A few months ago we met up with a few old friends for the holidays. We've realized that as we watch the years pass, the time that we spend with those that we care about are more precious than streaming our favorite television shows. After catching up with friends who have always known that I "work with children", they came to realize what it is that I have done for the better part of over a decade.
There were certain words that I hear from a young parent that are "trigger signs" for intervention. "He's struggling", "we are unable", "we've talked to this Dr." are all examples of what it takes for my ears to perk up in that moment. It takes less than an hour for me to do an assessment in my office to generate a report that guides the educational planning for a year, but like a physician who does a physical in the examination room, it only takes me five minutes to see what could be troubling a child.
Unbeknownst to many parents, including my sister, my in-laws and a few cousins, I disguise the act of "playing" into assessments. At the holiday get together that I was at, my husband was left behind to describe my unconventional process to the other guests and they were in complete disbelief that a child could be assessed, remediated and enriched using the art of "play". I'm not certain that I could agree with them, but it is difficult to have children (and adults) accomplish anything when they are bored. I despise cleaning and/or organizing unless I have music on or if I dance across the floor trying to sweep dust away from our walking paths. Work is not something that I can look forward to - but engaging in an activity that appears to be fun and exciting is something that I do everyday.
After a few minutes of listening to our family friend ramble on and on about what pains them with their child, I finally crossed the line of friendship and said, "let me do a few things to see what might be happening". I grabbed a few materials from my car and began my "pretend work". It seems as if I need to be in a classroom or in an office with a hint of "superiority" beside it, but it took me just a handful of tasks and I gathered all the data I needed to help our family friend with something that they had been struggling with for the past few years.
"In order for all of this to make sense to your child, and for him to move past this developmental stage - you need to work on this one thing... Once that happens, he'll take off.." My words resonated like the lyrics from an opera and it was if the biggest revelation was made for them this decade. In a sea of professionals that they had worked with, it boiled down to one thing physically, and the rest of the work was done by (and given credit to) me.
It took our family friends less than a week to make everything happen in their schedule to work with me and my organization. My promise to them was that this challenge would be taken care of and the only thing that I could guarantee is my hard work and honesty. Nothing less than what they could ask for but I always made sure that I was deliberate and attentive in what they needed and they showed me that their son's education and well being is important.
Fast forward less than three months later, he's made more progress than I can write on one sheet of paper. His stamina when it comes to reading and utilizing the Orton-Gillingham method has been astounding that when I keep my books on the table, mid conversation he'll start to read a book (without being prompted) and will finish the book by himself. We've come up with ingenious ways to help shape his behavior (thanks to my background in behavior modification) and to work towards a goal - by thinking big picture and then taking it one step at a time. Progress is never expected to occur overnight, but after a long and arduous walk filled with hours of conversation, stories and laughter, you've reached your destination.
I'm so proud of the little man that I've worked with for the past few months. He's not just the "family friend's son", he helps me realize that my job is never done and I'm able, without effort, to be at the top of my game all over again. Helping a child, any child, learn how to do something difficult is one of the best feelings you can have as an adult, Whether it's helping them read, write stories, draw, ride a bike - it does not matter, Once they have learned to do something with your help (and your heart), your existence is forever branded in their spirit!