What pisses you off? What breaks your heart? These are questions Mike Kim asks his clients when he is helping them prepare a marketing campaign. I had no idea what pissed me off 13 years ago when I pivoted my career from adult neuro rehab to school-based therapy. But, I can tell you I rejoice when students achieve their dreams!
I just received an invitation to my first student’s high school graduation. I am so honored to be invited. First, let me take you back to the day I met my buddy, George (His name has been changed for privacy.)
My contract was with a cyber school. I was contracted as a mobile-style therapist. I saw students on my caseload that could not leave home during school hours. It was like school-based home health. I loved that I could see the natural environment that students lived in while attending school.
George was in kindergarten when I met him. He had been receiving OT and SLP in Early Intervention from age 3. Through the use of technology, he had already learned how to read. In fact, he was reading at a third-grade level. However, his expressive, receptive, and pragmatic speech was delayed, and he refused to write. We found out several years into treatment that he has auditory neuritis, and the headphones he used while learning to read supported his advanced reading ability.
My first day in his home was more of an interview with mom than treatment. She was firing questions at me while reading his IEP verbatim to me. “How can my child read and not be able to write? What is happening with his executive function skills? Does he have ADHD? His IEP says he has autism. When are you going to help me get him to wear clothes regularly? When are you going to get him to write? Meanwhile, George ate his dinosaur chicken nuggets and mac and cheese diet.
I left the home in shock. Overwhelmed. Panicked. I had no idea how to begin. This is what I knew from my years studying environmental modifications: that dining room chair with a booster seat and corner computer desk with an adult chair had to go. That was all I could think about. I had no idea how to help George with handwriting. I had never heard of executive function. His sensory processing issues that I had some idea what was happening as my daughter had some tactile sensory processing issues. I made it home just in time for the elementary bus to drop off my son.
It was through grace, prayer, and patience that this mom and I have grown together. She taught me much about Special Needs issues while I learned all I could about helping her sons. Yes, I even took on her older son for a brief time. I even felt like part of the family; they were part of mine through those elementary years.
Looking back on that first day, I am proud of this mom and her tenacity to educate herself and the staff working with her children. She has taught me much. She never stopped asking questions.
George just graduated from high school without accommodations for writing. He has achieved his dream of going into the military. Once George was old enough, mom returned to school and now has her master’s degree in special education. Combining that with her first degree, she runs a hydroponics lab at a cyber school where she supports special needs students of all ages.
I haven’t told you what pissed me off, but I must say that I am proud and honored to have been a small part of this young man’s life and wish him all the best. Thank you in advance for your service to our great nation.
Sidebar: My son walked into my office to see me crying tears of joy as I completed this post. You will concur all, George!