I’m a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist. Here’s what I’ve learned from COVID-19.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started in China, I wasn’t worried. Things like that happen to other countries. Sure, I will wipe down all of my materials and furniture at work, but I do that regardless. It’s flu season after all. Sick kids come to my office nearly every day, and I’m used to it. Not worried at all.
Then I went to work on Thursday, March 12, 2020, and literally everything about my life changed within a 60 second announcement. Governor Tom Wolf closed all schools and non-essential businesses to help flatten the curve. At first, I thought, “Aren’t I essential?” I thought about it, and realized, I can’t control who’s coming in and out of my office. Of course I know my clients, and they know me, and we are all doing our part to stay healthy. The fact of the matter was, this virus is invisible. As much as I do, and as much as my clients do, we can’t control this. My Clorox wipes can’t control this. My work is ALL about contact. I am touching faces, giving high fives, touching game pieces, mirrors, picture cards; the list goes on. In all good consciousness, I knew I had to do my part. I closed my practice’s physical office immediately and jumped into teletherapy. Luckily, my feet had already been pretty wet from a handful of previous clients that participated in teletherapy. I knew it wouldn’t be the same, but it was a way to stay connected and maintain continuity of care for those who wanted it.
The silver lining to all of this- I thought I knew how amazing, special, and dedicated my clients were. I was 100% WRONG. My kids as young as three have shown up, smiles on their faces when I appear on the screen, and BRING IT. They are marking their final consonants, participating in DTTC protocol, and participating like champions. I have never been more proud of “my kids” and to be their speech-language pathologist. When they are done their work and want to sing to me, blow kisses; this is the good that can come out of a disaster. My clients are sending photos and videos saying, “I miss you” and “I can’t wait to come back!” I didn’t know sitting in graduate school, learning about anatomy and physiology, that this would be the real motivation in my day-to-day work. I never could have predicted how much love is in this field.
The field of speech-language pathologists has never failed to be a supporting, loving, “in this together” kind of group. Again, I thought I knew how much, but I have been floored with the outpouring of advice, materials, troubleshooting, and LOVE fellow SLPs are sending one another. This crisis resulted in me getting a phone call from my graduate internship supervisor, exchanging ideas and advice as we were both thrown into teletherapy. I’ve been texting with a previous CFY supervisor, now a fellow private practice owner, colleague, and friend, about what we were going to do with our caseloads, trouble shooting our teletherapy platform together. While COVID-19 is keeping all of us physically apart, I’ve never felt closer to my colleagues, friends, and clients than I do today.
There are SO many people worse off than I am. I am happy to have extra time with my hubby, my fuzzy babies, Elphie, and Finn (pictures below because it has to be done), and to gain a whole new appreciation for what my clients do. So on this very unordinary Tuesday morning, I’m so grateful to be in the field I am. I’m grateful something so terrible and deadly can still provide teaching moments.
Elphie, our black beauty (above) Finn, our pitbull baby (below with Mommy)