I am sitting on a bus, on my way to a school where one of the children I support attends. Why am I going into the school you ask? I will give you some hints; I am picking someone up for an appointment? I am going to visit a class I did a placement in? OR I am meeting with an OT (Occupational Therapist) that doesn’t want to try things or set my client up for success until they prove they can perform?
You got it, the last one. My client’s mother and I would like the child to walk at school using a walker. The walker that this child uses needs the assistance of another person to strap them into it. So first, we need to ask someone to help get the child in and out of the walker. We have heard time and time again that they had tried but walking wasn’t happening at school. I thought, something doesn’t sound right, so I investigated further.
I used to do pick ups once a week from school and one day casually asked, “was the walker used today?” When I was shown the walker that the school was using, it was the wrong one, strike one. Then I was told that due to high tone (uncontrolled stiffness of the muscles in the body), he wasn’t walking. I asked “are the ankle straps being used to help that problem?” “There are no straps on this walker”, strike two. When I said, “I hope the seat is not being used, it causes pinching and really hurts.” They said, “But he need’s it?” Strike three. They just didn’t know and didn’t ask. My client hasn’t even been given a fair chance and it is not up to teachers to prescribe equipment, it is up to the OT. She was my next challenge. If we get the right equipment in place, that’s half he battle.
My client has a walker at home, which they use very well. They have the identical walker at school, just didn’t try it. At home, I did my part to show how well my client uses a walker to hopefully give these adults, some encouragement. Yes, the child has to encourage the adult to receive the praise and recognition. I took a picture of my client using the walker; I marked the picture with diagrams and instructions so they could adjust it properly for my client. I then gave it to the teacher, who then past it on to the OT. I also put my phone number on it, thinking I wouldn’t get a call, the picture must be enough.
When I did get a call, I was a little surprised; I thought I would give them the benefit of the doubt. I thought, “I must be getting a call to say how well the changes worked.” Wrong again, the call was to basically, undermine some of my instructions, be condescending, and prod me about the walking that may or may not, (but really not) be happening at home. The questions I was asked would have made me a total fool if everything I said before hand wasn’t true. I stuck to my guns and advocated for my client. I waited until the insulting questioning had finished and spoke in a calm controlled voice, which is not what I wanted to do.
“That picture was taken two Saturdays ago, my client needs the ankle straps and can’t walk without them, there to be needs little encouragement and my client walks really well for others and myself.”
Then the O.T. went on to ask for a video showing my client walking. Again, I was surprised. I said, “I’ll do what I can.” I then asked when my client was put in the walker. “Gym time, at…” and before the sentence ended, I said, “well I will just come in for that time then. See you Tuesday!”
Even after my commitment, I was still told that my client would not get all the straps that were needed as the walker that was being used didn’t have them. “I won’t switch it until I know it’s going to work.” Yes, that is what I was told. In my head I kept thinking, unfortunately with most children, you won’t know that it is going to work until you try it.
I was furious. I am tired of being told my client’s can’t do something that I know they can or having to prove something to someone’s face before they believe it. I understand that a therapist cannot prescribe something, until they know the patient needs it or can successfully use it. So, I guess what I am talking about here is, where is the belief in our kids? Why is there always this string of condescending questions to a family or caregiver, leaving them feel like you have called them a liar and a fool. I understand unrealistic expectations, but, there is a way to deal with that too. I just wish children who have disabilities were given more of a chance to show their abilities as quickly as they were told, oh he is so cute, she has a great smile or given a pat on the head.
So, here I am now on my way to the school, after this long and tiring stretch. I was greeted by “oh, you came?” Already I had started to speak about why I did come and once again point out that we needed to set the walker up so that it would work for my client. After a back and forth about the way my client should walk, I set it up the way I know it works for them. I put my client in it and that was it, I didn’t need to talk anymore, it was apparent that my client was not a sitting duck as they fifteenth lap.
I wish I could get more of an insight on what therapists go through on the other end. Because I know after the phone conversation, I felt terrible, but I wonder how O.T. felt. I know there is no satisfaction to gain in telling someone their child can’t do something or maybe they have tried many things with a child and the child still couldn’t do it. However, that doesn’t mean every client after that suffers their frustration of the client before. I know it is hard, but every client, even past ones, needs a new set of eyes of positivity, a new set of ears of possibility and new words of encouragement all through the process, even if it isn’t successful in the end.