Sorry I've neglected you - all four of my readers.  I've been running around like a chicken with her head cut off.  Less bloody - just as grimacing to watch.  Normal busy I can handle. But recently I've taken on a couple of new clients through my job, and I have to admit, I'm feeling tremendous anxiety over it. Pull up a chair, grab some coffee (or to my friends across the pond, a spot of tea) and let me spill:

So as I've mentioned, I work as a behavior specialist, a.k.a. counselor/therapist-in-training/etc, etc.  My current job has me working with, essentially, two types of clients: 

(1) Families with kids on the verge of entering foster care for one reason or another, and (2) Children on the autism spectrum, most nonverbal.  

The former group is more in my comfort zone - families attacking one another, going for the jugular regularly. Feels like old times. 

The latter is tougher - because these kids can't communicate in a typically verbal way, and I'm supposed to come in and help the client develop an alternative mode to communicate, behave, connect with people. But I get pinched, slapped, kicked and scratched often. I know it's not personal...we are being taught constantly 'what is the function of the behavior' and more often than not, it's not to hurt us, it's to reach out, to let me know something.
I come into these families' homes - and they look to me to help them connect better with their child.  And I'm scared shitless. Sometimes I have to do deep breathing exercises in my car before I enter their home.  And once I'm there, I use my bathroom break to do them again. 

Because the methods I'm using I've often just learned myself.  Yes, I get frequent sessions of supervision from my bosses, and yes, I have members of my team review the techniques with me.  And yet, as much as I practice, it's still different once you're there.  

I know everyone needs to go through a learning curve, and the only way to learn is by doing.  But I feel horrible nonetheless...I feel like I'm cheating these families of true expertise.  I'm quietly just as surprised when things go as expected, and I'm panicked when things go badly.  I hate feeling like this. 

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

I try to remember that if I'm feeling this way, imagine how their parents feel. I try to remember that there's an innocent little boy inside the child who is biting and kicking me...and I look for any little sign of connection, of progress. Most often, there's not much.

And therein lies my problem, I think...what I consider 'not much' is often real progress. When you're dealing with children struggling with issues such as autism (or anything for that matter) the range of progress differs.  I thought I knew that, considering one of my own kids used to suffer from hypotonia and still with ADHD and anxiety.  I thought I understood the importance of meta-thinking when it comes to kids, that it's about a marathon, not a sprint.

Then you encounter stuff like I'm working through now...and it's a whole other level of thinking, of mourning, of re-calibrating expectations.  And in order to do this with any success, my competence must improve while lowering my own ego needs in the process.  


This work ain't for wimps, that's for sure.  So that's why I haven't been blogging as much...I've spent time trying to get better at my job, to handle my own anxiety.  So far, I'd give myself a C+.
 


Comments

11/03/2013 3:47pm

But what you're doing is absolutely VITAL to those families. When you consider that there are families like Kelli Stapleton's, who clearly needed SO much more support than they received.

You're on the front line, and I can understand why that causes such anxiety, but it's so, so, so important. Thank you for doing it. I expect that you (and others like you) are a total lifeline to some of these families, even if the progress you see is very small, just by showing up each week and continuing to strive on their behalf, and hold inherent within those visits the hope that things will improve.

Blogging can wait. For focusing on your job, and for the nature of the job itself and your commitment to doing it well, I give you an A++

Reply
Caren
11/05/2013 6:55am

As always, you're too kind.

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    Postmodernist Jewish maven, which means I'm critical of my own opinions, yet can't 
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