Encourage: To improve someone’s spirit by giving them hope or confidence.
To every mom, dad, grandma, granddad, aunt, uncle, brother, and sister – we see you. Challenging would be the optimal word to describe our current situation. Routines have been thrown out of the window, changes of scenery depend 100% on weather or the amount of gas in the car’s tank. Your support system has become distant and virtual, nonfamilial human touch is nonexistent and it is you and your child 100% of the time. Explanations aren’t always easy and fear of the unknown can lace every breath. As you manage laundry, meals, cleaning, tantrums, bandaids, questions, disrupted sleep, school work, medications, messes, and rainy days we’ve asked you to add teletherapy to the mix.
While this may seem easy, it is in fact far more difficult than either party could have ever anticipated. You now rely on our instruction and we rely on your skill. You’ve become a PT, OT, SLP overnight. We ask you to feel the subtle differences while positioning, manage fear and vomit with feeding, reduce frustration with difficult motor tasks, and if that is not enough, we ask you to do that even when not in our virtual treatment room. It can feel overwhelming. A daunting task. You don’t want to tell us you didn’t do it. You may struggle with feelings of guilt for just making it through the day without giving a thought to the extra things we’ve asked of you. You may be just barely holding it together.
Let me tell you, WE ARE PROUD OF YOU! On top of the fears, heartbreak, struggles, and emotions you already manage as the parent of a child with special needs, a pandemic has been added to your plate. But you are excelling! You wake up each day. Your child is fed. Your child is happy. And you are able to do that day after day.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to travel abroad and interact with the forgotten children of an entire country. Here is an excerpt from my journal during that time:
“I’ve worked and loved amongst the outcasts. I’ve cuddled the child who shares a ‘house’ with 10 others plus a pig and several chickens. I’ve kissed the face of a child who hasn’t bathed in days. I’ve walked and laughed with the thieves of the land. I’ve shared a meal with the outcasts of an entire country and played games with those who are so diseased they aren’t expected to live past 30- and they don’t. The reaction of some of God’s own is to ignore these people. I’ve gotten the look of shock when His children find out where I’ve been and where I’ll be going. I’ve gotten the warning looks and the cautious talks.”
The difference that keeps me going and provides my passion is the difference between forgotten and loved. At the end of the day, your child is loved. Your child has a roof and 4 walls. You refuse to let your child be an outcast and we come along beside you and fight for them too. Each precious face and beautiful set of eyes is loved.
Did you accomplish the whole to-do list for today? No. Did you devote 10 minutes to the home exercises we talked about? No. Are there toys on the floor? Yes. Piles of laundry? Yes. That’s OK! We see you doing your best during these challenging times. We come alongside you to encourage you. You can do this! You are doing this!
–Addie Burnham, Pediatric Occupational Therapist