I often remind my students that everything is not perfect, but I may be saying that to remind myself, as well. Everyone needs that reminder. The other day my mother, a general education high school counselor, was complaining about having to provide counseling services to students with mental health issues.
“I’m not a psychiatrist. I just want to talk to students about going to college,” she said.
I remember feeling that way when I first walked into the lower functioning classrooms and the majority of the students receiving speech services were nonverbal. I remember thinking, "How am I supposed to help these kids? There’s no point in seeing them. I can’t use anything to vibrate their vocal cords.” I read online articles on how I can help these students, but I realized that I first needed to help myself.
I needed to change my own perception of my profession and confidence in my abilities. I realized that my lack of self confidence caused my negative thoughts and unwillingness to work with these students who ultimately benefited from my speech services.
During that bitter time of questioning my responsibilities, I still picked up my students and sang the alphabet with them, reviewed the calendar, read and asked them questions. I was not enjoying it, until I finally sat down and told myself to get over it and make the best out of it.
I am sure a lot of people can relate to my mother and I. We often look at things in a negative perspective, but I hope you can still relate, when I say I turned my thoughts around and started to look at things on the bright side.
I began asking myself, ‘how many people actually make sure this child is looking at their lips when they sing the ABC’s? How many people ask this child questions and then answer them as a way to model basic communication skills? How many people actually sing, smile, and laugh with this child?”
Then I realized that even though I am not using high tech tools and providing surgery, I am still helping these students by providing basic communication skills- which by the way is my job. I realized that what I wanted for these students takes time and there’s a process to build up a repertoire with them. I just had to be patient.
The same goes for my mother. Even though she is not a psychiatrist she is still helping her students. I told her, "You are the one who has some background on how to speak with someone with mental health issues, so you should be responsible to talk to him one on one. If you do not talk to him about college, then who will?"
After consistently visiting with my students, I became a familiar face to them and they started showing me their abilities. I was then able to figure out what they were capable of doing and how I could improve their abilities.
I told my mom to do the same thing: “Look at things in a more positive light. So one of your students has schizophrenia and you do not know what to talk about. Then let your student do all the talking first. Get to know him, so you can then share how further education may help him.”
And now I tell you, those of you who care for our children and adults with special needs: be optimistic. Look at how you are helping your loved one and keep improving from there. The care you provide for them is definitely appreciated and even though they are unable to verbally express it, look in their eyes and see the joy the beams when they see you.