January 10, 2013
Working as a speech therapist in home health care, I sometimes have days that feel like Groundhog Day — same drive, same kids and same progress. But there are other days – such as the one I had on Dec. 6, 2012 — when the routine changes and I rediscover just how special my job truly is.
Prior to Dec. 6, I had been seeing a pediatric client for several months for articulation. For whatever reason, he had a lot of difficulty producing his /r/ sound – after all, it IS one of the hardest sounds to make!
Since he is an older child, we tended to focus a lot on articulation drilling. Usually, he was very motivated and optimistic, but on this particular day, he began to show signs of frustration: head on table, lowered voice and tears in his eyes.
As a therapist, you learn to pick up on these behaviors and back off before the child completely shuts down. I sat back quietly for a few moments and then told him, “OK, let’s take a break and just talk. What’s going on?”
With tears welling up in his eyes, he asked me some tough questions: “Why am I so different? Why can’t I talk normally like you and my friends?”
Wow! As a therapist, this broke my heart. I knew that we were done drilling for the day. This child had reached his breaking point and just needed to talk.
I explained to him the technicalities of our speech and language development. I then told him that we are all different in our own special ways, which is actually a good thing! We all have things we can work on, but we have to focus on our strengths.
I also promised him that his speech would get better as long as he stayed motivated and practiced.
I further explained that we each have certain gifts, and when everyone’s gifts come together, it makes for a pretty incredible world to live in. If everyone were the same, then the world would be a very boring place. Since my client is a very talented artist, this seemed to strike a chord with him.
That day, while helping a child improve his speech, I was the one who learned a valuable lesson: sometimes children need to be reminded of their strengths. Even though they are tiny and young, they are people, too, and can be their own worst critics. It’s up to us to help them see what makes them so very special.
– Amanda Green, B.S.
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant