Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Some Things I'd Tell a Kid Therapist

Last week, we talked about the things therapists, teachers, etc. hope we know in dealing with our special needs babes.  Just a few.  I could probably go on longer, but I wanted to get to this... it's actually been requested.

Before I get started, know that we've had only people who have been kind, helpful, and caring in our home.  Although I'd agree that there's always a lot to learn from a bad situation, we can't neglect what we should glean from good situations, too.  I've been thankful to have several wonderful people in our home helping us, helping Ryan... and I'll always be grateful for their presence in our lives and the huge gifts of help they've been.

There are a lot of you (I hope) out there getting ready to walk into your first home or school session with a child and/or their family, and there are a few things I think they'd like for you to know.

1. You're walking into my home, which means you're walking into my life.  You will be here on a regular basis, likely right after school or lunch or mid-morning.  No matter when you come or how much advance notice we've had, life with kids is unpredictable.  There may be toys everywhere, breakfast dishes still at noon (or after school... whoops), or a diaper pail that needs a trip to the trash or the washing machine.  Just brace yourself, and try to smile through it.

2.  You're not only walking into my home and my life.  You're likely walking into my home and my life with a recent diagnosis.  I may have read my eyes out once the redness and swelling from tears faded, and I may be so sick of hearing everyone's brother's sister's cousin's hairdresser's best friend's cure for autism.  In other words, I may be a little (or more than a little) protective.  I might even come off as a little rude.  Give me a chance.  My life was just turned on its head and I'm still likely very dizzy from the trip.

The first lady who had to work with Ryan was patient.  I know she was kind and knew what she was doing and worked hard for Ryan.  But in the newness of the beginning of finding out there was something different going on with my first baby and with the added challenge of first trimester pregnancy hormones, I didn't see that.  I thought he was screaming when she tried to play with him just because he didn't like her.  Yeah.  The truth was so far from that, but I couldn't see it.

If that lady had tried to tell me I was out of my gourd, or had been snotty to me in any way, I might have just dropped therapy out of anger.  Bad idea.  I'm thankful that I didn't, and I'm thankful that she was caring and thoughtful of my feelings, not just those of my son.

So what you're doing requires much patience and few knee-jerk reactions.  Give us time, especially if we're new at this.  The she-wolf, mama-bear instinct dies hard.  And really, do you want it to die?

3. If you suspect something more than a simple speech delay or whatever other simple thing you think might be going on, get your ducks in a row before you suggest ANYTHING.  The only way I was able to process this was gradually and from those who had done the proper testing, etc.  You can damage your precious relationship with this family by knee-jerking this way, and you could be responsible for turning them off to the desperately needed early intervention you've heard so much about.

4. If you suspect something, follow the proper channels and pursue it.  As in, if you're thinking autism and the mom has no idea, talk to your superior and make sure you follow the proper channels.  There's that "early intervention" thing again.  So important.

5. Teach me.  Truly involved parents want to know what to do to continue what you're doing.  We know that the best way to improve our child's behavior, speech, whatever is for us to do it while you're gone.  So teach me.  Give me reasonable assignments.  Give me some of your knowledge.  Isn't that why you learned all of that anyway? You're gonna get a paycheck.  Teach me so that we can work together.

6. Be reasonable.  Even the most devoted, loving, determined parents are human.  We get tired.  We get overwhelmed.  Remember to check what you're asking us to do against how difficult it would be if this child lived in YOUR home.  Then remember that we're different people.  Especially remember this if you don't have children of your own.  Remind, yes.  But lovingly, helpfully.  Not in a snarky way.  If you're tempted to snark, zip it.  Remember, this relationship between you and the parent is important to being able to help the child.

7.  Remember that we're overwhelmed.  I know this might seem repetitive, but it's so important.  If I had a nickel for every time I wanted to cry when a therapist, diagnostician, teacher, or other educated, well-taught, well-meaning individual gave me advice that was going to mean completely tweaking my WHOLE LIFE... like every second from sunup to sundown... I'd be able to afford a family Disney trip every year.  I'm not kidding about number six.  Be reasonable.

8.  Listen.  I know we can't take most of the time that you're scheduling for us to talk your ear off about how the last trip to the park went down in flames, but every minute around your visit that you spend hearing how rough his day has been is appreciated.  And you know what?  We don't mind at all hearing about how cute your kids are, either.

9. Tell us when we're doing a good job.  We don't get report cards.  As a matter of fact, every last meeting seems to be about the latest problem and how to tackle it.  If we impress you, tell us.

10.  Remember that this is permanent for us.  You work with an autistic child for an hour; we do every last minute of life with him.  That's another that can tie into being reasonable. But it's also pertinent to the education of us.  We want to know how to help our little guy more than anything in the world.  That's why you're here.

11. If we've traveled to see you, take it upon yourself to learn how far we drive.  Just... well... just care a little.  Even a little.  Especially at scheduling time.  If I've got to drive 45 minutes plus pick up my child then walk for five minutes to get to you, keep that in mind.  It's lovely when this is done for us, and thankfully our ABA folks do that.

12. If the kids have siblings, take that into account in your dealings.  If you're in the home or in a clinic, remember that your presence is cutting into their childhoods, too.  In a given week, my children have spent around seven or eight hours every week either driving to or sitting through therapy for their big brother.  That's a pretty good chunk of time over three years.  If you can offer a bit of a waiting area in a clinic, do.  It makes life a lot easier!

13. Get to know this kid.  If you truly take the time to get to know him, he will hold a place in your heart.  The more time you spend with a child, the more you'll see him or her as a person, which of course they are.  You'll get to know their heart a bit, what makes them happy and sad, what they like, what they hate, and even if they're a bit difficult... or maybe more than difficult... you'll find that you still love them to pieces.

14. Know that we appreciate you.  You've given your time and money to learn how to care for our child, and we are grateful.  There may be some who don't, but there are those of us who are so thankful  for your time and work.  And you know what?  You work for our Ryan, you wind up part of our family, too.

Thanks be to God for you who have chosen to be therapists, teachers, and kid-helpers of all kinds.  You who truly love our kids and work hard for them are certainly worthy of our gratitude!  

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