I recently started a new job as a behavioral strategist for in home aide support. I work with and support families who have children with behavioral challenges, usually due to some sort of diagnosis, the majority being autism. I am good at my job. I love my job, and I am okay saying these things because it took me a long time to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I can go in and understand how these kids work, I can usually get them to do what I want, and can come with a plan for things that work for them.
But here’s the thing; I leave at the end of the day.
I look in these parents’ faces and they are exhausted, burnt out, and at the end of their rope. They tell me I just don’t understand. And they’re right, I don’t. I mean I can empathize, and I can relate, and I can share that I have a child with her own challenges. But like one mom said to me this week “yeah, but she can talk, right?”
What do you say to that mom whose 6-year-old can’t talk? When the reality is that her son will never live on his own, and may not ever call out for “mommy” when he is hurt? I am blessed to have the family I do, and I need to realize that more often.
I also get that there is a whole world of difference between working with someone else’s child and parenting your child. If I was half as effective with my own daughter as I was with the kids I work with, my life would be so much easier. I understand that. But as a parent, it is so hard when other people can get your child to do things that you can’t, that the stranger who comes into your house once a month can get more out of your child in 2 hours than you have 5 years. I can tell parents that this is normal, that because I have no history with their child, that I can usually get away with more, that kids are ALWAYS worse for their parents…
But none of that makes the hurt and sadness in their hearts better. I’m sorry. I wish I could say everything will be fine, and that if you follow steps 1, 2, and 3 everything will be better. I can’t say that. I understand that the millions of handouts I give you, and the picture schedules are just one more thing to do in your insanely busy day. I understand that it is frustrating, stressful, and disheartening to have us come into your home. I understand that a great number of professionals can make you feel two inches tall. I understand it because I have been there.
But my daughter can talk right? So I really haven’t.