Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Message to Clothing Buyers

Halloween is stressful.  I'm no good at costumes.  Costumes, telling jokes, remembering card games--my weaknesses.  I mean, there are others, but those are my learning disabilities.  I sent a text to Chris yesterday that said, "Our not watching tv [with kids] is great until Halloween and all the costumes are weird costumes or scary."

Elliott initially said he wanted to be a grasshopper, totally blaming it on the plague of grasshoppers at Glammy & Poppy's this summer.  All I could think was, a grasshopper?--because that's easy.  Then he said, he though maybe a cow would be good.  I felt good about this.  A cow.  I can do a cow.  That's not too hard, right?

Party City?  No cows.

Target?  COWS.  I knew it!  Only no.  The top size was a size 4.

You know the whole thing about limiting screen time for young kids?  Yeah.  There is no place that it is more apparent that the advice is not working than the Halloween costume aisle at any store.  Elliott is nearing 5 years old, which I can assume from the options means he either loves superheroes or would love to be a slightly less-scary monster/vampire than his 10-year old friends.

So costume developers, please take note:  there are still some sheltered four-year olds in the world.  My child has no idea who Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America or the Incredible Hulk are.  No idea.  Super Mario Brothers?  Nope.  A vampire?  Nope.  Combine this with my commitment to avoid all items bearing a skull and the choices are SLIM.

My message to stores that provide clothing to children little boys (I'm not even touching on the issues with clothing for girls):

  1.  A 5-year old is still a little boy.  Little.
  2. Nearing 5 has not turned my child into a skate-boarding champ.  Really.  No skateboards.
  3. Ninjas and vampires kill people.  Please refer back to #1--no killing machines here.
  4. Superheroes are great, but I have to let you in on a secret--not all kids are aware of who they are. Elliott knows them by sight, but has no idea what they stand for or do.
  5. I don't get the skull trend.  I don't.  I feel like I must not be alone in this, right?  I can't be the only one opposed to buying clothing items with skulls.  
  6. There is plenty of childhood ahead of us, where we'll purchase the scary costumes.  I promise.  Maybe.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Professionalism. It's for the birds. Except when it's not.

So you know what sucks about being a professional?

You can't fight back.

Not to prove that you were rarely late for sessions.

Not to prove that you weren't out to decrease services for a child, only trying to make the constant in and out of therapy manageable for the parents.

Not to show that using the term "attachment parenting" wasn't an insult; it seemed a reasonable conclusion with a four-year old and two-year old share your bedroom, decision to let children move at their own pace.  Even if I was wrong, isn't that a discussion, not a complaint?

Not to say that use of the iPhone timer is more used with the intent of not moving in, checking the time over and over instead of trying to escape your home, especially since I was never in your home less than 30 minutes.

I know I need to get over this.  And I'm well on my way. . . the relief of not being put in a home without back-up from parents & a non-compliant child  is winning over anger hands-down.  The challenge is substantial when lies are told, just a shade off the truth--enough to be plausible.

"You always need the last word," my mom says.  Dammit if she isn't right.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lessons from being Fired

I was fired today.  Not from my job in total, thank goodness, but from one patient.  My friend's son asked if I got "moved down a level."  Luckily, the answer to that is no, too.  I'm pretty glad life isn't like a video game in this instance.

I have to say that in 13 years of doing what I do, this is the first time I've had a parent be so blatant about her dislike of me and my approach(es).  I have had 2 other families cancel services with me and each time it is a blow to the ego, leaving me searching for reasons WHY.

Funny enough, my management duties often involve coaching other therapists through exactly this kind of situation & I've oft repeated that we all get fired in the course of treating for any length of time.  That's true.  The other nuggets of truth I'll add to that discussion are:

  • Each time it stings, leads to questioning of skill, doubt in what you have to offer.  
  • Questioning and reflection on skill is important, no matter how long you've been practicing your trade.
  • Underlying that ego-blow is RELIEF.  
  • If you so happen to dread interaction with a caregiver so much that you are nervous to tell about jury duty service, then that relief will wash through you with your second mixed drink--that spreading warmth a combination of a little buzz and the realization that you never have to take abuse from that particular parent ever. again.  HALLELUJAH.  
So much more I could say.  So.  Much.  But in the hopes of salvaging my professionalism, I'll stop. . . in a minute.  Just for the record, if I ever am in complete denial that my child needs limits or has failings, someone take me out back and beat some sense into me.  

**The part I left out was that after I left the home I was not the picture of calm.  It involved quite a bit of righteous indignation, well-timed curses & shaking with anger (no exaggeration).  I'll save that post for another day.

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.