(Updated October 2022)
Having a child whose needs are a little different than those of his or her peers, or who displays behaviors that are not characteristic of a child his or her age, can be nothing less than challenging. Challenging because of the pure nature of the behaviors . . . and because of the exhaustion that overwhelms the parents and caregivers at times. Challenging because of the mere sadness in a mama’s heart to watch her child struggle with these difficulties.
I recently had a conversation with a mama who mentioned the hesitancy she felt in sharing with others the developmental challenges her son was experiencing. She felt like all of her friends only talked about the greatness associated with their kids, and never any of the challenges. This hurt my heart so much.
A mama should never feel judged for the special traits and uniqueness of her child. I want every mama to know that she is not alone and that these differences are nothing she should feel shy to talk about. Every mama should have a safe and friendly outlet where she feels comfortable expressing the feelings that naturally unveil when coping with challenges. No one ever said being a parent would be easy, but a supportive network can help to make it easier.
Noticing the Differences
My husband and I started noticing differences in our son at the early age of 10 months old. As a first-time mom, I didn’t know where to start when it came to looking for resources to help address the behaviors we were observing, so I just started seeking services that I felt could help. Over the years, we have exhausted a number of services and therapies available to help my son work towards achieving his best self. After nearly three years, we have found a great mix of services that have fueled forward progress, better days, and a happier boy!
I hope this helps to normalize the need for help and to embrace the world of personal differences. Each child is uniquely made and being an advocate for our children is such a privilege.
Types of Therapy
Here are some common types of therapies that you might hear about or might benefit from learning about — it could just be what you’re looking for, for your child.
Play therapy: Enlists the power of play to help the child express their feelings, communicate better, demonstrate respect and empathy, develop problem-solving skills, and help them to relate to others better.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): An evidence-based program that addresses children with disruptive behaviors (aggression, defiance, etc). Through coaching, parents learn how to improve challenging aspects of the relationship with their child, to develop consistently positive and supportive communication, as well as elements of effective discipline and child management skills.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): Most recognized for helping children with autism spectrum disorder, ABA therapy helps reduce behaviors that make it difficult for children to learn. ABA fosters basic skills such as looking, listening, requesting, and imitating. Complex skills are then addressed such as reading, conversing, and understanding another person’s perspective.
Pediatric Occupational Therapy (OT): OT helps children gain independence while also strengthening the development of fine motor skills, sensory-motor skills, and visual motor skills that children need to function and socialize.
Here are some resources we’ve either used or heard great things about over the years to help get started with finding the right therapeutic support. I am not a medical professional, please always consult with your doctor regarding any medical issues.
Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy
(most commonly require a referral from your child’s pediatrician)
- East Cooper Pediatric Rehabilitation
- Trident Speech Therapy
- Coastal Therapy Services
- MUSC Pediatric Physical Therapy
- MUSC Pediatric Occupational Therapy
- MUSC Pediatric Speech Language Pathology
- Tri-County Therapy
- Charleston Pediatric Rehabilitation (also offer ABA)
- Breakwater Associates
Pediatric Counseling, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Play Therapy
- Dr. Cora Ezell, PhD
- Dr. Patrick McArthur, MD, PhD
- Karen Tarpey, MSW, LISW (a fantastic, compassionate, friendly, play therapist)
- PCIT Charleston, Robin Nance, MSW, LISW-CP
- Breakwater Associates
- Marilyn Ackerman, LISW, CP, AP, BACS, CEDS
- Life Stance Health
Behavioral and Developmental Assessments, Evaluations, and Services
- MUSC Behavioral Pediatrics
- Breakwater Associates
- Child Find: A state program tasked with identifying, assessing, and evaluating children 3-21 years old with disabilities. Qualifying children will receive developmental resources in the school.
- Baby Net: A state early intervention program that matches children under three years old with resources in the community to address developmental delays.
- Help Me Grow South Carolina: A free resource available to parents of children birth to five years old, serving to link appropriate community-based programs and services for children at-risk for “developmental, behavioral, or learning problems. This resource is available for those who reside in Anderson, Greenville, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, Jasper, and Colleton counties.”
Lastly, as a friendly reminder from one mama to another . . . don’t forget about yourself in this process. Be sure to engage in self-care and seek support or other therapeutic resources to help you cope with the special needs of your child. A little bit of self-care yields a lot of benefits to help you be your best for yourself and your child.