I almost didn’t post this entry. I admit that I am probably over-dramatic, and posts like these probably detract from the competent, professional image I often try to project. But I am trying to be authentic in my blogging efforts, and perhaps admitting that I often feel rather incompetent in the scope of my work is very authentic indeed. No downloadable resources in this post; sorry…today is a day for a bit of reflection. Enjoy, or not….this is me, doing my best to LiveSpeakLove.
Today I entered the beautiful, picturesque world of American Girl. After years of playing super heroes, dragons and ninjas with my older boys, I was now perfectly delighted to sigh and squeal in delight at exquisite eighteen-inch dolls and their miniature shoes, clothes and numerous accessories. I had no idea how inconspicuously captivating this world would be. Visiting one of their stores today was admittedly a sensory-rich experience, with endless displays of distinctive dolls in various poses. Their charming accessories, furnishings, pets and attire all documented their participation in the most wonderfully enjoyable activities. Slumber parties, sports games, music & theater performances, cooking extravaganzas and acrobatics…these American Girls were apparently living the American Dream. I watched my own American Girl, her eager smile and glazed expression slowly taking in the scenes around her. The hours she had previously spent in “research,” poring over each page of all the catalogues that came in the mail could not have prepared her (or me) for the hypnotic confections that surrounded us as we walked through the store. I watched her eyes dance and shine, her breath catching a bit as she glimpsed one item after another which brought delight to her mind and heart.
My girl carefully but adamantly chose the doll with glasses, Molly, and a cooking kit so Molly could bake cupcakes (generous gifts from her grandmother.) We then lunched in the Bistro with Molly, who sat in a high chair provided by the restaurant. The day was carefree, fun; full of wonder and possibility. We cheerfully left the store feeling happy and content. As we drove home, my girl clutched her doll tightly and whispered to her throughout the ride. My thoughts drifted to the scenes of the day….my mind recalling the swarms of girls entering the store; group after group all having similar, wonderful experiences. All of the girls beaming with excitement to share in this real-yet-make-believe world.
My mind then drifted to my students at work, and it dawned on me that many of the girls in my school might never have even a similar experience. Never. I took note of this abject disparity –as a mom, I felt grateful to share days like today with my girl; her pure delight in this perfect, childhood experience warmed my heart. As an SLP working with some complicated kids, I ached to give these same experiences to all of the children on my caseload. My thoughts acknowledged that many of my students could not have tolerated the sensory input of the store, and many of their families could not have afforded the gifts that we were given today. The SLP in me sat thoughtful for a long while, dreaming for a way to make things different.
Dilemmas like this one strike me every so often. I wish there were a way to help my students, in all of the ways they need to be helped. The work I do with and for these children is often over-shadowed by clouds of paperwork, federal IEP timelines, caseload management constraints and factors over which I know I have no control. While I do my very best to give students engaging, differentiated therapy experiences to promote growth and success, I always wish that I could do more. I wish I could fix the disorders; dissolve the difficulties. I wish I could give disadvantaged families the money they need. I wish I could give parent-less students a stable home life. I wish I could erase harsh moments that forever shadow a student’s life. I wish I could give them all exactly what they need; give them everything they need, with lives as abundant and rich as the fictitious characters of the American Girl world. But I know I can’t.
Tomorrow, I will go to work and immerse myself in the therapy activities I have planned; collecting data, writing reports and helping each child to the best of my abilities. My work will help them progress toward mastery of IEP goals and objectives. Their skills will slowly improve. Tomorrow I will teach, and my students will learn. But today; right now, I wish that I could take each child on a trip to the American Girl Store.