-By Elanthendral. C-
My previous employment required me to travel for an hour to reach the workplace. It was not a typical setup for speech-language therapy as it was relatively new in the locality. I was the only therapist hired in the place and always had a packed schedule from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The travel was a little hectic by itself as I had to first walk to the auto stand, travel by auto to the railway station, board a train from there and walk to my workplace. This opportunity to serve as an SLP in a new firm was in my doorway when I was quite unsure of what was next in my career. Despite the long-distance and no typical work setting, I liked working there. It was just me with a multitude of patients. I was enjoying being smitten by the little ones who’d come as toddlers and with no adequate speech. It was a pleasure seeing them grow and achieve great communication skills. Although my schedules and travel were frantic, I still remember the important lessons I had learnt from there.
In particular, I remember the day I met one of my patients for assessment. A lively family with their son. The child was super-active but did not communicate verbally. What amused me was that the family readily accepted that their child had delayed language development and sought a plan to proceed. In my career as a Speech-Language Pathologist, coming across such caregivers is rare! A typical intervention paradigm was sought for management. The caregivers were being very cooperative and “open-ears” to the comments given by me. The child began showing remarkable progress in a year. After a few months, he got admitted to a regular school.
At around the same time, another kid came in for evaluation. In a typical fashion, we completed the evaluation and proceeded for intervention. However, there was a striking difference in the parents’ attitudes. Though the parents made sure that the child attended sessions regularly, they always compared their child’s development with other children. They even compared how I behaved with them and the other parents. I still remember when the caregiver felt disappointed as I didn’t specially treat them and just treated them as yet another client. This hurt their ego. They continued their therapy with me as their child showed steady progress and development in her communication skills.
On one fine day, the parents got into a heated argument with me regarding a petty issue. I had to take a stand for myself and told them that I may not be able to continue therapy for their child with “this” mindset. I requested my employer to ensure that the child was taken care of by another therapist. I strongly felt that it will be better for the child, caregiver, and of course, me! The parents were informed regarding the change and while leaving the clinic, they said, “my child started talking because she started going to playschool”. I ignored the comment. My only concern was about saying “no” to the therapy from my end. The child had lost a few sessions of therapy just because of the parents’ need for special attention! (Thankfully, the child was taken to another clinic later on).
With these two experiences etched in my mind, I just carried on with my work. I believe that work is worship and yet, morale and ethics come first! Now having settled in another workspace, reminiscing the older tales, I’d like people to understand that SLPs, or any professional for that matter, are humans too. They deserve respect and gratitude for the immense work they put into their day to make someone able to communicate!