Inspire - Advocate - Educate

Thursday, July 30, 2015, 16:49
By Barbara Kellett, speech therapist

The popular author Paulo Coelho says that 'travel is about courage"....
Now I know he is referring to packing ones bags... setting sail for new lands and discovering new vistas, but his stories are also symbolic and allude tothe inner journey of self discovery ....and this travel requires just as much, if not more, courage to go the distance.
I work with families of young children who are profoundly deaf – who do not benefit adequately from hearing aid technology to have the ease of access to sound to develop spoken language through hearing - These babies, infants, toddlers and/or preschoolers will require a cochlear implant ... and I will be required to provide the (re) habilitation that supports their journey to sound.... perhaps both parties are journeying.... perhaps both require courage.
Courage is sometimes there from the beginning but very often it has to be found, dug deep for, nurtured and fanned into an action that can sustain change and growth and it is often here, in the search for courage, that our journey together begins....
I first met Kaylin and Jonene when they had already walked some steps on their journey. Kaylin's cochlear implant surgery was done and the electrodes had just been activated, she was an active 18 month old toddler but already a seasoned traveller to challenge. Jonene and her family had journeyed to the place every family fears: losing their child. They had already courageously fought for their daughter to live and here we were just a little bit further down a very bumpy road with no clear view of what lay ahead ... we sat at the same table for many, many months.... and as these stretched into years our stories together grew and intertwined and together we worked out the what's and why's of Kaylin. I also watched as this courageous mom found the strength to engage with her daughters deafness as well as gain insight into Kaylin's additional challenges – as she found the strength and courage to advocate for Kaylin and then found a voice to help beyond her family and child.
At the start, with each family, I have no magic insight into how the journey to sound and listening will progress; in fact starting without any preconceived notions of the outcome is a good thing. I have no way of really knowing what it will take to get to speech and language through listening....there are too many variables, too many unknowns for a recipe approach.I have me: the human, the clinician.... I can carefully and skilfully observe; I can truly listen and empathise; I can use my clinical expertise, knowledge and skill to support the process ......but what am I really supporting?
There is an African proverb that says: if you wish to move mountains tomorrow you must start by lifting stones today....
Within each clinician is a rescuer – a little part of us who wants to swoop in to make things better..... who is willing and capable of lifting those stones.... But our power lies not in doing the heavy lifting, this is not sustainable nor desirable, our power lies in finding and exploring the families "wish to move the mountain".... Supporting this wish empowers families to find their own path; to strap on their own boots, roll up their own sleeves and get the job done stone by stone....
A clinicians need to be needed is a clinical death dance, especially when families perceive themselves to be helpless (David Luterman) but an empowered parent is a parent who will make sure that their child receives every bit of help they need; An empowered parent will make a plan , will do what it takes; an empowered parent will be the voice for their child in the beginning and then the chorus behind it.... An empowered parent has the will to move that mountain.
Philospher Loa Tsu says to become knowledgeable we gather information but to become wise we have to let it go.... part of what I do is provide the information and skills needed: for purposeful play; for engaged interaction;for developing listening as the primary means of acquiring speech and language; for setting appropriate expectations; for following a developmental progression and being accountable for monitoring needs and outcomes. I know the science behind my art and can share it with the family.... But they need to go beyond this knowledge and become wise with their children and the world of hearing loss. They need to get to the 'whole' from all the pieces.
I see courage, action and wisdom before me every day and I am humbled by it. I am grateful for the opportunity to journey alongside every family andI stand in awe at the 5 year journey that this family have made together.
They are stronger and fitter then when we first met; they poses courage and intent and they shine with hard won wisdom.

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