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More than just Speech Therapy

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By Sivaranjani Gnanasekaran

Edited by Aishwarya Narayanan

A mother brought her child to our therapy unit for fluency intervention. Back then, I always got a little ‘hyperactive’ in my sessions because I was always too excited about working with kids. The sessions began and I was positive about the child’s prognosis. However, it did not seem to excite the mother. I tried understanding what she thought about the therapy, but all I could get were small nods. After a few days, when I was walking back to my workstation post-lunch, I saw the mother and child sitting silently and having lunch at the canteen. The mother was looking a little weary. They had a session scheduled with me after lunch and they arrived on time, as always. I completed the session and began the counseling toward the end. I was talking about how much progress her child was making but I still got the same reaction. This was my breaking point! I needed to know what was wrong and when I probed a little, she broke down. By now, she had gotten comfortable with me and opened up about what was wearing her down. I was dumbstruck when I heard her voice for the very first time. It was hoarse and strained. She told me that she had gone for an assessment session previously but did not get through with therapy because she could not spare that time. She is a woman who wakes up every day by 3 a.m., completes morning chores, goes to work at a hospital, comes home by afternoon to feed her child, bring the child to therapy, drop the child back home, attend a second job, finish up with the other chores at home, feed her family, and finally go to sleep. Whatever little time she had left, she had to spend it working with her child’s stuttering practice at home. The next shock was when she revealed that she was a victim of domestic violence and that led to both, her voice problem and the onset of her child’s stuttering behavior.

After I could process it, I decided to act. I rescheduled all my other sessions to accommodate the mother’s session in addition to her child’s. I suggested that they both seek professional help for their personal problems. They now had enough trust to accept my suggestion and went ahead with what was planned. We successfully treated the child’s stuttering problem and the mother’s voice problem. The child stopped avoiding school because he was not teased about the stutter in school. The mother performed better at work without her voice troubles. They were getting better with counseling. The mother found the courage to get out of the abusive relationship. They saw how the quality of life had improved greatly with the right help.

The takeaway from this story is – As part of my job as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I work for the holistic development of an individual. We are trained to look at a patient as an individual who deserves a quality life. That has really helped me contribute to society in a small way and that makes me proud.

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