There was a single moment when I “fell in love” with being a therapist. I was in college, working with my very first patient. He was two years old and had very few words. I had been given family pictures to work with, so along with other words, I worked diligently on teaching him to say “Daddy.”
At the end of the semester, we had a family meeting to review the child’s progress. I had never met his parents, but mom and dad were both in attendance. During the meeting, the father asked if I had taught him to say “Daddy.” I told him yes, that we had been working diligently on it. In a broken voice, this young dad told me “thank you” and told me why it moved him so. The young man had been away from his little boy, in Desert Storm serving our country. When he returned home from his tour of duty, he was greeted by his son saying “Daddy” to him for the very first time. My heart melted. That moment put me on a path to help change other’s lives…through communication.
Throughout the past 20-plus years of my career, there have been other “confirming” special moments. Even in the midst of the more difficult days when it seems no one wants to cooperate, a child gets sick, or you get a surprise in a diaper during a session (oh, the things they don’t tell you in school!), you get a note like this one:
This year at Valentine’s you taught [my son] to say, “I love you Mommy.” I waited almost 6 years to hear that, and at times lost confidence that I ever would. Now, every night, I hear, “Lub you Mommy,” as he smiles from ear to ear, but not as big as my smile. You have given our family a huge gift by teaching [him] to talk. You have a God-given talent – THANK You for using it on [my son].
There are many goals that we set as therapists for our patients to achieve. It has always been my personal priority, and continues as our Kid’s Creek priority, to equip children to express vital thoughts and feelings. Naming colors, labeling pictures, and identifying objects all have their time and place in therapy, but I want to make sure my patients can communicate in some way to Dad and Mom the thoughts that really matter, like “I love you!” or “Come play with me.” Maybe we can even get in an “I love you” to brother or sister or even a “Leave me alone!”
I love working with children! As therapists, we each had a moment in our lives when we knew this was what we were supposed to do. We hope that you can see that in our eyes and in the way we work with your children.
Melanie McGriff, M.Ed., CCC-SLP