I know that it can be alarming when this blog sits silent for a full week, especially after such a desperate post, but I am back today and happy to report: I made it.
After treading water for a while there last week, it would be enough for me to say that I’m back on shore now; that I gathered my resources (all of them, internal and external) and gradually swam back to the beach with my strong crawl stroke. But that’s not where I am. I’m not on the beach, catching my breath and watching the waves, grateful that I made it by the skin of my teeth and relieved to be staying on dry land for a while.
No. I want to tell you that I am not there on the beach because I am in a far better place. I am, in actuality, over the moon.
I just spent two full days working with a group of 35-40 teachers, SLPs, OTs, PTs, LPNs, paraprofessionals, and administrators from a school in Central Florida that serves children with special needs, many of whom have autism spectrum disorders. There as a consultant working for one of the SCERTS collaborators, I brought to them a presentation designed to refresh their memories about this fantastic educational model (which their school has already philosophically embraced), and to present a case study. The case study was on one of their own students, and they had sent videos to us in advance for preparation. This allowed me to use one of their students to demonstrate behaviors and strategies I was teaching as I went along. It also gave them a chance to learn the full, detailed assessment process from start to finish, using one of their own, and by the end they walked away with a brand new, full educational plan for this child, including activity goals and concrete suggestions for school and home. The staff also had the tools and information they needed to use SCERTS with all of their other students over time. They were ecstatic.
I talked, I joked, I told stories carefully chosen to make it clear that I am one of them: a therapist who makes mistakes she regrets, who is still learning, and who can laugh at herself, all of which is true. At the same time, it was clear that I have advanced training and a level of expertise that they could learn from. And they did.
I have never felt so good professionally as during these two days. It was the perfect culmination of all my years of training, development, and work with children and families, as if everything I’d ever done had led me directly to this, standing in front of these professionals and teaching them a brand new way to think about their students and then what to do with that information. Never have I felt like such an expert – there was no question I was unable to answer from the SCERTS perspective and then elaborate on, drawing from all sorts of different experiences I’ve had. Frequently, I jumped in and answered one of their questions and then later thought to myself, Wow, where did all of that come from? At the first lunch break, one therapist came to me and showed me the multitude of notes she had taken. “You might think these pages of notes are all from the slides, but they’re not; these are all from your stories,” she told me, excitedly. That was the first of many highs.
Up until now, I have been able to impact a handful of children and their families at any given time in my school- and clinic-based settings. This week, in just two days, I was a catalyst for dramatic change that will effect at least 50 children, changes that will begin immediately. At the end of our second day together, I held back tears on more than one occasion as I listened to the way the participants were talking about their work and the children they serve. It was beyond uplifting.
For the past year I have held tight to a vision for my work in the coming years – sort of the Next Phase – and it included a lot of this work, SCERTS consulting. But until I did it, until I experienced it for myself, I couldn’t say if it was going to be a good fit for me. Now I can say with certainty that my suspicions were right: I love it. In the upcoming months, the opportunities to do this here in the Midwest will grow, and this is part of my dream. I want to be able to do this as much as possible without having to travel far while my boys are young. I will probably do a couple more workshops during this academic year, with the goal of dedicating a larger portion of my time to it next year, when Lyle starts kindergarten.
And so, no, I’m not catching my breath on the beach here today. I am over the moon, in a state of euphoria, and feeling blessed to have worked my way to this time and place in my life.