Crying in Therapy: Important to Understand Why
For many parents, family members, and therapists, crying can be a big obstacle to overcome when teaching and working with a young child. While it may be difficult to manage this sort of behavior, it is important to understand why a child is upset as well as the things you can do in order to see his way of thinking. In my opinion, the key to handling this issue is to try to figure out where the child is coming from and be willing to view things from his perspective. In doing so, you will be able to tell the difference between when he is simply protesting something new, or if he is hurt and needs you to stop and assist him in his function.
Seeing from a child’s perspective
For this reason, it’s good to take a step back and observe your child. We often believe that since we are older and “wiser,” our primary goal is to teach a child about the things that we know and understand. However, every child is different, and each has his own dreams, wishes, and fears. In this respect, our first response should be to learn as much from him as he learns from us. The ability to understand a child becomes really important especially when you are working with him to improve his function. In response to unfamiliar situations or tasks, a child will often cry because he does not want to do them. This makes it important to know the difference between crying as a response to new experiences, or in response to actual injury. If he is really hurt, you will need to stop and find out what is happening. However, if this is not the case it is important to persist and continue with treatment.
Why is this the case, you may ask? If a child is only protesting, explaining things to him will be much more effective than stopping treatment every time he begins to cry. If you stop, he will automatically assume that crying will be the solution to stop you from making him do certain things. It is a self-defense mechanism. This is why you need to explain what, how and why he needs to do something in order for him to be able to understand. In this way, he will come to comprehend what is being taught and you will be able to continue with his treatment.
The effect of this approach
To demonstrate how effective an approach this is, I’ll tell you about one of my experiences with a young girl that had cerebral palsy. As I worked with her, I made sure to explain every function and its purpose to her for each new activity we did together. During the girl’s treatment, her mother told me, “You are the first therapist that she didn’t cry with.” My question to her was: did anyone talk to the girl and explain what she was supposed to do? When the mom said no, it was easy to understand the differences she saw in her child’s learning and behavior.
Whenever I encounter these situations, I ask myself: why do we have to assume things about a child and try to make him follow them, when we can simply ask a child what’s wrong and then explain what we are going to do? If a child is not willing to do the things he should, then the approach to take is to explain, follow up, and repeat it again and again and again. This is how a child is able to learn and eventually follow. When we do everything for a child, however, instead of simply assisting him as he learns to do things for himself, he starts to assume that everything can be done for him. If this were the case, then why should he have to follow instruction and strive to accomplish more? Without being given a reason for doing things, a child will continue to protest and cry whenever he comes across new situations.
So my final advice to parents, therapists and caregivers alike are this: communicate with your child. Explain why he has to perform certain functions and show him how to do them. It is important to be patient, persistent and understanding; for you are the one who will teach him what’s wrong, what’s right, what’s true and what’s false. As you help to introduce him to the world, remember that your child is bright, and it’s up to you to support and guide him as he continues along the path of development.
Natan Gendelman is licensed as a physical therapist in Russia and Israel. After moving to Canada, he was certified as a kinesiologist and osteopathy manual practitioner. Natan has more than 20 years of experience in providing rehabilitation and treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, pediatric stroke and acquired brain injury. He is the founder and director of Health in Motion Rehabilitation, a Toronto-based clinic whose main objective is to teach their patients the independence necessary for success in their daily lives.
- A Complete Guide on Positive Behavior Support for Children With Special Needs
- Early Intervention: First Steps in the Right Direction
- Recycling O.T. Therapist: Favorite Adaptations for Developing Hand Skills
- How to interview a new therapist?
- Not all Therapists are Created Equal
- Budget – Friendly Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers and Therapists
- Are You on the Fence About Early Intervention: A Therapist’s Perspective
- Tip from a Speech Therapist: Social Thinking Skills for Children with Special Needs
- How to Sneak in Physical Therapy on Vacation
- Our experience with Therapeutic Listening as Autism Therapy
- Therapy Burn Out: Shifting Gears – When to Say When
- Crying in Therapy: Important to Understand Why
- Music Therapy Rooms and Their Great Impact on Developing Students
- Art Therapy: How It Works, the Benefits, How to Start
You May Also Like
- Painting Is My Therapy
- Ready, Set, Paint! Art Therapy at Home
- Yoga As Alternative Therapy
- Cranial Sacral Therapy
- P.i.N.C.H. Therapy
- What is Hemispheric Integration Therapy (H.I.T.) ?
- Sample School Speech Therapist Recommendation Letter
- Sample Letter of Ipad Recommendation From Private Speech Therapist
This post originally appeared on our July/August 2013 Magazine