It's been over 2 years since we started therapies. We are lucky to have a spectacular team of therapists who love Maya dearly, and I consider to be surrogate family members. But we went through a few others before we had our perfect team, and before I forget what the beginning was like, I thought that I should write this stuff down. So, here are my thoughts for the therapists, from the beginning.
Come on in, stranger.
Welcome to my shambles.
My sweet, beautiful, wonderful child has just been through a series of evaluations specifically designed to figure out exactly where she doesn’t quite measure up. Then I got to read about her shortcomings (quantified . . . lovely. How lucky are the parents who never get to know their child’s percentile ranking on their worst skills). I sat before a scary official who’s primary goal is to keep costs low, and I fought to get as much therapy as possible . . . I have no idea what you all will do, but figured that “more” = “better”.
And here you are.
And I can’t help but slightly resent you (Just scheduling this initial meeting was challenging enough. I don’t want this for my kid. I want to be at the park, or the zoo. Not here.) and have all of my hopes pinned on you at the same time.
Please help her.
Please help me to help her.
We’re going to spend the next few years together, for better or worse. So let me share a few thoughts right up front----
First, the basics. Timeliness. You might be of the mind that 5-10 minutes late isn’t really “late”, it’s basically on time. I am not of that mind. Here’s why. I will always have my child ready for you 5 minutes early . . . so, if you are 10 minutes late we will have spent the last 15 minutes waiting around talking about your arrival. Also realize that we have 2 other appointments today . . . I knew that we had exactly 35 minutes between our last session and your arrival, which was, sadly, not enough time to get to the playground, so instead we had to settle for a quick snack and a walk around the block. Had I known we would actually have 10 extra minutes, we would have had time for the playground. I could have talked to neighborhood mom friends, and she could have played like an average kid. But here we are, sitting in the living room and watching the clock tick and getting more sad and frustrated with each passing minute that we could have been doing anything-other-than-waiting-for-you.
If, for whatever reason, you are running late, please let me know. If you are supposed to arrive at 3:30, texting me at 3:33 is not letting me know. It’s better than nothing, but only slightly.
And for the love of all that is good, if you arrive late you better be staying late. I don’t care if you have another appointment right after us. If you arrive 5 minutes late and leave on time, I will question your devotion to my child and think that you are just trying to pass the time.
Next, involve me. You have the therapeutic knowledge, and I have the knowledge of my kid. Let’s work together. If you ask me “Hey, are you open to taping her hands? Here’s why I think it would be a good idea . . . what do you think?” I will be open-minded and work with you. If you tell me “I’m going to tape her hands”, I will feel bossed around. Remember, we currently have 5 therapists, and each of you has your own agenda (and don’t even get me started on the doctors). Please let me be the mom and make decisions for my child, even if sometimes we don’t see eye to eye. If you let me be involved in the plan, I will be much more likely to go along with your ideas, because I will trust you.
Thirdly, I will ask a lot of questions. I will learn to watch my child and make mental notes, and hit you with a list of questions. (“Why does she move her tongue like that?” “How can I get her to unclench her thumb?” “ Is there a way to position my hands to help her balance better?”) I will not expect you to know every answer, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me find them. A simple “Hmm. Let me talk to my colleague and get back to you on that. We’ll figure something out.” will make me indebted you---you listened to me, admitted that you’re unsure, and committed to trying to learn more about how to help my kid. I will love you for this.
Finally, above all other things . . . please love my child. Or at least pretend that you do. I am scared for her, and I feel like we’re alone. I worry about if people will understand her, or put in the effort necessary to do so. I worry about whether people on the street will look at her differently. I worry about whether she’ll have friends.
You, therapists, are her first friends. She’ll learn to expect one of you when the doorbell rings, and (hopefully) she’ll get excited when she realizes that you’re here.
You’re the first people that she gets introduced to, and I’m nervously hoping that you’ll offer her smiles and hugs and encouragement.
If you love her, her days aren’t filled with “sessions”, they’re filled with “playdates”. She will have fun and learn and grow, and I will be eternally grateful that a) you are helping her and b) she is none the wiser. I want to think “she’s so lucky to have all of these great therapists coming to shower her with attention!” and not “poor kid, never gets to play with other kids because all we get to do is therapy.”