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.