For Families

Effective generalizing skills from your therapist to your home

May 15, 2020

I have spoken to many of our parents about this topic and there might have even been an earlier blog about some useful strategies too.  Today, I want to go into this topic a bit more detailed.  The reason I based my Masters thesis (Psychology) on the challenges and benefits parents experience with a full-time therapist is to establish how we can better our services for families.  Parents in the study most frequently mentioned that the generalization that occurred from the therapist to all the different environments, including school, home, other therapies, was the most beneficial to their family unit.  Not everyone has a live-in, full-time therapist though, so what now? 

Generalization occurs when there is consistency in the specific strategies that are proven to be successful helping tools for your child.  Ideally we want everyone to utilize the tools that are put in place for your child to feel supported with everyone in his life and in all environments.  I am going to focus on the way generalization occurs from online sessions to the home environment with family members as we have been supervising these types of programs most frequently lately.  

At the start of any type of therapy, your child would most likely need your reassurance.  This is a new person that they don’t know and it will always be a good idea to join into some of the sessions at first.  If an outside therapist tells us that parents aren’t allowed in sessions, we tend to be cautious about working with that professional.  We understand that at times children will be different with or without their mom or dad there, but you want to work with a team that has an “open-door policy”.  At times we will ask parents to let us conduct sessions by ourselves, but this is after we have built a trusting rapport with our kids.  You should always be able to ask for recordings of your child’s sessions though.  I will discuss this in a bit more detail later. 

Your first few sessions with your online therapist will more than likely entail you guiding your child to complete fun activities.  The therapist will use clear and concise language and be consistent with the type of words and phrases he or she will be using.  This is the first strategy to generalize to the home environment.  Use the same language as your therapist.  Your child will associate these words and phrases with the sessions he or she had with their therapist and it will make more sense to them if there is one way to talk or request for information or a reaction.  

The next step is to fade your presence and guidance systematically and let the therapist start working with your child more independently.  During these times you can sit a bit further away and continue with your own work or relax for a bit.  It would be good to continue listening to the words the therapist is using and use similar words when your therapist is not online.  

The last phase of online therapy is where your therapist and your child can complete sessions independently and you don’t need to be guiding (almost at all).  This is where it’s important to ask your therapist to record the sessions, so you can look at this later and generalize the language and strategies the therapist is using to your home environment.  

We send all of our parents a “starter pack”, which I will explain in more detail in our upcoming blog.  This contains ideas on how to create the “perfect” environment.  The online therapists then go through these strategies and guide parents through each step.  It might seem like simple strategies, such as decluttering visual input, but it makes a massive difference to our kids.  

Have a look at this introductory video, where Pretty explains the importance of a simple strategy such as a “communication book” that can also help with generalization: 

DIY intro video: communication books

As always, I am happy to answer any other questions you might have.  Send our team an email: 

Have a great rest of today and you can look forward to our next blog, where Nanette will be sharing some of our “perfect” environment secrets.   

Stay well and keep positive,