Beyond Being A Technician

To be a great speech pathologist, occupational therapist or music therapist you clearly need to have a command of your subject. You need to be well educated in your initial training, well supported in your growth and development and continually in touch with the most up-to-date evidence based practise. However, there is much more to it than just this.

This is because this type of work is far more than just doing your narrowly defined profession. Even though that’s important, the value that you ultimately deliver to your clients is actually much greater than that which is narrowly defined by your profession and modality.

This is particularly true for paediatric clinicians. They need to have a wide range of skills and attributes that allow them to work with a huge range of children, both in terms of their presentation, but also in terms of their age as well. There’s a world of difference in working with an early teen versus working with someone who is still in kindergarten. A well rounded clinician will be good at working with all of these age groups, even though they might have a preference for working with a particular age group.

Another characteristic that clinicians need to have is an excellent ability to create relationships with parents. Whilst You might be mistaken for thinking that the therapy is accomplished with the child alone, getting the parents onside is so important; without them therapy is just not possible. This is for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly, it’s the parents that are going to make the time for the therapy to actually begin. Accordingly, the parent needs to have a clear conviction that enrolling their child in therapy is going to result in something that is otherwise unattainable.
  • Secondly, we also need to make sure that the parents are on board throughout the whole course of therapy. This is actually easier in the early days of therapy. Often the parents can see some early changes that gives them hope and the sense that finally something is starting to change. However, this doesn’t always continue smoothly. Like anyone learning a new skill, the child’s development will almost inevitably plateau for a while – and perhaps more than once.
    Now, these plateaus don’t necessarily last for a long time, but at these moments, it’s natural for the parents to be wondering “ is this actually working? Will my child actually make the changes that I’m hoping they can make?” It’s the parent’s faith in the clinician that will keep them coming to the therapy – and it’s the skill of the clinician which builds this trust in the first place.

Another key factor to bear in mind is that when children begin therapy, the parent often begins from a place of disappointment and disillusionment. When parents dream about the life they would like their child to live, it’s always one of them being happy and healthy and living a full life. No parent ever starts by imagining that their child will have to endure what can seem like the limits of disability. Unfortunately, the types of diagnoses which bring people to speech pathology, occupational therapy or music therapy are indications that the child’s future may be different from the future that the parent imagined. Somehow, the therapist has to work with the parents disappointment and sadness, support the parent to see that the future can still be full of happiness, by helping the child to realise their potential and live a full life. And this is not a naive hope; there are thousands and thousands of professionals working across Australia to help with this.

It is this sort of change, the fostering of increased ability over a long period of time and the ability of the therapist to engage the parent in the process, to keep them coming to therapy through the months and years, to keep the faith that what they’re doing is worthwhile and will result in change, that makes change possible.

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