I suspect we have all been in the situation I am about to describe, the situation where you feel you are at your wits end with a student/client. It's the kind of situation, where despite your best efforts, nothing seems to make a difference and what's even more distressing is that the situation often escalates.
I found myself in that scenario last school year and for a brief period this school year. For obvious reasons I won't offer too many specifics as I don't want to identify anyone. I will call my student "Joy." Suffice it to say I could make NO inroads with Joy. Everything I did was met with push back. I was frustrated, annoyed and just plain done. Every therapy session was an exercise in frustration. I began to dread her scheduled therapy session. Progress was nonexistent and the question of continuing services was brought up by many, including me. I know this can be a tinderbox of controversy; "When speech-language therapy is not productive, do we quit?" I just wasn't ready to give up. Joy was just a kid and I felt an obligation to make both a professional and human connection. I was in desperate need of advice. I talked to colleagues and mental health professionals. I read as much as I could, I did an ASHA self study, but made no progress.
Late in September our state organization, NHSLHA held our Fall Conference. I am fortunate to work with an amazing NHSLHA board, including the talented and funny Cass Chapman. At the Fall Conference, Cass introduced me to her business partner. Cass and Annie DiVello are the co-owners of New England Pediatric Services (find them here and here) which offers mental health counseling, occupational, speech, play and physical therapies. I began to speak to Annie about my challenges with Joy, in fact, just that week Joy had entered my room belching repeatedly and loudly and behaving in a confrontational manner. I was at a loss. Clearly no speech-language therapy was going to happen that day. I gave Annie my phone number, unsure as to what would follow and went home happily exhausted after a successful conference.
Since our initial belch-off, Joy and I have been been working well together. I walk a fine line between adult, speech-language pathologist, and ten year old. I don't judge. I don't reprimand. I leave my notion of what therapy should look like in the hall. I interact. I guide. I direct. I provide a space that allows for Joy's individual qualities. Annie's suggestions changed my work with Joy. I gave her the pseudonym "Joy" for a reason. I am no longer dreading my sessions beforehand and regretting them afterward. I am finding joy in my work with her.
As professionals, we might find ourselves in situations where we falter. Situations where we want to have the answers, but don't. Situations where we want to give up. Situations where asking for help may appear as an admission of a lack of no-how. That is just not the case! We cannot possibly know everything there is to know and in my adulthood I have no problem saying, "Help me. Please help me. I am floundering." Those with expertise in stuttering (I emailed Dr. Scott Yarrus last week), AAC (I emailed Gail Van Tatenhove last school year), selective mutism, ASD, dysphagia and so, so much more are ready and willing to share their knowledge and experience. Just ask. I needed help, and I got it. Thank you so much, Annie!