5 Steps for Finding a Therapist for Your Special Needs ChildiStock_000013308707_Large.jpg

“I love Miss Liz.”

Elizabeth made that statement just earlier this week.  It was about her adaptive Physical Education teacher, turned dear friend.

Miss Liz is one of the many people who make up the current group of wonderful therapist/friends in our lives currently who we call “Team Elizabeth.”

We are so blessed to have them and all their varied expertise, personalities and gifts in our world.  But, finding them is not always an easy thing.

And this got me thinking just how hard and involved it is to find the right therapist for your child and their needs.  And trust me, our journey has had its fair share of twist and turns, ups and downs and successes and failures.

Finding a therapist is actually an easy thing.  I mean you can look therapy places in any phone book (a little shout out to those who remember using a phone book) or you can google the term and I guarantee you many, many options will show up.  But what to do next?


In my opinion, before you do anything with that list. You should make sure that the facility you are calling has therapist who  will be able to treat the disorder that your child has.  Meaning, for us, many people said they understood and could treat  Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) but when we got there I could tell that they were not really equipped to do that.  

I think calling the facility first and asking your questions is a great start. Tell them about your child and their needs. Does your child need gross motor skill help? Or fine motor?  Does your child need help with all sensory skills or input?   See how you feel after having this conversation.  If you feel encouraged then…


I did not do this step often, and it is one of the things I regret.  I think I wasted many a day trying to get things to work when a simple visit prior to bringing Elizabeth would have been so much of a better idea.

When you get there you can see how the place is laid out. You can see if it looks like a fun place with therapeutic and special needs toys or, if it is a touch on the institutional side. You can also see how the staff handles situations with the children.  Because, after all, you are trusting them to work one-on-one with your child.

And lastly, do they allow parents to observe the initial therapies?  Some places have two way mirrors to allow this and other simply put a chair near the corner for the parent.  I have experienced both vantage points on this journey and can tell you, in my opinion, Elizabeth has always enjoyed the therapy more and done so much better when I was not physically in the room.  So you will need to see what works best for your child and knowing your options will help things be more successful.


This one is not always a fan favorite for the facility as it requires some time and planning but I think this piece of the puzzle is crucial.  Getting the chance to talk to them and explain how your child works will get everyone on the same page right away.

Bring information about your child and their diagnosis, please do not take it for granted that they will know everything about any one disorder.  

All of our children have differences even if their diagnosis are the same.  So talk and share and after this time- ask yourself how does your heart feel about this person?  I have learned to listen, and listen well to my heart.  If you feel pleased or calm.  Then you know you can start your journey with them.  But if you feel any reservations, take the time to think about them.  It is better to wait and find the good fit than to start a therapy, see problems, stop the therapy and then look again.


Until Elizabeth, I never knew there were many kinds of speech therapy.

Until Elizabeth, I never knew there was school Occupational therapy and then traditional Occupational therapy.

Until Elizabeth I never knew about play therapy, music therapy, adapted physical education, therapy music….And on and on.

My point in all that is to say, that doing research and reading as much about different therapies is so important because your child’s needs will change and with every success, their needs change just a little bit.  So to know about other options and to know they are there will help you when your current “Team” needs an addition or change.


Talk to them before about the work you did with your child between therapies

Talk to them after to learn what they did in therapy and what you can do at home.

Talk to them when you have a concern.

Pretty much talk to them.

As I write this, I am listening to Elizabeth sing “Uptown Funk” with her new Music Therapy teacher.  We just started Music Therapy.  I did all the above steps and it is going really well.  But I know that therapy like life is a journey and right now our path is smooth. 

I hope the same for you.

Michele Gianetti