Saturday, February 6, 2016

SLP Love Hurts

I'm linking up with my frenzied SLP friends to share with you a story about one of my first challenging students.  I was employed in a special education school that consisted mostly of preschoolers, but had one class of students that had students up to age 14. After 7 years of working with preschoolers, I was assigned to this class.  The last therapist who worked in the room had resigned after working with one student who bit and kicked her. I hate to admit it, but I was terrified to even step foot into that room.

My first day was spent observing the class, seeing how it was run, the types of activities I could help the teachers modify, and seeing the children communicate and how they functioned. The second day I began working with the students. One student, I'll call him Ben, was nonverbal, and had a tendency to be violent. I took a deep breath, sat down, and placed a coloring sheet and crayons on the desk in front of him.  The crayons and worksheet went flying across the room before I had a chance to say hello.  As I stood to retrieve the items, the desk was turned over, and Ben began to screech.  Loudly. Nonstop.  For the next half hour. Nothing I did, nothing the teacher or assistant in the room did seemed to help.  After that half hour, I ran out and locked myself in the staff bathroom and cried. I couldn't deal with that all year!

One of my friends and colleagues in the school was a wonderful Occupational Therapist.  She worked with Ben for several years, and when I came out of the bathroom and heard Ben still screaming, she was waiting for me.  We sat and talked about Ben, and she told me several things I could do when I worked with him that could potentially assist me in keeping him calm.  She came in and sat with me for the rest of the week, and there were no further incidents.  The following week, my sessions were not perfect, but Ben and I were starting to bond.  He slowly began to trust me and we were able to work together well.  Believe me, not every session went well, but he never ever tried to bite me, and when he became physical, it was never directed toward me.  Without the advice of my colleague, I never would have known to keep a hand on him at all times, give sensory breaks, and just remain calm.  After that year, I wound up pursuing another job, but I still remember Ben.  I found out a couple of years later that he passed away.  I think of him often: he taught me patience, and that building a bond with each student is so important. He is my little angel sitting on my shoulder, especially when I am in challenging situations.  And my OT friend, she taught me that collaboration is key, especially in these situations.