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Supporting Your Child's Mental Health Needs

Written by: Erica Realpe, MA, LMFT, and Co-Author of Dear Mama, Stories of an Extra Lucky Life


As parents with children with a disability, we always want what is best for our children. While navigating their therapies, doctor’s appointments, and IEP meetings one area we may not think we needed to venture into was mental health. Our medical team has probably been very helpful in guiding us to meet our children’s developmental needs, but how will we know what to look for with their mental health needs?  Finding a therapist is challenging on its own and if we mention a diagnosis we may be told that it is out of their scope of practice. So, what are we to do? In this article, we'll explore some common indicators that your child may benefit from therapy, how to find a therapist, and how to know if the therapist is a good fit for your child.

 

Signs Your Child May Need Therapy:

Whatever your child’s diagnosis may be, I am pretty sure that not everyone fits into a cookie-cutter box of what to expect with every stage of development, I think most of us threw expectations out of the window and have learned to go at our child’s pace. With that said I imagine that you know your child best and you have this amazing Mama Gut Intuition that will be needed in this area just as much. These signs may be more fitting for neurotypical children but still are a good marker for our kiddos too.


  • Sudden bursts of anger or meltdowns that are developmentally inappropriate.

  • Decreased school performance, such as poor feedback from teachers, misbehavior, or consistently low grades.

  • Physical symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, or racing heart without medical explanation.

  • Regression in behavior or skills.

  • Isolation from friends or family.

  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

  • Being overly clingy.

  • Talking excessively about death or making comments about suicide.

  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors like hair pulling, skin picking, or fighting in school.

  • Wanting to sleep more, avoid activities that once enjoyed

  • Sudden fear of normal routines like school, darkness, people, and certain places


I imagine that as you read these signs you can think of medical conditions that can explain some of these symptoms as well. It is always a good idea to speak to your child’s medical team to explain the changes in behavior, how often, when it started, and anything else that may help rule out any medical conditions that can contribute to the changes in behavior.

 

Finding a Therapist for Your Child:

Finding a therapist for children has been very challenging these last couple of years. You can get good recommendations from your medical team, support groups, friends, and school counselors. You can reach out to your insurance provider for coverage details and more recommendations.

 

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist:

Once you find a therapist it is important to ask several questions to make sure they are a good fit for your family. Most therapists provide a 15-to-30-minute free consultation.

  • Inquire about their experience and specialization with children and teens.

  • Ask about their preferred therapy approaches and why they believe it's suitable for your child.

  • Ask how they think they can adjust their therapeutic techniques to your child’s specific needs.

  • Discuss your involvement in your child's treatment. You don’t need to be in session but you should be involved in some way.

  • Understand what a typical therapy session entails and how progress is measured.

  • Inquire about rates, insurance coverage, and payment options.

 

Signs of a Good Therapist:

You will know when you have a good fit when your child looks forward to going (most times). After a while you will start seeing some positive behavioral changes and your child will be implementing some of the coping strategies learned. You will also get educated by your child’s therapist on how to encourage your child to use those coping skills at home. It is important that you have an open communication with your child’s therapist to express your concerns, provide updates, and to hear how your child is doing in therapy.


In conclusion, recognizing when your child may need therapy and finding the right therapist is crucial for their mental and emotional well-being. By being aware of the signs, and asking the right questions you can support your child in navigating challenges and developing positive coping skills for life.


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Erica is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who brings a unique blend of professional expertise and personal experience to her mission of supporting and uplifting families. In addition to her professional journey, she is a proud mother of two wonderful boys, a 17-year-old and a spirited three-year-old who made her an Extra Lucky Mom. This dual role as a mom and a therapist has deepened her understanding of the intricacies of family dynamics, allowing her to connect with others on a more empathetic level.

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