Completing graduate school with a master’s degree in occupational therapy was one of my greatest accomplishments.
I had fallen in love with this profession during high school and that passion led me all the way to the finish line.
As an occupational therapist I would be afforded the opportunity to help individuals throughout their lifespan who needed assistance to lead a life as close to independence as possible.
Prior to graduation, I had my job all lined up and I was ready to go.
Rehabilitation center… here I come!
After my first month on the job at the rehab center, I was ready to quit. I love all people, young and old, but the elderly population was not my forte.
My other option was working with children and initially, I was all gung-ho about working with special needs children in a school based setting. (Side bar- I am innately drawn to children; ALL types of children.)
However, after my second internship affiliation panned out to be a stressful situation thanks to my supervisor, I dared not step back into that realm. (Or so I thought.)
After the realization that the older population wasn’t my favorite, and after accepting my love for children, I decided to work with special needs children in a school based setting.
I love working with children. Children are bundles of energy and they have so much vitality, which give our lives so much color. Many would agree this to be true in regards to typical children— but what about those children born with developmental delays? Or what about those born with conditions such as Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, or those diagnosed with Autism? Do we feel the same way about these children?
Are they valued as less than?
Not in my eyes.
Children who are born with a disadvantage are still people. They have feelings and a desire to live life to the fullest. They just need help to get to where they need to go.
Back when I worked in Queens, I worked with a little 4 year old boy who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He was unable to walk. He also had some spasticity in his upper extremities (tightness in his arms and hands). He also had poor trunk control and was unable to maintain an upright sitting posture for no more than 1 minute. Despite his physical conditions, he was one of the smartest and brightest boys I had ever known. My treatment focus was to strengthen his core, hands and upper extremities. This was done through prone (on stomach) scooter board activities, using play dough, working on an antigravity surface (pretty much working against gravity) to complete puzzles or painting activities.
To simplify this, we played with a purpose. By the end of the school year this child was able to maintain an upright sitting posture for about 3 minutes to complete table top activities. He demonstrated decreased tightness in his arms, which enabled him to work more successfully during work and play.
I was so excited at the gains he made!!!
Maybe you have a child with special needs or you know someone who does or you work within this population.
These children need you to help them have a voice and to be heard.
You have to understand:
- These children are human. They are people who think, feel, need things, eat, sleep and live just as you do.
- These children want something. They want to be able to live as independently as they can.
- Change will not happen overnight. We need to patiently work with these youngsters to strengthen areas of weakness. We have to build them up and help them increase their confidence in themselves by never giving up on them, regardless of how slow the process may seem.
- We need to show genuine love. It seems to be common within our fickle society to prefer a certain look, type, or child. When working with special needs children, we must be genuine, loving, kind and helpful. These little people can sense our energy and it will affect the overall progress of the goal we are seeking to attain if we have given up and have lost hope.
- You are not alone. It is normal to go through feelings of frustration, helplessness, brokenness, and hopelessness. You may feel as if your child will never make gains. You’re not alone and you don’t have to run this course solo.
- There are a plethora of resources available to assist you when you feel as if you have done everything you can.
Every child matters!!!
I would like to especially thank all the professionals out there, parents, special education teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech teachers/speech pathologists, psychologists, guidance counselors and anyone else that I failed to mention for their EXCELLENT work in this realm.
Please feel free to access some of these resources that can help you: