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A Drop In The Ocean

This blog post is from Sonal, a speech language pathologist from Los Angeles.

I now understand the feelings and emotions parents go through when they hear the first word spoken by their kid, or when he took the first step, or even barely started making sounds.

I have been seeing this toddler for almost four months. He comes across as one of the most cheerful, (I mean! For real his mere honest looks, the innocence in his smile and when he comes running to me to give me a hug). I just feel, all my work stress finds an easy way out. I understand that I am just any other Speech Pathologist for him and he has come a long way then what I saw him the first time (I wouldn’t want to revel his identity but he is diagnosed with Autism) he was on a pacifier, used to prefer his own bed and didn’t socialize at all. Showed severe tantrums and would be more secluded.

When I first met him, I was worried, I knew he will take time and show a slow recovery or may be even not. It added up to be more challenging since he had a family history, his grandfather had the same disorder. Not that I haven’t dealt with such clients before, obvious being in this profession for long I have come across kids with a similar diagnosis. I would just admit…I grew an attachment towards him, not a very good situation to be in. I remember my first Speech Pathology class in freshman year, where there was a whole big talk about being empathetic and not sympathetic, not to get carried away, as we’ll be going through such emotional turmoil quiet often. We have to deal with parents, kids with disability and it gets bad if we take everything to heart.

As said before there was something that held me back from just treating him as a patient. I had built a rapport with him and became friends with his mom. She use to just observe and quietly listen to me during the therapy sessions. Days went by and he started liking and addressing me, smiling up to me when I showed up and use to look forward to my visits. His mother told me, he hasn’t been so comfortable and happy with a stranger before. Gradually, he came out of his shell and started communicating with me, saying his words and almost comprehended and repeated everything. Well, that’s easy and I am sure every SLP would have come across this phase with their clients/patients.

Yesterday, when I was about to leave and bid him 'good bye' as, I knew it was my last session with him and I might not be able to see him again.  Just when I was about to leave he held my hand and literally said "No". I mean, it came out so naturally from him, I was completely taken a back. His innocent twinkling eyes had a look of trust, need. I am unable to pen down what I felt ... but do realize now, what it takes to be a SLP and the difference we make in people’s life. Dealing with the parent and a kid with disability, especially “Autism” is hard and to accept your own child and see him behave differently is even more challenging. The thing it taught me so far is, one needs to be adaptive and accommodating a balanced emotional level to accept the odds and move forward. Some people take time, for some it’s easy.

Often, I come across my coworkers complaining about working in a pediatric setup is boring and difficult. No denying, I myself did come across that phase in the past. One needs to be creative and passionate in what we do. When we see progress in the kid, the whole family being triumphed and happy about, It gives a whole different perspective. Every single day spent with these kids is a lesson well learnt. They teach me about life. Even though they cannot completely communicate orally, but they can tell how they feel, what they want, just about everything. When I see them talking...I would just say it’s a feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

I am sure, this isn't something out of the leap I am covering and writing. I am sure all the professionals working in the rehab setup have been through this many times. 

I would like to show my sincere gratitude and thank every individual (along with my SLP pals) who are working with children and adults with disability. Despite the hard times, rough moments you all are exceptional in your own ways and are making a difference in the world. Be it small or big… If it’s an attempt made, success would eventually come along.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.