It’s pretty rare that you get recognition. There aren’t a lot of news stories being told about pediatric Occupational, Physical, Speech, and all the other kinds of Therapists out there. And I’m confident that none of you chose your careers to gain acclaim. And yet you deserve to have your praises shouted from the rooftops.
You tirelessly show up each day to somehow keep up with kids who have boundless energy. Your day is filled with the kids who can’t sit still, wiggle, squiggle, and are constantly moving. Somehow you meet that energy, harness it, and work with it. Thank you.
You connect with kids who have difficulty connecting. You meet them where they are, whether under the table, in a swing, in a hospital bed. You read them, follow their lead, persistently show up with compassion and kindness until they feel safe. Thank you.
You apply equal parts gentleness and unrelenting encouragement to keep kids feeling safe while simultaneously moving forward to fuller ability. Thank you.
Sometimes you intentionally push kids toward their limits so you can see their behaviors that every other adult is trying to avoid. You study their behaviors, look for patterns, test strategies to help, listen to what each child is trying to communicate. And then you translate for all of us who can’t see it or don’t yet understand. Thank you.
You care about the outliers.
You change lives.
And at the risk of sounding too grandiose . . . you save lives.
One of your colleagues, a brilliant COTA and the first therapist to have entered our world, identified my daughter’s epilepsy. My daughter has subtle seizures, the kind where she just stares off into space and loses herself for a minute, the kind that can easily be missed. Ashleigh saw the signs, referred to a neurologist, and because of her my daughter is taking potentially life-saving meds. Thank you to Ashleigh and to all the many others of you who have done similar things for your kids.
A different colleague of yours had worked with my daughter approximately twice approximately 3 years ago. There’s no reason she should have remembered her. And yet . . .
KBear had eloped during one of her times when she was less capable of keeping herself safe. I walked down to her usual place to run to approximately one block away (a church playground) and my heart skipped a beat when I saw there was a construction worker on the side of the church. Part of me knew my daughter would have seen him and been intimidated away from using the swings. Part of me freaked out that this guy had a white van parked in front and you can imagine where my mind catapulted to. All of me freaked out because my daughter was not there.
I ran back home, tears and fear flooding my body and soul. Let our oldest child in on the situation without trying to appear too panicked. He stayed home looking around while I hopped into the van and drove around looking for my autistic daughter.
She’d been gone for somewhere between 30-45 minutes when I finally saw her mumbling and stumbling her way through the neighborhood approximately 5 blocks from our home. She was so overwhelmed that she wouldn’t even look at me when I pulled up to her, so I had to park the van, walk up to her, gently grab her by the hand and lead her back to the van. As I was doing so, a car pulled up behind us. I didn’t know what or who to expect, but then I saw the door open and Becky, our PT who had evaluated KBear twice, years ago, pulled up looking just as frantic as I had felt.
She said, “You probably don’t remember me, but I was driving home and I saw KBear walking along the side of the highway. I knew she wasn’t supposed to be there, so I turned around and followed her while I tried to think if there was a way to find your number or to approach her without scaring her and making her run. When I saw the van I desperately hoped it was you!”
I cannot overstate how reassuring it was to listen to Becky. The adrenaline was still pumping through my system. All the “What if’s” were firing full pelt. Hearing that my daughter had someone looking out for her, broke through all that panic and provided me with some peace. It reinforced my belief in the good of people. It awed me to know that this person, one of you, who barely knew my daughter, recognized her and inconvenienced her own life to keep my daughter safe.
And so, all you T’s out there, yes, you lilterally save lives. Thank you for being the calm rocks in the center of all our families stones and chaos. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for caring so much about your kids that you’d do anything to help them survive and thrive, whether you’re on duty or not.