This is a catch phrase that parents often hear in therapy office, IEP meetings, websites. But what does it really mean beyond the obvious, literal sense? I recently was referring to the old parable about the blind men and the elephant. If you’re not familiar with it, it tells of six blind men that came across an elephant. However, each man only touched one part of the elephant and thus created his own version of reality from that limited experience and perspective. One man, who touched the elephant’s side, likened it to a wall while another touched the tusk and determined that elephant is like a spear. It goes on with the trunk being a snake, the leg being a tree trunk, the ear a fan, the tail a rope. Limited perspective made them miss what an elephant truly is. The most valuable times of my career as a Speech Language Pathologist have been when I was part of a multi-disciplinary collaborative team where we all learned from the other professional’s perspective and insight. I especially had a strong collaborative relationship with a most incredible Occupational Therapist during my time in the schools. The insight that I gleaned from her influences me daily and I often think, what would Julie do? There certainly are some children who truly have a single, outlier difficulty that only requires one discipline. This might be a child with a lisp, or a child with fine motor deficits but no other needs. However, many of the children we see are more involved with sensory, behavioral, and functional communication needs. All of these factors contribute to the overall disorder or diagnosis of the child. Is the behavior preventing the child from communicating or are the behaviors a physical manifestation of the frustration of not being able to communicate? Are the behaviors a result of sensory issues such as visual or auditory distractions or difficulty self-regulating? Every behavior has a function. (Read last February’s blog!) A child is not a static, one dimensional being and it is critically important to get different eyes on the child to create a comprehensive plan. This is why I am beyond thrilled to be adding our new ABA Therapy department to the Reaching New Heights. The behavioral approach differs from Speech and OT that are heavily based on theories of development. What works for one child may not work for another. Our team of experienced, diverse therapists is here to help the parents navigate through the maze of interventions. And all of the therapists will become better through working together and treating the WHOLE CHILD!
Donna Rowan Culley is a Speech Language Pathologist, owner of Reaching New Heights, Crazy Cat Lady, and admitted Word Nerd!