Roll With the Punches

ViolentThe screaming began as I was finishing a session with another client.

“Whoa, who is that?” The mother asked me as the shrieks echoed throughout the hallways.

“Oh, that’s just another client,” I stated in a matter of fact tone. I knew very well, considering that client was waiting for me.

“You have to work with him? Wow, good luck with that,” she replied with a reluctant smile, hugging her own son a little closer.

It takes moments like these to realize that it’s probably not normal to go to work and accept that someone might try to hurt you. I mean, how many people start their day with the knowledge that there will be punches to dodge and kicks to evade? I guess professional boxers… or maybe ninjas… but regardless, it stinks.

Many of the children that I work with, whether their diagnosis is autism, developmental delay, oppositional defiance disorder, ADD, or whatever… can exhibit violent behaviors. So yes, I’ve been hit in the face, kicked, pinched, slapped, bit, and head-butted. (Not all at the same time, thankfully.) Some days it bothers me, while other days it doesn’t. I suppose it kind of comes with the territory.

The difference maker in all of this? For me, it’s the parents. One day a mom said to me: “I’m sure we are your least favorite hour of the day. I hate that you probably dread working with  my son.” Wow. The funny thing was, while her child would often hurt me, there were other kids and families that were way more challenging to work with in my day.

My boss often points out that she has no idea why I put up with certain kids on my caseload; that I should just tell them I’m done and walk away the next time I get hit. But I just can’t. These are the kids that have had everyone else give up on them as well. These are the parents that have had to look me in the eye and say: “Please don’t give up on my child.” Yep, that will tug on your heart strings a little bit. Don’t ever underestimate the impact that whole parent-therapist relationship thing can have on therapy.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m willing to take a few punches thrown my way if it means developing skills, curbing behaviors, and breaking through to new territory. Does this make me crazy? Hmm, maybe.

With that in mind, my OT friends and I came up with an interesting “would you rather” scenario:

Would you rather:

Work with a violent child with wonderful, understanding parents


Work with a sweet, compliant child with mean, overbearing and critical parents?

The answer that usually wins? Therapists would rather have the violent child with understanding parents.

So what do you think? Willing to roll with the punches?


About TheAnonymousOT

Pediatric Occupational Therapist
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5 Responses to Roll With the Punches

  1. Kelly says:

    Great post. I’ll take the nice parents any day. After all, they are as much our client many days as the kids. I also get the “don’t want to give up” thoughts too…difficult kids need us even more it seems. Glad I found your blog. Thx for being honest 🙂

  2. SchoolOT says:

    Thanks for sharing the down side of being on OT. I also love my profession but when you get spit in the face and hit, kicked or screamed at it sure can ruin your day. I am glad that I am not the only one to state that this is a reality of working with certain kids. Love your web site !

    • You said it; a spit in the face can definitely ruin a day! I agree that it is important for people to realize all sides of our profession. Thanks for your comments and for reading!

  3. SK OT says:

    I hear you about the parents having the biggest influence on how you feel after a session! When I used to work with special needs kids I much preferred the parents who wanted the best for their kids but were accepting of them as they were (e.g. just another one of their children). The parents who gave me the impression that they were demanding that I “fix” their broken child were the most disturbing, especially when over time those “broken” children started to realize that they weren’t good enough for their parents.
    Of course, now I work with behaviour disturbed children, most of whose parents are not involved or violent themselves – a whole different flavour of OT, this time the kids truly do or don’t make the encounter and it’s interesting, without parental influence there have been only two children in 8 years that I can truly say that I didn’t like to work with, and they weren’t the most violent of them.


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