I have been asked to submit something for the blog to celebrate and introduce Milestone Therapy Service’s new and updated website. I first had to understand what a blog is and then figure out how to just “think out loud” and type. I reflected on my 20+ years as a pediatric OT and Therapy business owner and tried to think of the most empowering experience I have had.
Actually, the most empowering was also the most humbling…
I was fresh out of OT school and ready to change the world. I was ready to cure children of their disabilities (fresh out of school) and empower families to be better parents (although I was childless) and I would be dauntless in carrying out my treatment plans to the “T” (you’ve met a two year old, right?) You see where this is going.
I arrived to do an OT evaluation on a little boy. His father and mother were present in the small, dark apartment in Plano. The child was severely delayed and had high muscle tone with contractures at the wrists and ankles. (“Bilaterally” as I had learned to say). Just positioning him in the little wheelchair was difficult.
My evaluation, of course, showed that he had a delay and qualified for therapy services. So I sat down with the parents and went over the evaluation and began to talk to them about my therapy plan. I was very eager to show my knowledge, commitment and skill. Looking back, their eyes were probably glazed over after the first 5 minutes but on I talked on and on, outlining my rather lofty goals.
Then I remembered that I was supposed to ask for family input. That actually, we were supposed to have the parents be part of the goal setting process. “Um, did you have any goals for your child that I should add to the plan” The father looked at me and then somewhat hesitantly said, “ I would really like for him to be able to wear a pair of tennis shoes like any other kid”
Pause please…… “ Like any other kid.” This is someone’s child. Not a project. Not a list of goals. This is a little human being person. And his parents would like for him to have some semblance of a childhood. “ like any other kid.” And even that goal is going to take a lot of work, thinking, trial and error and an orthotics specialist.
Somehow, in that moment I connected to a place in myself that I have never lost sight of again. I have struggled with it, danced with it and tried to ignore it but it persists. “This is not about my agenda. It is about helping someone live the best “regular” life possible”.
So in therapy sessions and later in business I have revisited this when I struggle between pushing my own agenda vs facing what is right in front of me. I learned to throw out the agenda of what a particular session was supposed to look like and following the child. To throw out my idea of how someone supposed to parent and work with what was there. For better or worse. We still ended up meeting the goal in the end most of the time- maybe just not how I planned it. What works in one situation may or may not work in another. There are no guarantees.
But there are people. Little and big. With little and big problems, possibilities and capabilities. You have to meet what is right in front of you, be flexible. Be creative. Be willing to be wrong and change course.
In Therapy, in Business and in Life.
Ellen Osburn MOTR