Foster and adoptive children have lots of needs. Sometimes big needs. Not because they are bad kids but because bad things happened to them, and now they need lots of support in order to heal. Attachment and trauma therapy can help children in many ways. It can help children connect to caregivers so that caregivers can provide the co-regulation kids need to behave well. It can help children process and metabolize trauma so that it becomes a thing of the past rather than of the present. Still, children may have needs that reach beyond what trauma and attachment therapy can do. This is where adjunct therapies and services come in.
Needs vary from child to child, but here are some ideas to explore—
Aromatherapy: to help ground and resource kids with over (or under) stimulated nervous systems (Gobbel, 2021a).
Art therapy: to provide children with a non-verbal way to express and process their trauma (can be incorporated in attachment and trauma therapy) (Fabian, 2017).
Equine therapy: to help children practice connection, regulation, and safety, first with a horse, and then with humans (Gobbel, 2021b; Naste et al., 2018).
IEP/504: to address and accommodate learning difficulties in school. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan to provide a specialized educational experience based on the child’s needs (Understood Team, n.d.). A 504 Plan addresses how to remove barriers for a student based on their individual struggles.
Nutritional therapy: to help repair damage done by trauma and provide the best support possible for healthy mental functioning (Gobbel, 2021c).
Occupational therapy: to address sensory needs; can introduce a sensory “diet” to help with regulation; helps reconnect body and brain (Crumpley, 2021).
Physical therapy: to address injuries and/or lack of development (Sanford & Chismar, 2020).
Safe and Sound Protocol: to help attune a child’s nervous system to safety rather than to threat (Gobbel, 2021). Children listen to five hours of music, an hour at a time to help regulate their nervous systems (Unyte ILS Integrated Learning Systems, 2020).
Speech therapy: to help improve language and communication (Sanford & Chismar, 2020).
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Individual treatment teams can assess needs and make additional recommendations. Big child needs can require big numbers of treatment, and a team of providers can help!
Crumpley, K. (2021, April 1-2). Trauma and the sensory system [Conference presentation]. Arizona Trauma Institute.
Fabian, R. (2017, May 23). Healing invisible wounds: Art therapy and PTSD. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/art-therapy-for-ptsd#How-art-therapy-can-help-with-PTSD
Gobbel. R (Host) (2021a, August 23). The Safe & Sound Protocol: Strengthening the Foundation of the Brain (No. 48) [Audio podcast episode]. In Parenting after trauma. https://robyngobbel.com/safeandsoundprotocol/
Gobbel, R. (2021b, September 14). Equine-assisted trauma informed psychotherapy. RobbynGobbel.com. https://robyngobbel.com/equinetherapy/
Gobbel, R. (2021c, October 26). The relationship between nutrition and behavior. Robyn Gobbel. https://robyngobbel.com/nutritionandbehavior/
Naste, T.M., Price, M., Karol, J., Martin, L., Murphy, K., Miguel, J., & Spinazzola, J. (2018, September). Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma (11)3, 289-303. doi: 10.1007/s40653-017-0187-3
Sanford, T.L, & Chismar, C. (2020, October 8). Therapeutic interventions for an adopted child. Focus on the Family. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/family-q-and-a/q-and-a-pro-life/therapeutic-interventions-for-an-adopted-child/
Understood Team. (n.d.) The difference between IEPs and 504 plans. Understood. https://www.understood.org/articles/en/the-difference-between-ieps-and-504-plans
Unyte ILS Integrated Learning Systems. (2020). The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) for children and adults. https://integratedlistening.com/ssp-safe-sound-protocol/