Group therapy sessions are full of benefits that keep kids growing and learning. Life doesn’t happen in a distraction-free vacuum, and it’s easy for us to forget how intricately linked speech and social skills are.
Not one of us developed social language skills, fine motor skills, cognitive skills, or self-care on our own. We needed other people to show us the way. Growing up, we each continued to build upon our foundation. As we interacted with our friends, family members, early education teachers, classmates, and our communities, we learned more and more. Over time, this foundation of learning helped shape us into who we are today. The same goes for your children.
What is group therapy and why should my child be in group speech or group occupational therapy?
Some children have no issues playing, sharing, or communicating. For others, these may be difficult tasks, and children who are shy, who measure on the Autism spectrum, or those with special needs may continue to struggle with the social skills they need for language and general communication. Group therapy settings give these children and their peers access to the added benefit of learning alongside and within the company of others.
Real-world examples always help. Imagine it like this: Say you’re a runner and you’ve decided to train for a marathon. You could set a training schedule and stick to it all by yourself, but your marathon training will be so much more enjoyable if you meet up with other runners who are also training. If you’re looking to cross the finish line faster than the last time you competed in a marathon, a pacing partner will push you to run a little faster. A little friendly competition is quite the encouraging force sometimes.
Grouping children together for speech or occupational therapy sessions is beneficial for their progress, their morale, and their success.
How is group different from individual therapy?
A private one-on-one therapy session is a great place to begin. In individual therapy, a therapist will evaluate your child in an environment without any distractions. This is usually one therapist working with one child, but group therapy doesn’t necessarily mean a room full of kids. In some instances, group therapy is one therapist working with two children. In other situations, these groups are a little larger.
What are the benefits of group therapy?
1. Group sessions mimic the real world.
As a parent, you may be envisioning your child’s future where he or she is sitting in class, going to a birthday party, or hanging out at a friend’s house. While it’s not the main focus, group sessions simultaneously prepare your child for everyday living.
2. Boundaries become learning experiences.
In group therapy, children practice sharing, taking turns, starting conversations, and following the rules. Learning these skills here means your child is more likely to implement these in everyday life.
3. They’ll form relationships.
When you see the same people over and over again, everyone becomes acquainted. Your child will get to know the other children in his or her group therapy session and make new friends.
4. They’ll see they’re not alone.
Kids who see other children facing their same challenges realize they’re not alone. Children at different levels can be a testament—if they overcame a challenge, your child can too!
5. They’ll encourage one another.
Children who can identify the error in someone else’s speech or movement may be more likely to recognize their own. They can apply this knowledge to their own growth, all while encouraging their friends.
6. Group sessions are a stepping stone towards success.
One-on-one speech or occupational therapy sessions are an ideal starting point. A child who is ready to graduate from (or supplement) individual sessions with a group environment is ready to take on new challenges.
7. Learning with your peers feels more relaxed.
It’s a different feeling to always work on new skills with adults all the time. Children can feel more calm and relaxed—and more open to learning—when they’re working on new skills with peers their own age.
8. It’s more fun when you can play with others!
And, can’t we all agree on that?