Adventures in Speech Language Pathology Part II: Losing My Hair (Literally)

Attempt #2 here since WordPress only published half of my post earlier this week…

After a co-worker became pregnant this summer, I oh-so-kindly took on one of her more aggressive students. Now, if you are reading this from purely a “typical” school background, let me clarify. Aggressive in the world of working with students with ASD is not slamming doors or kicking desks. Some of our students engage in some pretty seriously violent behavior. Please let me stress, some. 

I digress. I began working with this student during our summer session and rarely had to deal with anything more than a tantrum that involved a few attempted punches. Still, he was not safe for Miss Preggo-Eggo. Once fall began, his behaviors greatly escalated and I learned some ninja-style blocking maneuvers pretty quickly to save my face. It became a regular occurrence to address no speech goals and only work on behavior management.

Fast forward three weeks into school and I’m having a speech session in this student’s classroom because I was warned he was having an off day and I probably don’t want to be alone with him. It’s going great! He’s listening to directions, he’s interacting appropriately with peers, he’s imitating target sounds… he’s jerking my head toward the ground by my hair.

“BANANA!!!!” Sounds like a weird thing to yell, I know, but this is our school’s code word for “Give me some freaking help NOW!”

Would really be great if all the staff were aware of this.

A somewhat new TA is only about 2 feet away, but it takes me shouting “banana” two more times and finally “help!” to get anyone’s attention. While my student’s vice grip on my hair is pried open by three adults, his expression remains disturbingly placid.

Finally, release. I retreat to my office to hide and take a moment to cry in peace. Then, I pulled myself together and returned to treatment sessions for the remainder of the day.

As the day progressed, the burning sensation faded and severe pain in my neck and back set in. An urgent care visit, X-rays, and orthopedic visit concluded that I had sprained my neck and had “one of worst cases of whiplash” the doctor had ever seen.

This would send most people running from their jobs and, truthfully, I wanted to for a time; however, I can’t do that to my kids. Some days are so overwhelming and intense that it would be much easier to quit and be an SLP somewhere else, but then there are days where I hear a five year old child speak for the first time and know that I had a small part in making that happen. Somehow, the tiny accomplishments every day make all of the pain worth it.


Adventures in Speech Language Pathology Part I: Poop

After working in day care centers and preschools to support my way through six years of school, I thought my days dealing with poop were finally finished. I started my first job as a Speech Language Pathologist and figured I have a master’s degree, so I won’t be changing any diapers until I pop out my own babies, right? Wrong.

Less than a month into my first job I had a terrifying encounter with the bowel movements of a four year old. I should probably preface this story with the fact that I work with children on the autism spectrum, many of whom have challenging behaviors. I digress… My session with this particular student  began by her attempting to claw my eyes out and she managed to scratch my nose. After cleaning up the blood and her hands, she immediately stood up and yelled, “POOPY!!” Oh boy! This was my very first poopy diaper situation at the new job and no one decided to warn the new girl that my student throws poop. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

We made our way to the bathroom and got everything set up. The second the diaper was removed, her hands were in the poop and moving faster than anything I have ever seen. She was like a machine gun shooting poop instead of bullets. I wish I was exaggerating when I say that there was feces everywhere in that room. Miraculously, I didn’t have a speck on me!

Need I say more?

After reigning in that situation, I felt pretty confident with my ability to handle distressing situations involving excrement. That is until last week…

Typical Wednesday afternoon, I go to pick up one of my little guys from his classroom for speech. For the purposes of this entry we will call him Daniel. Some days, Daniel is very excited for speech and others he throws himself on the floor and tantrums until I carry him to our designated “speech corner.” This was one of those difficult days and I swooped in to carry him over; he calmed down the minute he was in my arms. After settling Daniel into his chair, I sat down next to him to begin therapy. A moment later, I dropped something onto the floor. And that’s when I saw it.

Oh. My. God. Whatisonmyclothes. No. No. NO. Pleasetellmethatisnotpoop. No. No. It’s absolutely, positively, 100% shit.

As I stood staring down at myself in horror, Daniel sat angelically staring at me like his poop wasn’t all over my pants and shirt. When asked if he pooped, he pleasantly responded, “No,” while he had smears up to his shoulder blades.

I am not a mom, so I am not accustomed to dealing with this nor do I really want to deal with this until it is my time for children. It took over 20 minutes to clean him off (there goes my beautiful speech session) and I immediately left to go change. Did I have extra clothes with me? Of course not. Thank goodness I live close to work and was able to rush home to throw my clothes into the wash on the sanitize cycle.

When I began my career, I knew speech language pathology encompassed targeting a large array of needs, but I never expected to have feces thrown at me or have it smudged into my khakis. I am now a pro diaper changer and can dodge the messiest of missiles. Although I am on the road to being ready for anything by the time motherhood comes my way, maybe I can stick to providing therapy rather than clean-ups in future sessions? Here’s to hoping!

– C