A Word on “Progress”

What does it mean when you work with a client day in and day out over the course of months or even years? It means that you celebrate all the small victories along the way. Every single tiny step, every little moment, even something as seemingly insignificant as teaching a child to utter a single sound or helping them learn to receptively identify a picture of a butterfly.

It means you become focused on the progress. We are trained to hone in on the small steps, the fundamental skills, the building blocks to successful learning.

This process doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, dedication, an unbelievable amount of patience, and most of all, it takes skill. Skilled and knowledgeable clinicians who know what goals to work on, how a particular child learns the best, how to motivate, encourage, and reinforce good behaviors, while simultaneously tearing down the barriers that stand in that child’s way to learning.

When you work with a client day in and day out, sometimes you can lose sight of the big picture. I recently went and observed a session with a child whom I hadn’t seen in a year.

The teaching procedures remained the same, the focus remained the same, the overall process remained the same, but the child had changed.  The child had grown and progressed in his learning so much in one year it was remarkable.  He was taught one small step at a time. Fine motor skills, language skills, social skills, play skills, and many more, all building on each other, all collectively coming together to create a solid foundation of the skills required to be successful in learning and successful in life.

This process is similar to building a house from the ground up. You need a solid foundation and by adding one block at a time on the exact level that is needed you will eventually construct a beautiful and solid structure.

The child I observed was still working on constructing his house. The current therapists were facing some of the same obstacles to their construction and even some new ones, but they remain on course, they don’t let any small hiccup stop that child from achieving their goals.

The therapists are down on the ground with the child helping them to construct every area of their house, aiding in the process, offering guidance when needed and then removing that guidance slowly and systematically until the child is independently creating his house.  From the plumbing, to the electrical to the frames of the rooms, and everything in between.  It’s difficult when you are this involved in the process to step outside of the house and marvel at all its glory as all these areas are coming together.

While observing that session I had the opportunity to do just that.  The therapist working with this client was probably wondering why tears were constantly welling up in my eyes as they worked on their goals.  I watched in amazement as they worked together.  I watched the child sitting so nicely in his chair, following instructions, engaging and playing with the therapist, and showing off all of his new skills.  My heart was melting, and I realized that I don’t do this enough.  I don’t step outside to take a breath, and simply appreciate the progress.

There will always be a goal. There will always be a plan, and there will always be room to grow, but now and then it’s important to pause, take a deep breath, and take a moment to recognize all the hard work, and appreciate the child for where they are and where they’ve been.

By: Nina Koehler