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Baby-with-toysYou need to stimulate your baby”. Have you ever heard this piece of advice?

I am pretty sure that, at some point, your child’s doctor has given you this orientation. I have heard this A LOT (yes, really A LOT) because my son indeed needed/needs stimuli due to the anoxia he suffered at birth and the time he spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Needless to say, I was thrilled and relieved when he was finally discharged from hospital! I was so looking forward to having a more normal routine, since having a baby at a NICU is quite tiring for the family, both emotionally and physically. If you have gone through this, you know what I mean!

I was thrilled, relieved and…LOST. I knew that the NICU had been just the first chapter of our story. I had already been told I would have to search for long-term assistance from specialized doctors and therapists. Another challenge was about to start. I had to suppress my then so mixed emotions and be as objective as possible to start setting up what I now call “Paulo’s team,” despite my total lack of experience or knowledge in any of these subjects!

If you are in a similar situation right now, let me give you a shortcut by sharing a few tips on how to choose a therapist for your child.

Woman-DoubtSEARCHING FOR A THERAPIST

First of all, you need to check with your child’s doctor what types of infant stimulation therapies your baby will need for a start (Physiotherapy? Occupational therapy? Visual stimulation? And so on). Another good idea is talking to therapists as well, telling them about your child’s case and asking for some evaluation.

This is a suggestion I give you as a friend, based on my personal experience, not as a health expert (which I am not!). After all, this is what I have noticed: doctors’ and therapists’ views about a patient are often complementary. In a few occasions, having both of them (not just one) has benefitted my son tremendously and has made me more confident about how to guide his treatments.

You might be wondering…how can I find good therapists specialized in infant stimulation? Well… This is the challenging second step I was about to mention. For a start, my advice is to ask your doctor and the NICU staff for help. Over time, you will know other parents who will also be a valuable source of information. I have become friends with many mothers I have met in clinics and their recommendations have always been helpful.

ONCE YOU FIND A THERAPIST

Great! You have succeeded the first phase of the marathon! Now it is time to talk to the therapist and know some important things before he/she actually starts assisting your child. Ask as many questions as you consider necessary. Do not be embarrassed to do so, after all, you, the client, are hiring one of the most valuable services your baby will ever need.

Over time, you will have a better idea of what works for you and your baby and the questions you should ask. Let me give you an example: when my then 2-month old baby started attending physiotherapy sessions, I had no idea of how it would work. Fortunately, that friendly woman patiently explained everything to me and also taught me how to practice a few things with my son at home. Not all therapists are like this. I have met others who seemed to be very bothered when I asked for suggestions on activities or when I participated in the session.

When searching for therapists for my baby, I try to find people who:

  • Answer my questions – I am not a health expert and, as such, I have no obligation to know beforehand what that particular therapy is about or how it works. I have noticed that therapists who work as a partner of the family give the best results.

 

  • Cooperate with other therapists — My son’s physiotherapist, for example, exchanges a lot of information with his occupational therapist, his speech therapist, etc, even though they do not work in the same place. This gives the whole team a better idea of what he needs the most in terms of stimuli.

 

  • Give me written reports about my son’s development — This is extremely helpful when you see doctors, see another specialist or even move to another city.

 

  • Teach me how to stimulate my son at home — After all, he spends more time with his family than with his therapists. The more I know how to play with him “strategically”, the better. And I should tell you, what a difference this has made in my baby’s development!

Searching-for-therapists

 

Finances-PigFINANCIAL AND PRACTICAL ASPECTS

This aspect is crucial if your baby’s treatments are long-term. How far is the clinic from your house? Will you drive or take a bus to go there? How much does it cost? Here are some important things you might want to check:

  • Are there clinics (public or private) offering free assistance? Ask hospitals, specialized clinics, Universities and your city’s local government about it. Last year I was glad to learn that a public University located in my neighborhood offers free music therapy for the community. I enrolled my son in their program and he loved it! He was always looking forward to going to their music studio and play the piano, the guitar, the drums…all for free and in individual sessions.

 

  • In case you have only found private clinics, check whether you may be reimbursed by your health insurance plan or even the government. You might be then required to prove that your baby really needs the therapies, hence the importance of therapists’ written reports!

 

  • Is home assistance a possibility? Is it more expensive? You should definitely check this beforehand. For some patients, home care is the only way they will be assisted. In my case, I was never really interested in home assistance (my son enjoys meeting the other kids in clinics) but after I had my second child, this therapy marathon has just become more challenging. Two therapies are then being held in my house and this saves me a lot of time and energy.

 

DURING THE TREATMENT

Once your child starts being assisted by the therapists you chose, make sure you are attentive to his/her reactions and behavior after the sessions. Does he/she seem to like it? This will give you an idea of his/her favorite activities, allowing you to explore them at home — which will be extremely important for his/her development.

After I enrolled my baby in the free music therapy I told you about, I have noticed that he reacts much more positively to music than to other types of stimuli. I have then introduced him to a variety of genres and instruments (Youtube helped me!) and I was excited to see this has helped boost his motor abilities!

I am sure that, if your child seems to enjoy a particular therapy, you will also be more confident about the therapist you have chosen. However, if this not the case, do not hesitate to keep looking for another one (if this is possible, of course!).

There were a few occasions in which I strongly felt I had to look for more committed, professional therapists for my son. I do not regret having done so, even though it was quite stressful for me. It was more than worth it! I have witnessed a tremendous improvement in his development thanks to specialized, tireless detail-oriented therapists and doctors (yes, the same “principle” applies to doctors in my experience).

I hope these tips have helped you. Would you add more to the list? What is your experience with baby therapies? Let me know!