As a pediatric speech language pathologist for almost 20 years, I have worn many “hats”—from private practice owner to adjunct professor/supervisor and clinical director. I am a specialist in speech and language development and disorders as well as an expert in autism spectrum disorder(s) and childhood apraxia of speech. In many cases, the speech pathologist sees the child first and indicates if more assessments are warranted. The relationship between the speech pathologist and the mom, who is often getting an initial diagnosis about her child, can be intense. I have spent many hours on the phone, over skype or in person over coffee discussing with these moms what the next few steps could look like and preparing them for what could be a very different version of what they assumed motherhood would be. Graduate school did not prepare me for this type of counsel and it really was initially overwhelming.
What I learned over time, is just how important it was that these moms felt supported. Many of them had busy husbands and families that couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to raise a child with special needs. They felt isolated and were frequently depressed. I became more than a speech pathologist—but a counselor, therapist and often times, friend (although I do caution against this—the lines very easily become blurred if you are treating in the home.) It was during this first half of my career that I always recommended what was best for the child—I always supported the mom and provided an empathetic ear—but I always put the child’s needs first. As you can imagine, this philosophy led to a somewhat judgmental stance—for example, if a certain therapeutic protocol or treatment intervention appeared to be “best” and the recommendations were not followed through—I was a rather harsh critic.
Then…I got married and had my own family and I added two more “hats” to my repertoire—wife and mom—and my perspective sure did change! As I entered this next phase in not only my career, but my life, I realized something—in order for my clients and all children diagnosed with special needs, to really thrive, the most important determination of “success” (and this a relative term) didn’t actually lie with the child, it was with the mother. Here I was focused solely on the health and wellbeing of the children and basically ignoring these same needs in their moms. As a new mom, I was beginning to see things clearly and without judgement and this realization blew my mind. I then approached my practice differently—treating the “whole child” meant looking at the main caregiver(s) as almost an extension of that. Which, I was doing before, but now my lens had changed. I took to truly supporting the support system and the results were amazing.
I knew I wanted to explore this new found role I seemed to have stumbled upon (although, as with most things in life, it actually was right there…ALL ALONG) and I enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. As a certified health and wellness coach, I can now FULLY support all of the special needs moms who cross my path and further empower this community that I have dedicated my entire professional career to.
… purpose is an emotion that you cultivate within yourself and then share with others
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