of clients that I’ve worked with and coached, I have a little bit of a different line of approach to this question. So here’s my answer. If you ask me today, Laura, I’m noticing my child’s behaviors X, Y, Z. How do I know if this is normal or if it’s time to seek? , my answer is, you should seek support or get your child assessed or talk to a professional when you feel like you [00:04:00] need it. When you, the caregiver, feel like your child’s behaviors, normal or not, are perplexing, intense, confusing, hard to manage, or just hard to support. When you feel like that, then it’s time to ask for help to look for support. It is very case specific, which is why I’m talking about you personally, because not everyone is working with the same resources and the same knowledge base as others to be able to feel competent and capable of supporting a child at home. For example, I am an occupational therapist who is very well connected in the parenting’s. Space and the developmental field. So I push off getting support for my child specifically. Um, and there are moments where I’m like, I can’t do this anymore and I need someone, someone’s help. If you are a full-time working mom and you work in like the [00:05:00] financial field or just something very. Different than child development and this is your first child. Maybe those meltdowns at two, you’re not sure if they’re normal or not, but you don’t know how to deal with them or what to do. Then seek support. It doesn’t matter if this feels, if other people are saying this is normal two year old stuff. If you feel like you need the support or need to look closer at something or need to monitor something, seek support. That’s when you need to start looking for help, I should say. And the key word there is to start looking for help because unfortunately, especially in the United States, actually getting the services or working with the professional, getting in the door with them for your child’s behaviors and NeuroD diversities isn’t as easy as just like walking into a dentist’s office and making an appointment. It’s not that easy and it’s not that straightforward. Unfortu. . So definitely get started as soon as you feel like you need help, because there could still be a few months time before you find the [00:06:00] professional and get on the wait list and, and do all of that. And by the time you really feel like you need help, you probably could have used help months before. Okay, so now that we’ve got that down, I’m gonna talk to you about a few of the different options of what kinds of professionals you can at least start to look into when you decide it’s time to seek help. So the first is developmental pediatricians. This is where we started, and if you wanna hear more about that, you can go to episode. I think it’s episode three, um, but episodes one through four is a detailed look at, um, like it’s me chronicling our story of getting evaluated up until my daughter was, I think four. Um, and we talk about our process to seeing, um, not the best developmental pediatrician, but that was one of the first places we started. So, um, Seeing a developmental pediatrician is a [00:07:00] good place to start when you’re seeing behaviors or challenges that come up a lot in school or at home that you really just aren’t even certain what to make of it. Maybe it’s like daily tantrums or daily meltdowns. Um, maybe they are, you’re seeing them stem a lot. Maybe they’re having a hard time eating. Maybe, um, there’s social stuff going on. Maybe there is a language or a communication issue, but you’re not really sure what to make of it or where to start. Um, developmental pediatricians have. Closer view on development than general pediatricians, but they have a more. Wider view or a larger scope, um, on development than specialists like OTs, speech therapists, or mental health professionals. So they’re like a good place, um, to start and they’ll help you narrow down where you should seek more supportive interventions. So they won’t do like the, um, they won’t provide intervention for your child, but they’re, they’re a good place to triage where you need to be going.[00:08:00] So they can do the assessments, they can assess for things like autism, adhd, learning disabilities, cognitive disorders, and developmental delays. And they can also point you in the right direction to get more specialized assessments related to those things. Um, similarly, you could go to a neuropsychologist for specific assessments for a diagnosis. Including learning disorders or autism. But I personally find that they are mostly private pay from what I’ve found. And extremely expensive. Though they can be pretty comprehensive. So if you, if, if you’re, if you really think there’s like a learning disability going on, um, a neuropsychologist might have a lot more different assessment options that they can offer you. Okay, so the other professionals that you could look into are mental health professionals. So these are child therapists, social workers, um, l m [00:09:00] fts, just mental health professionals. Their degree doesn’t matter too much on the intervention level. Um, and you might see, uh, a lot of different types of. Um, alphabet soup letters after their name. But seeking mental health support is a good place to start for your child if you’re noticing a lot of themes around fears, anxiety, traumatic experiences, particular challenges within, like relationships between caregivers or other family members, or even if they’re just having extreme emotional regulation challenges and big meltdowns. Um, a lot of child therapists will also. Often recommend OT in conjunction when they notice something related to sensory or other regulation challenges. And I love working, um, in a supportive team with a mental health professional with a client. Um, I think OT and mental health services compliment each other so well, especially for kids. [00:10:00] If you have a kid who’s like my daughter, who is like, um, has really, really big feelings, um, emotional regulation challenges and has some sensory and anxiety kind of intertwined, um, it’s a really great, those are really great, um, interventions to, to work with together. Um, in terms of which one to seek support from first. It depends. It’s case by case. I find that, um, if you’re just starting out, OT is more general than mental health professionals. Um, and OT won’t be able to help with extreme, not extreme, but OT won’t be able to help as much if your child has like an O C D diagnosis. But in terms of point of entry, I think that mental. Uh, interventions for children is a little bit easier to access than ot. So you could start there and ask the, um, [00:11:00] the mental health professional if they recommend ot and they could kind of be your bridge to ot. Um, but I, if I like working with both OT and mental health professionals, so maybe you can get on both wait lists at the same time. If you have a child who has emotional regulation challenges or sensory regulation challenge, , I’m gonna talk about OT in a second, but first I’m gonna talk about the next profession, which is SLPs, which are speech language pathologists. Um, they can assess for autism in addition to other language and communication delays and disorders. So, um, this is a good place to start if you’re noticing that your child’s behaviors are very much surrounded and tied to social interactions, um, or of. Communication and language, um, and also eating. So speech therapists don’t just teach kids how to pronounce and say words. I know. I think that might be one of the first things that we think about is if we think about kids who don’t have, um, don’t have, uh, the ability to speak yet. Uh, [00:12:00] Um, or if kids have an articulation challenge and they can’t say like a certain sound, yes, SLPs work on that, but they also work on the ability to communicate in a social setting. Um, and with nonverbal communication and all of, all of the, um, necessary skills to be successful in your everyday relationships based on speech and communication. And, and of course, so that’s a big part of that is autism and a lot of speech therapists specialize in working with autistic children. So if any of that sounds familiar and, or, and, or I guess not. And, but, or if they also have eating challenges, um, they can assess for some of the oral motor patterns and things that make chewing and swallowing difficult, which might be contributing to picky eating for some. Um, okay, so last but not least, of course, ot. And, um, I’m going to, um, link you to, uh, another episode, episode five, if you want to understand more about, [00:13:00] um, how about sensory processing disorder? Cause that’s one of the first things that. That parents I think are misguided on and they, they might hear, um, a friend or a neighbor or someone say, oh, my child got diagnosed by an ot and they diagnosed him as spd, so, Let me start here. It’s that it is not within our scope of practice as occupational therapists to be able to diagnose any kind of disorder or disability. We can assess for functional outcomes and use standardized tests and assessments to tell you how your child’s skills measure up to normative samples and averages. But an OT cannot actually provide like a diagnostic label. Um, P D technically is not its own diagnostic label in the dsm, but again, if you wanna hear all like more on that, then go to episode five. So the ot butterfly.com/five. Um, but in general, if you’re noticing behaviors or [00:14:00] challenges at home, at school, or in the community, um, related to fine motor skills, handwriting, coloring, tracing, cutting. Buttoning things. Zipping things, holding utensils for eating or gross motor skills like being able to sit up tall at the, um, at their desk or being able to go down slides, sit on swings, um, crawling, walking milestones, um, or completing daily tasks at home, like if they’re having a hard time with eating also, or if they’re having a hard time. Taking baths or getting dressed or getting in the car or playing, um, on a playground. Um, and any emotional regulation challenges, an OT can help you understand if there is a sensory component or if there is some other component triggering some of those challenges. And OTs can have a really good way of working with kids in [00:15:00] this. Um, Kind of more broad sense so that it can target a little bit of the mental health perspective. But again, if the OT determines after some time, or maybe through the assessment that it really feels like anxiety is the biggest driver, or OCD is the biggest driver, then they will most likely also refer you to a mental health specialist. So now in terms of how you actually get in, With one of these professionals that changes so much across location and across country states, insurance plans, resources. So I’m not gonna get into that here, but I would at least start by deciding if one of those things that I mentioned sounds like it would apply to you or your child and doing a local search, um, on Google to find resources in your area and just start from there. Cold calling, emailing, going through other, like links on their websites to find other resources in your location. [00:16:00] Um, and again, if you wanna hear more about OT specifically in the US and where to start with that, then go to episode 30. So before I end here, I want to put one more plug. Um, for another professional to work with, but this professional is to work with you. So I highly, highly recommend, encourage all of you if you are in this space where you are having a hard time parenting your child, period, whether or not they are neuro divergent. If you’re having a hard time seek mental health support for yourself and or also with you for your parenting partner if you have. I think so often we get caught up in like, well, I’m not anxious, or it’s just because we just we’re in the pandemic, or it’s only because, you know, right now is a really hard time with work. That’s the reason why I’m having a hard time. It doesn’t matter why you’re having a hard time. It doesn’t matter if it’s circumstantial. It doesn’t [00:17:00] matter if it’s because of the pandemic. It doesn’t matter if it’s because there’s a transition. If you’re having a hard. , I can’t recommend this enough. Seek support for yourself because you will be blown away at how much it ends up impacting other parts of your life. Um, and we in 2022, like everybody has a therapist there, and I love that we’re starting to. Destigmatize it more. I think that there’s still some ways to go, but it’s much, we’re in a much better place than we were with that 10 years ago, and no one has to be ashamed anymore about having a therapist. So I work with a therapist. I actually have anxiety. But even if you’re just a parent who’s struggling with the daily triggers of raising a child, whose strong will or who has melt, A therapist can help you process that. So I work with a therapist who, um, she specializes in, um, pediatric anxiety. and she actually was liliana’s play therapist, um, early on [00:18:00] when, so we met her when Liliana was two. So she, she’s worked with us for a while, but in different capacities. She used to work with Liliana. Um, mark and I would sit down on the sessions. She did a few individual sessions of Mark and I separately. Um, Over the pandemic. She did more sessions with Liana virtually, and then I fully transitioned to working with her, just me and her separately, weekly on my anxiety as a parent. But because she has that understanding of Liana and kids like Liana, she uses that to help counsel and advise me, um, weekly on some of the struggles that I have, both personally just as an anxious person and as a parent. Um, so I highly recommend looking for someone who specializes. The same sort of, um, challenges you’re seeing in your kids. So maybe a, a therapist who also works with kids who really understands child development and childhood mental health challenges and things like that. And also they have the ability to coach you as a parent and to get through some of those, [00:19:00] um, hard times as a parent. There’s nothing wrong with admit. All right. I hope this episode gave you enough tips and at least places to start when thinking about how you can best support your neuro divergent child. If you are looking for more guidance, more specific resources based on a current behavior or challenge, you are in luck. This is the week of my Thanksgiving Week sales, and I have a lot of great deals out available for you. All of them include one-on-one support from me on various topics and challenges. So if you head to the ot butterfly.com/thanksgiving, you can check out all of the deals. But if you wanna hear them quickly, I have a deal on helping you guide your child through clothing sensitivities. I have a package for creating a customized school sensory support plan for your child and help you talk to their teacher about that and give them resource. I [00:20:00] have a decoding behavior bundle that includes, um, a one-on-one call with me and my popular Sensory Behavior and meltdowns course. I also have a one-on-one coaching package called the Sensory Lifestyle Starter Pack, where I’m gonna help you understand your child’s sensory profile and their needs at home, but also create a customized tailor sensory lifestyle plan that works with your. Your budget and everything that comes with your family dynamic. And lastly, for the first time ever, I’m offering something new. It is an email support pack where you might be a busy parent, maybe you live overseas, maybe you just have a lot of like, Q and a. Just questions you wanna ask me. Um, and you need it more accessible than in a small Instagram dm. I’m offering an email support pack where you can have three email responses from me, and you can ask as many questions as you want in each email, and I will reply back [00:21:00] with my thoughts, specific insights, specific resources, blog posts, everything that would be. To the current challenges or behaviors or any questions that you may have. So again, to learn more about each of those. and grab them because they’re all offered at a limited capacity. Then run over to the ot butterfly.com/thanksgiving and the link for that is gonna be in the show notes. I’ll see you next week. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider rating it and leaving a review, which helps other parents find me as well. Wanna learn more from me? I share tons more over on Instagram at the OT Butterfly. See you.