I came across a great blog post a few days ago and it really hit home for me. The emotion I felt in her words was powerful, since I was a therapist for eight years for kiddos with special needs. I’ve seen the good days, the bad days and the really ugly days. I must say, being a therapist gave me more insight into my life then I ever could have imagined. I’m so blessed to have been a part of the lives of so many special families.
The orginal post I read: To My Son’s Autism Therapists
My response: To The Parent of The Child I Work With
I must say, we do know each other pretty well. I feel like I am family. After all, I spend hours upon hours, week after week, with your child. You welcome me into your home, you give me snacks, we laugh together and we cry together.
I realize that my job is very personal to you, and I want you to know that your child means a lot to me.
Yes, I have had a lot of training. Yes, I have listened to hours of lectures and read pages of case studies. I’ve analyzed data until I can’t see straight and I’ve even written enough behavior plans to be considered an expert in this field. I live and breath this stuff. I am really good at my job, but I could never compare to how great you are at yours.
I am not entirely sure what it’s like to be you and I think about this often. Probably as often as you do.
Although I am not you, the parent who is 200% invested, we do have many similarities.
I realize that you might carry the burden of feeling like you can’t help your child and that you rely on me, but I carry this heavy burden as well. I do understand the weight of this. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing things right. I often wonder if there is more I could be doing, or if I should try a new technique. Is there a better option for your child? There is no definitive answer, yet I am supposed to be an expert. It’s a scary thought to know that everyone is relying on me to do my job flawlessly so we can see great success. And when I say scary, I mean terrifying.
About how hard you fight… I’m sorry for rolling my eyes before answering your call. It’s so easy for me to forget what this is like for you as a parent. Sometimes, I just want a break from work and you might not realize that although I adore your child, my weekend can so quickly become consumed by work; answering phone calls, responding to messages and emails, creating therapy tools, etc takes time away from my family and I’m not on the clock. I do it because I love my job and I want to see your child succeed. So please, forgive me for forgetting that I at least get a break, but you live it.
I realize how much you sacrifice to pay for therapy and extra services that are making a difference in your child’s life. I’m sure you anticipated college costing a pretty penny, but spending a small fortune on therapy every year hadn’t even crossed your mind. It’s not easy to sacrifice so much, but we can both agree it’s so worth it.
That’s how I feel about being a therapist; I’ve been bit in the face, hit with a chair, spit on, sometimes by multiple kids in one day. While you are working until 2 a.m. I am often awake and thinking about ways to help your child. I don’t make nearly enough money for the priceless work that I am doing and the physical abuse I take, but I do it because it’s worth it to me. Witnessing a breakthrough, your child’s smile and hearing about how your grocery store trip was actually productive for the first time makes all of the hard days fade in my memory. Your child makes me feel like I am making a difference. Like I have purpose.
I know you want to help your child so you listen and watch everything I do. You want to make sure that every minute is well spent. You want to see us working hard with flashcards and if you don’t, you feel that our therapy session was wasted. I understand where you are coming from, but I have to get something off my chest.
Please stop obsessing on therapy and start using the natural environment.
What happens during our therapy sessions can never compare to the moments that you spend with your child. I can work my hardest, but the time beyond my session is where the magic happens.
Yes, I can teach your child how to complete a task, color in the lines, read a book, and match shapes, but the breakthrough I want for your child is so much bigger than that.
I know you ache for your child to speak, but I want communication.
I know you want your child to label foods, but I want him to tolerate eating more than just fries (without puking or screaming.)
I know you wish your child would write letter “A,” but I want him to understand what “stop” means when he sees it on a sign.
I want your child to experience the highest quality of life.
While we are sometimes so desperately seeking a breakthrough packaged in a “he lost the label,” box, instead, let’s focus together on making sure we give him the best life he can experience. Help me teach him skills like getting dressed, communicating his need for help, brushing his teeth, nodding yes/no, and understanding safety.
I want you to know that these life skills are crucial; they will give your child the life you have always wanted and they happen 24/7, not just during the few hours I spend with him.
I can’t teach these without you.
I need you to remember that you are more of an expert than you realize. You are a wonderful mom who knows your child better than ANYONE. You are also the strongest parent I know, even on your weakest days.
Please, give yourself more credit.
Can you do this for me? For your child?