Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

Paying the Price for a Plateau


Last week, Addie got dumped.  At our weekly visit to OT and Speech, the therapists informed me that, “due to slow progress” (plateau), they would be discharging us.  The provider could not show ‘enough’ progress towards her goals.

Blindsided, I thought, wait:  she is progressing.  She is making strides.  She is improving!  Over the past two years, Addie has flourished in therapy.  She went from being a little girl with sensory integration issues, complete G-tube fed, and very little neck and trunk control, to a calmer, happier girl who is making progress every single day.

Therapy doesn’t end when the hour-long session is up.  It’s 24/7 in this house.  I work my ass off teaching her, making sure that there is something exciting that Addie is working on, and then silently beg her to ‘perform’ on therapy days.  And she has worked so, so hard – not 100% of the time – but damnit, she’s made progress!

Maybe my expectations were off, but, I thought the purpose of OT and Speech was to help her with her fine motor skills, put coins in a bucket, learn to eat solid foods regularly, and learn to communicate.  Her goals stated just that and she is making progress, at her own speed.

After the therapists informed me that they were dumping us, and through my tears, I showed them one final time what Addie is doing now.  I positioned her, made sure that she was using her head and neck properly, and, spoonful after spoonful, Addie ate applesauce.  She chewed, swallowed, and signed for more.  She can’t currently put coins in a bucket by herself, but she will allow me to hand-over-hand simulate it.  If the therapists can’t see that kind of progress, especially from the girl she was only two short years ago, then they’re not the company for us, after all.

I feel betrayed.  These professionals were supposed to be fighting for my daughter.  They were on our team.  And they quit and walked away from her, leaving me with “Sorry, she’s hit a plateau.  There’s nothing more we can do for her.  Come back if she regresses and we’ll re-evaluate her.”  Addie didn’t plateau; the therapists simply ran out of ideas and gave up.  If a child isn’t making progress towards their goals, you don’t discharge them; the therapist needs to change their approach.  You try Plan B.  Plan C.  Plan X.  Dig out the therapy bag of tricks – every kid is different, remember?  Saying that Addie “can’t go any further” puts the added responsibility on me to be her OT, PT, and Speech therapist.  And, Addie deserves more.  The therapists might have given up on her, but I never will.  And the next therapist we hire will think outside the box when Addie hits a supposed ‘plateau’ and they’ll keep going.  Her possibilities are endless, and she deserves a therapy team that believes in her.


5 comments on “Paying the Price for a Plateau

  1. kathryn harrison
    October 17, 2013

    I feel your disappointment. My daughter has been released from speech and OT in the past month. She now gets to sit on a wait list for months in the vain hope that when her name comes up, the therapists will believe that she has goals that they can work on. My only comfort is knowing that our ABA therapist has not only not given up, but has managed to get things out of her that we didn’t even think were possible. She sets goals for our daughter every single day and ensures that she not only reaches them, but surpasses them.

  2. Maria
    October 17, 2013

    You are not alone. This is a common practice I was lucky enough that a therapist told me no one wanted work with kids with autism in the office that is why the high turn over. We stop speech and OT and now we have speech in there ABA therapy program. They want your money when it’s easy and they step away when it gets hard.

  3. Stephanie
    October 17, 2013

    I am so sorry to hear this! I see this every day in the SDC and RSP programs at school. The programs are there to help the kids at what ever progress they can make. They should never drop someone who has plateaued. They should be proud to show that the hold has made progress to this point and to keep encouraging more progress. It will come.

  4. Wendy Prince
    October 17, 2013

    I was shocked when I heard that Addie had been dropped from therapy. To me, this made absolutely no sense. These are professionals, individuals who have chosen to work in this field. I see their message as: “we cannot help Addie, we are unable to do our job so we quit so we can make easy money with someone else.”

    I have given up family time to study, took on a large student loan and have worked long hours in order to work towards my goal of becoming a BCBA. I chose to take this path because I desire to work with children that need an extra boost, caring and compassion in order to reach their potential. (By the way, we can never conjecture what we think the potential is of these little soldiers – they will surprise you every time.) I know this is a tough career, I know that I will have kiddos that may require a lot of effort, I know that there will be “plateaus” (Doesn’t everyone have these? If you say “no” then you’ve never been on a diet or exercise program.) But I know that it will be my job to find a way to help my clients work through it. Why? Because they are worth every effort.

    Now, I’m reading comments that say that dumping clients is a fairly common practice? What? Then choose a career that when you “give up” you are not effecting the lives of children and their families. Has it come down to the desire to receive “easy money”. I am dumbfounded.

    My hope is that Addie will find new therapists that will give her the support and level of professionalism that she deserves. There are still some out there, right?

  5. mrsmcdancer
    October 19, 2013

    Reading this makes me incredibly upset for you and Addie 😦 I don’t understand how therapists can just give up. I sincerely hope that you are able to find people that will step up to bat for your daughter!

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