10 Lessons I learned when my daughter didn’t meet the goals we set in therapy

10 lessons i learned when my daughter didn't meet the goals we set in therapyEver have one of those days when things become unexpectedly clear?

This summer I felt perpetually uneasy. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve been second guessing myself, worrying more than normal… just simply out of sorts. I want to do what is right for my family, what is right for Lily’s development, what is right for my career, what is right for my community, and what is right for me. However, it has felt like someone erased my map and pointed all the street signs in the wrong direction.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I participated in a focus group at our local Children’s hospital. It was eye opening. One minute I was talking about the challenges we faced with their summer camp constraint therapy program, and the next minute my words got caught in my throat as I choked back tears. The more I talked, the more I understood about why I’ve been so off kilter.

The lessons I learned while talking about therapy & goal setting: 

  1. I am holding onto a lot of guilt over Lily not meeting the goals we set for her at the beginning of the summer. There is a perpetual voice in the back of my head saying, “If you’d just done a bit more…”
  2. I’m not being fair to myself. I did everything that could be reasonably expected plus more.
  3. The goals we set were too aggressive.
  4. It was the wrong therapy protocol for her age & for our life.
  5. Never underestimate the strength of a strong willed child.
  6. Therapists need better ways to illustrate the progress a child makes, especially when goals are not fully met. It feels awful to put in so much effort and then learn it wasn’t enough.
  7. It WAS weird that she had different therapists at each appointment.
  8. I have limits, and should respect them. Working parents who only have about 3 hours a day with their kids on weekdays should NOT commit to doing 3 hours of intensive therapy every day with their 3 year old for 3 weeks. That’s a lot of threes.
  9. I still believe in constraint therapy… just need to tweak it for our life.
  10. I need to start believing that what I do is enough.

So… I am looking at #10 squarely in the eye and realizing I have some pretty clear marching orders for this next school year. How was your summer?



  1. Progress isn’t always a straight path. There will be times when you feel like nothing you do makes any difference, and then a leap in development takes place. Maria is 17 and has tried nearly every therapy and adapted sport available to us. In fact, she started with a new personal trainer yesterday to try and enhance her group training experience. Some activities have done wonders, some she hated, and some were just too much effort or too expensive. You never know for sure which ones make a difference, but Maria is doing really well right now, so I have to believe it’s all been worth it. You and Dan do a great job of providing fun community opportunities, giving positive encouragement and having quiet family time. Make sure to get some time for just the two of you, too, to ” refill the pot”. Maria and I would love to babysit!

    1. Thanks Diane! We very well may take you up on that babysitting offer! It’s good to know that the trial and error is worth it / OK for sometimes learning that a particular therapy is not a good fit. :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. As a paediatric physio and mum to 2 young girls I am realising more and more that fitting therapy into everyday life must be a massive challenge in itself. Your post just reminds us that it’s so important to look at a much bigger picture when setting goals for the families we are privileged enough to work with. I enjoy your blog and think you must be an awesome mom!

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad that sharing my experience is also helpful to others. That is something I’ve realized as well – that I need to proactively ask about exactly what will be required and measure the benefit with how it will impact our family life. Thank you for doing what you do – I am always so grateful for the help we get from our physical therapists!

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