No fear, your guide to kill it at your first intensive is here! We asked intensive mom Melissa Schlemmer what she thought every family should know before their first day in the clinic. After completing over 100 hours of therapy and multiple intensives, here are the eight things she thinks you should keep in mind before you are jet set.
You know your child the best and you know what he/she is capable of. Setting a realistic or broad goal is the way to go. For me, and many intensive veterans, “strength” or simply “progress” are words to describe what we are hoping our children leave NAPA with. On the very first day, you will work with your intensive team to set these goals. This is a great time to express what your expectations are for the session. The therapists will either affirm that your goals are on track or help you modify them if needed. Not sure what your intensive goals should be? I encourage you to rely on your intensive team as it isn’t their first rodeo. Keep in mind, many children will continue to make progress months after returning home from their intensive.
Intensives are exhausting both mentally and physically for both the parent and the child. Your child is working harder than ever before without a lot of breaks in between each hour of therapy. For me, it was emotionally exhausting to watch my son cry and struggle day after day. But believe me, it is all worth it! The key to preventing intensive burnout is to make downtime a priority.
NAPA recommends low-key activities like walking the Strand in Manhattan Beach or checking out the Long Beach Aquarium but you can’t come all this way to skip Disneyland! We hear you. My best advice is to save it as a reward for the weekend immediately following your intensive. I have already scoped it out; there is really no good place for parents to nap at NAPA after experiencing a Disney weekend mid session.
Your child will likely be doing activities that he/she has never done before and some may look strange to you. Make sure you ask your therapist if you ever have any questions as to why they are doing what they are doing. This way, you’ll be fully informed when you go home with your exercise program. Also, make sure you tell your therapist anything about your child that may or may not help them during a session. They love to hear what makes your child happy, calms them down, or makes them squirm.
I know it can be hard to trust someone who has never handled your child before, but mom to mom, the therapists know what they’re doing. They have a true vision for what they want each child to get out of the session. I was so surprised at what our son was truly capable of when in the hands of NAPA therapists. It would be a shame to make the investment of time, money, and energy if you don’t plan on allowing your self to let the therapists run the session. You may also be politely asked to leave the room or walk away for a little bit during a session. Our son actually performed better when I wasn’t in the room, as he would constantly look to me to “save” him.
I want to stress it’s extremely important to connect with other parents during your intensive. I found the parent lounge was a great place to strike up a conversation. Here you will find veteran intensive parents, local parents, and new families who traveled across the globe for their first intensive. Remember, you are in a clinic filled with parents going through the same experience as you, so make a point to connect with a few families. Speaking from experience, I have learned so much from talking to other NAPA parents and have also made some amazing friends along the way.
Taking videos from start to finish will help you see the progress your child has made during their intensive. It is also amazing to see progress year to year if you plan on doing more intensives in the future. For me, it was more than sharing our son’s videos and photos with friends and family at home. I wanted everyone to see all of the hard work he was doing, and share his accomplishments. Seeing the encouraging comments from social media also served as a good boost of motivation to keep myself on track for three weeks.
I thought I was prepared for this, but I definitely wasn’t! Our son cried most of his first intensive. Not just one hour, every hour. He cried because it was something new and very hard. I know he wasn’t actually being hurt so that provided some comfort, but it’s still not enjoyable to watch your child cry and look to you for comfort during their session. Again, this is where trust comes in! Your child’s safety is very important to his/her therapist and they will not be doing anything to cause harm; the behavior is from therapy being tough! Keep this mantra in mind when an hour, day, or week of therapy is not going your way. Gains are still being made even if your child is hysterical.
“The only bad session is the one that didn’t happen.”