4. See how your child responds to them
Ultimately, your child is the one receiving the treatment here, so watch closely to see how they respond to the therapist—as well as how the therapist responds to them. A good therapist will work to build rapport with your child and respect them as a human being. And suffice to say, your child should not hate their therapist. Therapy doesn’t need to be easy-peasy or all sunshine and rainbows, but if your child is frequently upset during sessions or you feel your child’s therapist is stepping out of line in any way—using inappropriate or unnecessary aversion, disrespecting your child’s autonomy, or forcing compliance in spite of significant distress—say something. If it’s not okay to do to a neurotypical kid, it’s not okay to do to a kid with autism.
3. Ask lots of questions
Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have, big or small. But a few you might want to consider raising:
- Are your treatment methods evidence-based?
- Do you have experience working with individuals like my child (i.e. children on the spectrum who are [age] and have [autism severity])? How much?
- Can I have references from other families you’ve worked with in similar situations?
- What insurances do you accept, if any? Do you have any specific payment policies I should know about (e.g. hourly fees, sliding scale based on family income, etc.)?
- Will you be able to provide my child with more advanced therapy in addition to early-stage therapy?
- Do you have a specialty of any sort? What is it?
- Will you be working alone or with a team? If you’ll be working with others, what are their credentials?
- How many clients do you have? (Average is about 6-12)
- How long and how often will sessions take place?
- To what extent would you need me/my child’s other family members to take part in treatment? (A good therapist will want you to be involved!)
- Will you be willing to work with my child’s school or any other therapists? How will you collaborate? (This is vital, as many parents complain of fragmentation between service providers.)
- How will you determine when my child has “graduated” from the program?
- What would a typical therapy session look like?
Never be afraid to ask questions after you’ve decided upon a therapist, either. Again, if they do anything you think is questionable, unacceptable, or even harmful to your child, speak up. They may have the degree, but you have the parental instincts and the experience with your own child.
2. Watch how they act as they respond to your questions
Does the therapist make you feel like you’re inferior or stupid for asking questions or requesting clarification on something technical or confusing? Do they get annoyed or irritated, as if you’re wasting their time? Overall, do you just feel uncomfortable when you talk to them? If you answered any of these questions with “yes,” you might want to keep looking. It’s part of the therapist’s job to be working with you and helping you understand your child’s treatment and progress—you deserve to be partnering with someone who treats you with decency and respect.
1. Make sure they know and respect what you think is most important for your child to learn
While your child’s therapist may have some agendas they need to follow themselves, they should also listen to you and value what you think is most important for your child to learn. It’s vital that the therapist knows, respects, and adheres to your own wishes in addition to the goals gleaned from your child’s assessments.