“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?