This one is for you parents out there; who give us therapists all your hope and trust for helping your child communicate, function, behave, eat, walk, play, relate "better." You tirelessly search for services, sometimes multiple types, and put your child's safety and potential in our care. You have no choice but to trust that we know the best way to work with your child, and have your child's best interest in mind. You feel helpless, maybe hopeless. You read and hear so many different opinions about what kinds of therapies to focus on, what type of therapy to start with, how often to go, and so on. You listen to other parents complaining about their experience, or raving about a certain therapist in town. You are told you should be trying this or that diet, medication, therapy, routine, and on and on. How do you sift through all the noise? It's meant to be helpful, but it overwhelms you and misguides you.
You envy the parents who seem to have it all together; who seem to have found the magic recipe to their child's recovery...but what about your child? What are you doing wrong, that you haven't yet found the way to help your child get better? And once you think you've found the perfect therapist, doctor, teacher or program for your child, suddenly the therapist leaves, or insurance backs out. You're back at square one. Meanwhile your child is growing quickly, and you feel like you're losing time. Your family struggles to find time to just...be...normal. The world circles around you, moving on day by day without you, unaware of what struggles you shoulder every day. But then...you pause...you see your child while he sleeps peacefully (finally), you take a deep breath, and look up for strength for just one more day...tomorrow is a new day.
First, let me say, I am sorry. I am sorry for your struggle; a struggle that feels unfair. When you had the first thoughts of a family, you dreamed of all the happy child-rearing moments to come. And I know you did not plan on these types of struggles with your child. I know you ache for normalcy, for your child to be healthy and happy, to be able to experience the "normal" childhood events you once had. I can't imagine the pain and grief you've experienced when you realized he wasn't developing "normally," when you began to accept a different story for your child and family.
I am also sorry for how therapy has failed you. I know there are many success stories out there, but I am well aware of the disappointments that are sometimes tucked away in your pile of attempts to get help.
When I became a parent for the first time, I realized I had been doing it all wrong in the therapy room. I took my book knowledge and what I thought was enough experience with kids, to tell parents I somehow knew best. Grant it, I didn't know any better at the time. I was a young 20-something with no parenting skills yet, and I had worked hard in grad school. I was a good therapist. But I was missing the key element to being a really good therapist. The key to successful speech-language therapy was the PARENTS. And instead of overshadowing them, taking the role of the "fixer" and leading them in any one direction, I should have followed their lead, listened more, and joined their team.
It wasn't until I had my own kids, that I realized even extreme exhaustion wouldn't lessen my drive to care for and provide for my children, a safe and happy environment. And it wasn't until I had my own experience in a doctor's office with my child underperforming under the pressure of the doctor's requests, that I realized I truly knew more about my child than any doctor could observe. And if only professionals would give more credit to these hurting, hopeless parents, we could make quite a team, and make some really great progress together.
When I finally changed my methods, and began making the parents part of the therapy team, amazing things happened. Families felt understood and children made really great strides. I realized that by empowering the parents and family members, carry-over happened. And when strategies are happening at home as well as in the therapy room, the child is getting much more practice, in the comfort of their home, with familiar loved ones. And what better way to learn, but in a natural, familiar setting with the motivation to relate and interact with family members.
If we take a client to our therapy room, telling parents to wait outside, we are missing a wonderful opportunity to give a whole family the tools to help their child for the longterm and in a natural setting. Progress will be slower and less productive if we don't involve the parents. And verbally telling the parent what happened in a session, is much less effective than the parents seeing it in action ... and even better if the parent is participating in the session rather than sitting back to observe.
So, I speak for all the therapists out there, when I say, I'm sorry parents for taking so long to figure this out! I promise to help spread the word and change the way speech and other therapies are being delivered. Empowerment not powerlessness!