As an occupational therapist working with children and adolescents who have special needs, I am repeatedly impressed by the amazing love and perseverance of their parents. Supporting and encouraging parents is the most important job of doctors and therapists who are trying to help children and adolescents. I repeatedly recall my doctoral dissertation on parental perceptions of feeding their young children who had special challenges.
My study found that half of the parents who had young children with developmental and feeding problems had problematic levels of parental stress. I further discovered that feeding satisfaction was inversely related to parental stress, with parents who were most satisfied with their feeding experience reporting the least parental stress. When rating the influence of occupational and speech therapy intervention on their feeding experience 42% reported a positive effect, 23% both a positive and negative effect, and 11% a negative or no effect.
In my current work with adolescents who have psychiatric illness I continue to see the great healing effects of supportive parents. It is extremely important for therapists and physicians to support these parents through their trials, and help them understand the importance of taking care of themselves. Parents reported that the most effective component of therapy in reducing parental stress was the experience that the therapist cared about them and their child. If I do nothing else as a therapist, I hope to always convey to youngsters and their parents how truly valuable and important they are.