Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Do Your Part. NO Really.

I am a speech pathologist in my professional life.  A darn good one, most of the time.  I love what I do, I don't think I will ever feel not-challenged.  That's a positive.  I want to be challenged.  I want to keep learning.  It is a metaphorical back-flip moment when I see a child do something they have never done before because of my therapy.  Seriously.  Such a high, a sense of accomplishment to see a wee face and the parental excitement in the background as the child eats a piece of bread for the first time, tells their parent they are hungry or uses a computerized device for their voice & corrects me on the form of "it's" that I used.

Sometimes, though, I run aground.  I flounder and struggle for direction, for inspiration.  And sometimes I beat my head against the wall in frustration.  The thing is, an hour of really good speech therapy per week only gets you so far when it comes the hard things.  And if a kid has qualified for therapy, they need help with the hard things.  One hour spread over a couple of intense therapy sessions per week will bring fair results, at best.  Mediocre.  Middlin.'  That's with intense therapy.

Now change circumstances to therapy with a 'meh' level of intensity and little-to-no practice, reinforcement of skills and you get a teeny-tiny baby step of progress, if you get progress at all.  If a child spends the majority of a session not wanting to (and really, I get it, therapy is doing the hard things) & then caregivers don't feel compelled to, well, compel the child to cooperate; followed by haphazard follow-through on practice, results are poor.

Common sense, right?

Sigh.  Alas, it is not.

Recently I have had several parents feel like this was due to shoddy, less-than-stellar therapy on my part.  I know.  I am much more likely to blame myself for disappointing results  so I sure didn't want to write this off an inconsequential.  But when I took a step back, looked at the facts logically and turned the situation in my mind to examine all facets, I see this isn't a lack of good therapy, although there is always room for improvement, room for a different way.  This isn't a refusal of mine to accept poor outcomes.  This isn't because of a child that is unable to learn.  In fact, this isn't about the therapist or the child, for the most part.

So that leaves the parent.  The parent wishing for the magic wand that would cure autism, any syndrome, any sound disorder & entrusting therapist to "fix" their child.  I just can't. We can't.  It's a flaw in our profession, a limit of our humanity.  Progress on a skill that doesn't come naturally is really freakin' hard work.  So if that hard work is too much, for right now, forever, just STOP.  Stop blaming me. It is not an error that I want my toys back at the end of a session, just like a dentist doesn't give you their tools--it's the same thing.  Toys are my tools.  Stop therapy.  Really.  Sometimes a break is the best thing for everyone.  Therapy of any kind is only as effective as the 'want to' of the family.  Turns out that is one of the only things I can't provide--the want to. Sabotage rarely has the desired positive outcome.

That's my "Come to Jesus" talk (best term ever, thank you Dean Cowser), only a lot harsher than I can provide in my real world job.  For some reason, the fact that the whole entitlement generation-thing would effect my ability to affect change never occurred to me.  That was stupid.

To the rest of you, working your asses off to be consistent on what you stress to your kids, thank you.  When I shrug off compliments on how much I did to help your child it's because it's true.  The hard work happened when I wasn't there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So this is going to be weird but here it goes. Thank you for this post. I came to your blog because it linked to a blog I read that was linked to another blog. So I'm in essence a blog stalker. My apologies. But thank you so much for this post. I am in speech therapy for the first time with my youngest son who is special needs and I really was getting ready to quit. I was so frustrated with the therapist. I was so frustrated with myself and I was so frustrated with the whole idea of sessions vs what in Heaven's name am I supposed to do at home. But I read this and it made me take pause. I looked at myself and what I could be doing more, how I could look at things differently and how my attitude could change. And you know what? Weeks later, things are better. You helped me step into the shoes of the therapist and for that I am grateful. I am sorry that the family with whom you were working didn't treat you fairly. I'm sorry. From what I read here, you're a great mom and a great therapist. Thanks for this post and lots of other ones too. I just needed to thank you.