I recently attended my company’s end-of-year party, where we were encouraged to reflect on the recent school year and think of the growth and challenges we’d experienced and what we’d learned and might want to store in our memory for the future. The first thing that came to mind was what I learned from a very special student and her family that provided one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, growth opportunities I’ve had as a professional. I was so honored to be a part of the team and learn from this experience.
Samantha (not true name) was a student on my caseload who has a variety of speech and language challenges. The family did not feel supported or that the therapy provided in the past was appropriate or sufficient. As a result, they distrusted many of the professionals involved and hired an advocate to help them navigate their child’s services. They were skeptical and requested several meetings/IEPs to make sure we were on the same page and that their child was getting what they felt was needed.
I have to admit that I was nervous and wanted to prove myself. I had concerns about the possibility of being defensive even with my knowledge and skills of how they might question my intent, qualifications, and recommendations. I knew that my heart was in the right place and that I had the tools to help their child progress. I just needed to get past the distrust and form a collaborative team. With the help of my supervisor/mentor, who, without taking any credit, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to guide me and provide support and advice. Gradually, we gained the confidence and trust of the family and team, and the group was able to work together in a cooperative manner throughout the year. Which in turn, assisted Samantha in her overall growth in communicating and connecting with others.
On the last day of school, I received beautiful flowers and a card from the family. The card read, “There are no words to say how much we appreciate you! Your knowledge of your trade, your young vibrant personality… Our child has connected to you like no other. If there was a way to pocket you— I’d do it!”
Upon receiving this acknowledgement, I had a rush of feelings: accomplishment, pride, and utter and complete gratitude. I was grateful for the support I was given from my supervisor and my company, grateful for the trust and respect that the family and advocate gave me, and grateful for the program that we set up for this child that was not only successful, but also gave her a voice. During this time of reflection, I became very aware of my gratitude for all I had learned: to ask for support and understand that it takes a village to raise a child and to trust myself to stay calm and remember why I went into this field and that I love my job. It provides such meaning and purpose, even when challenges arise.
The note from Samantha’s family is now framed in my office as a reminder to myself that despite the ups and down, I made a difference in the life of this child. That is why I became an SLP, to give someone the ability to communicate and connect.