Developmental therapists in high demand

Many children today face challenges with a variety of developmental disabilities such as autism, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, and poor social skills.

It is important to detect these problems at an early age, start the intervention process, and begin a comprehensive therapy treatment program.

That’s where developmental therapists step in.

Henderson State University provides the only developmental therapy program in Arkansas offering both a certificate and master’s degree in developmental therapy. The online program helps meet the need for an increasing demand for therapists.

“There’s a big push right now because we’re seeing more infants born already addicted to meth and opiates,” said Carolyn Dyer, assistant professor of special education at Henderson. “It’s almost an emergency situation that we have to get people trained to deal with these babies and help the moms.

“It’s a huge problem right now in the U.S., and the epidemic is only getting worse.”

Developmental therapy focuses on integration of conceptual, motor, language, and social-emotional skills, Dyer said. “It includes global evaluation and assessment, Individualized Family Service Plan development, and individual or group therapy services.

To achieve a comprehensive therapy treatment program, developmental therapists must have a close relationship with a child’s family, therapists, and school to create an appropriate treatment plan and to support parents in the developmental process.

Therapists are employed at counseling centers and schools, and my have their own private practice.

Dyer said developmental therapists work primarily with children, “but it can sometimes look like we’re focusing on the parents and family at first because we have to see where the family is at and what resources we need as we talk about the child and disability.”

Anyone in the state can refer a child they suspect of a disability.

“We have a service called Arkansas Child Find (archildfind.org) so a parent, teacher, physician, or anyone can make a referral, “Dyer said. “If a parent suspects a development issue, they should contact a developmental therapist.”

Dyer said most developmental therapists have a “true passion” for their profession.

“Prospective therapists often observe a developmental therapist working, or they hear about our program and know they want to work with birth to three-year-old children,” Dyer said. “Of course, that’s what we love to see. They’re so curious, and there’s a certain passion that goes along with it.”

The developmental therapy program attracts students with a variety of undergraduate degrees ranging from psychology to human services.

“Even parents with an undergraduate degree who have a child with a disability decide to pursue the degree,” Dyer said. “We have them from all backgrounds.”

A master’s degree in developmental therapy requires 30 hours of coursework, while a certificate requires 15 hours. Dyer said some students earn their certificate so they can begin working as a therapist while pursuing their master’s degree.

“With our program, we try to make sure the candidates complete the five courses required for the certification as fast as we can. Then they can go ahead and work while completing their master’s online,” Dyer said. “Most of our candidates are already working in their position by the time they finish the degree.”

For more information about Henderson’s developmental therapy program, go to hsu.edu/developmentaltherapy.