Monday, November 18, 2013

On the Flip Side

So, the other day I got a little nudge.

Kristin got her cousin to send me a hint. Where's the educational SLP? Isn't he suppose to post things as well? His he permanently stuck writing progress reports and IEPs?

Well, yes. He is.

So, I am going to blame the same things I always blame... parenthood and netflix. What can you do?

Anyway, I wanted to talk briefly about my experience on the flip side. What is it like to be a parent with a child who has special needs, at least from my perspective.

My son, Logan has always been a bit rambunctious and a little behind his sisters when it comes to many developmental milestones. Yet we didn't right away recognize that he might have special needs. Many people had told us that boys are more difficult than girls. We just assumed that they were very right. Once our little boy became mobile then he learned real quick how to get into just about everything. He also demonstrated many characteristics that were similar to students with ASD. At the time he was very echolalic, he wouldn't socialize with others, he couldn't handle any changes to his routine, and he got hyper-focused (obsessed) on particular items or topics.

Sometimes parents get a blindside to their own children which was definitely the case for us. It wasn't till our child was old enough to go to the children's class at our church when we began to realize that our child wasn't like the other children his age. He was the only kid who couldn't sit still during class. We had the "problem child", the kid that people tend to question what the parents are doing. Were the parents doing any discipline in the home at all? Don't get me wrong, most of the people at my church were very nice about it, trying their best to help Logan participate in primary
. Yet, we knew that something was wrong, or at least suspected.

I called up my sister-in-law and point blank asked her, "Do you think my son has a disability?"

She replied, "I would never say anything negative about your son. You know we all love him, but to be honest, none of my kids were ever that hard."

I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. What did I do wrong? I was suppose to know how to fix children who had problems. I was suppose to be a better father. Did we not give him enough attention? Were we not consistent enough in our disciple? What did we do wrong? My wife took it equally hard. She felt that everybody hated our son. She felt that people thought we were bad parents when he was melting down in public over one thing or another. My wife also has Special Education background. So, she also felt the double guilt that I was feeling. Not only were we bad parents in our minds, we were also bad professionals.

Its easy to tell parents that it isn't their fault that their child has special needs, but its difficult as parents to listen and believe that simple truth. That nagging feeling of "what if I just did this differently?" clings to our minds. It's difficult to shake off.

We had Logan tested. The local elementary school's preschool team gave him a variety of assessments including developmental, cognitive, expressive and receptive language, social, etc. We had to wait even longer for special Autism testing.

Several labels were thrown around willy nilly. I started to realize why first person speech was so important. We could tell who saw our son as a disability first and who saw him as a little boy first. It was a huge difference to us. Parents are a lot more perceptive than you might think. They can tell if you really care about their child or not. It makes a big difference to have people working who want the absolute best for your child, people who will look at their strengths as well as their weaknesses. I found also that I didn't care about the label; it seemed much more important to other people.

This experience has completely changed how I see my profession and how I interact with students and with parents.

There is much more I could write about this, but frankly I need to get back to my family.


  1. Point well taken - Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants to help us remember how and why we do what we do! (p.s. your little guy is a cutie!)

  2. Ha ha, well, I might have said something about you when my cousin asked! Nice post- wow Bob! This just shows how out-of-touch we are. I had no idea about your little guy! And it's true that it's so much harder to see things when it's happening in your own family. So how old was he when you had him tested? I'm trying to think of how old he is now and I'm guessing that's a pretty old pic? So did they officially Dx him with Autism? He is in great hands with you and Lindy as his parents- with all your knowledge and backgrounds! Thanks for sharing such a personal thing. Speaking of personal things- we need to do something- like a grad school reunion? Dinner with spouses? Whatever! Especially before I have this baby and we are both less mobile! :)

  3. Bob. We school slps are happy you're back! Keep your posts coming, even if they're short. I am glad you posted something so personal. This perspective can really help all of us. Give us an update on your son some time soon and maybe a post about how you run your schedule/service delivery model some time. I am looking for others' ideas. May need to change things up in my school starting in Jan.

  4. I love this post, I feel like I could have written it myself. *hugs*

  5. This completely hits home for me. We have 5 boys now and our oldest who is 9 has always been our most difficult child, though I didn't realize it until he went to nursery at church. As our second one came along, and he was more mild tempered, it hit me even harder. And I'm an SLP and supposed to be fully aware of all this! It was heart breaking. We still have our challenges and we take each day one at a time. One of the hardest things for me now is that since, he's the oldest, the younger ones behave just like him, even though they don't really have any issues. When the oldest isn't around, the other 4 are mostly chill - if I can call it that - they're boys! I hope you feel loved by family/friends and find comfort in faith. Keep posting things that you find helpful - or not so helpful. It just might help someone else. Thanks so much for sharing something so personal.

  6. I now have 3 kids on IEPs, two of them have speech. Everybody assumes that my kids are in good hands because they have an SLP dad. Well, I'm like never home and its very different working with your own child. I heard an expression the other day, "The Cobbler's children go barefoot." and its so true. Its the same for my friend who has a dentist for a father. Its really easy for us to not want to think about our profession the second we go home, because we have a ton of other things to stress about in regards to our children. Think about it, as an SLP we don't have to worry about our students' health, sleep, clothes, and so on, but as a parent you have to worry about all of it. It makes me want to be a little more patient with parents.

  7. Hi! Just finally reading this. How are your kids' speech therapies going? That's so interesting about the Cobbler's kids. There's a lot of pressure on us to work on our own kids' speech and language. I think you should totally write this comment into a new little post so people will see it-- I bet it happens to a lot of people!