Therapy Burn Out

The developmental pediatrician has stated that Charlie is the type of baby the Early Intervention system was made for. I have no doubt that her participation in Early Intervention is a key reason as to why she is doing so well. While it works well for Charlie, I question if I am the type of parent Early Intervention had in mind.

Charlie has participated in the program for over a year and I am burned out.

I have not been feeling well since Thanksgiving. Caring for a child when feeling run down and ill is tough. It is about all I can handle. I don’t want the additional burden of having to actively participate in her multitude of therapy sessions. Nor, do I want to be responsible for her on going therapy.

While I really like a couple of her therapists, I don’t want regular visitors. Even my friends don’t visit frequently or a regularly. These regular early intervention visits feel intrusive. It feels like we are under the microscope even though I know we are not. It is like we’ve traded off part of our privacy for therapy services.

If I feel this way because I’m under the weather, it makes me wonder how working parents feel about EI. Are reasons like these why other parents take “vacations” from therapy?

I know it is important that Charlie receive her therapy services. I am not sure if the current is still the way that is right for us.

Questions for special need parents: Have you taken a break from therapy? Did you change things up? What works for you?



About Rebecca Wood

In May 2012, my pregnancy ended three and a half months early due to severe early onset preeclampsia. This is my collection of thoughts and media. It is an attempt to document and discuss our experience of navigating the post NICU world. View all posts by Rebecca Wood

10 responses to “Therapy Burn Out

  • Alyssa

    Such a normal thing to go through! About a year ago I started feeling burnt out about EI and left wondering how effective it was for us. I considered taking a break and moving on to private therapies which would have been essentially free through our insurance once we hit our deductible as compared to EI which costs us $215 per month. Ultimately I decided to just switch EI providers and it was the change that we all needed. The appeal of going to a facility and having a change of scenery was strong, but I was unwilling to make the change until the end of RSV season. It would have also been difficult given my work schedule.

    I hope you are able to find something that works for you and Charlie. Moreso, I hope you are feeling better soon!


  • Melanie

    Hey, we’re still pretty new to therapy having just been diagnosed in the summer but I can see myself getting to that stage. I’ve done a little research in case we get to that point – though I don’t have an opinion on what I would choose, there are some ways to get her the therapy without having to continue to do the pre-therapy visit mad-dash tidy. Here in Canada, there are some special needs daycare and preschool programs that run for part of each day and the therapies take place during that time. So you drop off (or child gets picked up) for part of the day like daycare, but the focus is on therapy and all the ones required take place during that time. We also have a few early intervention groups (I’m in an OT one right now that has a 3 to 1 ratio and happens once a week.) We shlep to them, but no one has to visit the house, it’s at the same time every week, and I can send an alternate caregiver if I choose.
    It’s really hard to take a break when there’s no way to know if your actions will somehow have an adverse affect on her development, but I’m willing to bet a ‘thera-cation’ won’t do harm. Whether you choose to reduce the number of therapies at any given time, increase the space between visits or give your family a break, know the well-being of the whole family is important too. I believe that early intervention makes a huge difference with kids, but all we can do is the best we can. Good Luck finding a better way.


  • Karine

    Yes we have. Mostly couple weeks at the time. It helps my dd as well. Over time she figured out that our ot, physio and others were there to make her do stuff. Though it made her progress without a doubt I find that she also developped a “don’t push me to much or I just won’t do it” attitude. She likes to play not to “play to learn to make an adult happy” if that makes sens. Taking some time off as allowed her to relaxe more about some of the exercices i tried to have her do at home. Example. we praticed drawing with our ot but dd didn’t care much. As soon as it had been a little while since we had seen her she’s been asking often to draw and most importantly, she enjoys it. Balance is key. Even for me. Time off allowed me to decrease anxiety, let go of certain goals (focus less) and spent more time just playing with my daughter. I’m a mom first not a therapist. And you know what she kept progressing anyway!


  • A Miracle In the Works

    I took one last spring unintentionally and it was so nice! We had a trip and then our therapist had a trip and then she was sick, so we had three weeks off. It was great! It even helped Roo make some progress (or at least the appearance of one!).

    Hope you feel better soon and can get the break you need.


  • findingcoopersvoice

    I your feelings are completely normal! I felt them too. I was not a fan of the early intervention that came into our home. I was always a nervous wreck. I don’t know why. I just didn’t like it. I actually took a break from it for the winter and will start again in the spring. I am a MUCH happier mama. Plus, we work so much with Cooper and he has speech twice a week so he is definetely getting what he needs. Do what’a best for you mama? What does your heart tell you to do? Charlie is young and a break could do you both well!


  • Julie S

    Yes! We take a least 1-2 weeks a year off since the beginning (Stephen started having seizures at 5 months old, and he is now 7.) Therapy Burnout is something all of the special needs parents I personally know have experienced! You are not alone!

    How We Cope:
    1. Visited local parks in good weather with our birth to three providers (and yes we did feel their presence was intrusive at times.)
    2. We had relatives and friends occasionally fill in and help out with therapy- both in and outside our home. Even little cousins can be involved, helpful, and the change can be motivating for both you and your child.
    3. Your house is a mess, no time or energy to clean- How to Avoid Embarrassment: ask to meet at the local library or another public place that would be suitable, or even the home of a relative or friend- it’s more fun for everyone involved, it helps our kids learn to be flexible to changes in routine and improves social skills for kids who just don’t get out much or have health issues it’s part of a “normal life” that they sometimes miss out on.
    4. Find providers you are comfortable with, click with, and can chat with. This is more important than you think especially for young children. When you are more relaxed you child will be more relaxed, less resistant to the “work” of therapy, less afraid, less hesitant to try new things, etc.

    How We Got the Right Therapist For Our Family: we politely explained to the supervisor that we were “feeling the stress of being special needs parents” and that if possible we would like to try to find a therapist who would be a better fit. We explained that we felt this person would probably be a perfect fit for someone who needed consistency and the ability to not give in to whining but we felt with Stephen’s disability we really needed someone who could encourage and coax Stephen more.

    The Result: we found the perfect fit, we met the first time on neutral ground (the library) then when we felt more comfortable with this person we welcomed her into our home. Stephen became less whiny and over the course of the next few months he actually began to get excited about PT, and by the end of our birth to three years our providers became like extended family and a presence we truly enjoyed!

    Hope these ideas will be helpful for someone!


  • Julie S

    Reblogged this on Love, Support, Educate, Advocate, Accept… and commented:
    Therapy Burnout: How We Cope


  • Samantha

    I’m a EI autism therapist and I have an idea or two that might help. The first thing I’d suggest is that you let your therapists know how you’re feeling. We get it, we really do, and your therapists should be happy to trouble shoot with you to try to make the home sessions work better for everyone. Sure, EI guidelines say that parents are supposed to be fully involved and engaged with therapy sessions, and those recommendations make sense for a child who only receives an hour a week of therapy. It makes far less sense for a child receiving multiple hours of therapy weekly (or daily!). The goal of keeping the parent involved is that you’ll be able to work on the same goals during non-therapy hours, I see most of my clients between 5 and 8 hours a week 4-5 days a week and always make sure the parents know that I am there to help their child make progress, and to help them help their child. That help can come in many more forms that simply passing on therapeutic techniques.
    Sometimes I get to a family’s house at ten in the morning and the mom tells me that she’s been up with her child since 4. On a day like that, probably the worst thing I could do would be to expect her to be an active part of the session that day. For many of the children I see I’m the only other adult that will be there all day and I’m there to help, so if that means they need a break, a nap, a shower, whatever it is, that’s why I’m there. I always use the airplane analogy “secure your mask before that of your child”. You shouldn’t force yourself to sit through yet another hour of stringing beads or Old MacDonald any more that your therapist should make you feel like you have to.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that if there’s a therapist who just really is not a good fit for either you or your child, don’t hesitate to request someone else. Sometimes the number of therapy hours are just more than what works for the family, you can usually decrease the number of hours without completely stopping services, maybe that would work? The only thing to be wary of if you do decide to reduce hours is that depending on how accessible services are in your area, sometimes it can be difficult to get services added back in once you’ve decreased.
    I’m not sure how it works in your area but where I work we’re supposed to embed services in regular routines as much as possible which means we can go with you to the grocery store and keep your child entertained while you get to shop alone (win-win!).
    I hope at least some of this very long-winded response is helpful, good luck to you and your little one!


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