Helping Your Special Needs Child Understand How to Cope Better

January 20th, 2021
Helping Your Special Needs

Is Your Child Struggling with Coping Skills?

Parents of special needs children have to learn many different coping skills, and they also need to help their child develop better coping mechanisms.

Physical therapy can be an integral part of developing these coping skills, and your work with the physical therapist can be just as beneficial for you as it is for your special needs child.

Today’s blog will cover some of the best ways to help your child develop better coping skills. You can also contact Oceanside Therapy Group for specialized help today.

Comforting your child by reminding them that help is always available

Many special needs children struggle with physical activity — or even with the mere thought of physical activity. This might cause enough anxiety that it seems like a huge and scary problem for your child.

If they express fear, worry, or anger about not being able to do certain physical activities as well as they’d like, remind your child that help is available from the physical therapist.

You can tell your child, “Let’s talk about what you learned in your last physical therapy session.” This helps your child remember their progress and it helps them cope when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Remind your child that they grow stronger and more capable with each visit to their physical therapist, too. It can turn the situation from scary to hopeful very quickly.

Discovering the calming techniques that work best for your child

Make a short list of your child’s favorite activities. What are the activities that seem to smooth the rough edges and soothe tempers even when they’re agitated?

Next time your child feels stressed or even out of control, remind them that they can make themselves feel better. Suggest one of the calming activities and give them support with that activity if needed.

Your physical therapist can help you identify a list of activities that are both calming and healthy for your child. Try to have access to at least one of these activities whenever you’re away from home.

For example, if your child colors to calm down, make sure that you always have coloring supplies with you. It may help you avoid some major meltdowns.

Identifying what responses work best

Many special needs children who are in a physical therapy program have triggering situations or activities. When these triggers happen, your child may suddenly exhibit out-of-control behavior or other problematic behavior.

Fortunately, you can often avoid these meltdowns by knowing the triggers. Your physical therapist may be able to help you identify triggers if you’re having trouble doing so.

Make a list of exactly what’s going on around your child when they have behavior problems. If you do this for several weeks, you’ll probably notice patterns.

For example, maybe your child tends to have the worst behavior problems when they leave school for physical therapy. This is very common, and many special needs kids have trouble with transitions. In this type of situation, you can combat the problem by adding a window of downtime.

Help your child to calm themselves in this between-activity downtime using physical therapy techniques and skills. This can include deep breathing, reading a story for distraction, or simply talking about the upcoming activity.

Talk to your physical therapist about your child’s specific triggers to find customized solutions for both of you.

Evidence supporting physical therapy for coping skills

You may be wondering, “How can physical therapy help my child with coping skills? Isn’t physical therapy just that – physical therapy?”

While this is a valid point, many physical therapists (especially those with expertise in pediatrics) are trained in helping children not only understand what they can accomplish physically, but also what they can accomplish emotionally.

According to the results of a study published by Oxford Academic,

“This study demonstrated that a systematic approach to training and accrediting physical therapists to deliver a standardized pain coping skills program can result in high and sustained levels of adherence to the program. Training fidelity was achieved in this group of motivated clinicians, but the supervision provided was time intensive. The data provide a promising indicator of greater potential for psychologically informed practice to be a feature of effective health care.”

Therefore, physical therapy can be an extremely helpful tool for special needs children, not only in helping them reach their physical peaks, but also in helping them understand and appropriately cope with their emotional responses to their environments.

We can help! Find the resources you need for your child today

Looking for an expert physical therapy provider for your special needs child? We want to help. Contact Oceanside Therapy Group anytime to schedule your visit!

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