I wrapped up my advanced clinic this past Thursday after 17 weeks of blood, sweat, and awkward moments to more than fill up my quota for the next few months. I’m grateful for the experience even though I kvetched for a good year about my (now ridiculous) fear/anxiety/hesitance and somewhat immature viewpoint of working with the adult population. I’m not an adult pop. convert yet, but I did lift my self-imposed ban on working with them, so progress and all that.
I was, on average, about 30 years younger than most of the clients so the respect issue was something I initially worried about. Compliments and keeping the conversation about them easily won them over (oh, kind of like with anyone!). Another minor issue that bugged me as the semester progressed was how lacking in the “life stories” department I was. I didn’t have this repertoire of amusing anecdotes to sprinkle throughout the session that my supervisor had and used to create rapport with the adults. I’ll get those as I age, but my impatience to have that (and to already be an experienced veteran clinician, dammit) right.now colored some of the experience. So instead food, sports, daily activities and anecdotes of people I know and secondary sourced stories became my specialty. Tip: Food is a winner. I can’t tell you how many of the language exercises revolved around it, it was such an easy and receptive topic.
An upside was that I was never nervous running the groups. Strange how I can switch on and off that ‘clinician in charge’ persona in front of 5o-year-olds, yet squirm, splutter and flail while presenting to my class of peers. Revelation: power, or at least feeling like you have it, kicks public speaking’s ass. I also dug that I got to refine my skills in cueing and rephrasing questions and answers in a moment’s notice if I saw that the client was struggling. I had many a moment of awkward delayed silence while I racked my brain for the best way to restate something in a simpler way or give really good cues to the answer without giving too much away and it being enough to for their brains to grind out the correct response. It’s an art, seriously.
What I’ll miss:
- That the group I genuinely enjoyed working with the most was ESL and required a translator. Those folks were always cheerful, cracking jokes in Spanish that I can only assume were funny, as far as I could gather from their rip-roaring laughter.
- The frightening(ly fun) answers given by some of the clients in response to my open-ended questions.
- Me: “Name two things that are red” – Old guy: “Eyes after smoking marijuana… and a murder scene.”
- Me: Okay, let’s work on our descriptive vocabulary. Pretend I’ve never seen or heard of a teddy bear before, how would you describe it to me?” Another client: “You can stab it with a knife and it won’t die.” Me: “….”.
- The awful questions some of the language stimulus books offered up for discussion.
- “What questions would you need to ask before: buying a house, investing in a company, voluntary sterilization“.
- Figurative language: “Are you having fun when you raise the roof?”
- The upper level language groups because I could use riddles and word play exercises and they ate that stuff up. I realize I’m terrible for having enjoyed saying “gotcha!” to them, but it was oh so fun.
- “Does England have a fourth of July?” “No.” You bet your ass they do, they just don’t celebrate Independence Day.
- That I was called Pretty Lady in place of my name (they forgot it often). Does right by my ego.
- That it took only 5 minutes of prep time to do the sessions. For kids, it took me easily 1-2 hours to get the crafts and games ready.
- One of the clients was a musician who had toured with Yanni. I got pretty excited when I heard that, not going to lie.
- The old man who sat in his wheelchair on a sidewalk 15 minutes from the clinic. Day in and day out, waving down every car passing by. And bless him, he started wearing a Santa hat and foam finger in the last 2 weeks. The first time I drove by him I wasn’t too sure whether it was because he was in need of assistance or just being friendly. The slow waving of both hands muddles that greeting/signal for help line.
- The savory phyllo pastry aroma that was always in the senior center. Just a general stroll through the room was rewarding – their physical activity consisted of lifting water bottles up and down and then picking up their feet for a few seconds, the entertainment was History channel videos, singing along to Sinatra on karaoke, and this one elderly gentleman who played some mean ragtime on the center’s out-of-tune piano.
What I won’t miss:
- The waft of cafeteria-crafted lunchtime fish meals mixed with sweat that hits you while exiting your final daily sessions into the adult center.
- Guilt for occasionally forgetting to go and grab one of the seniors for therapy.
- How one particular client would fall asleep during therapy. Snoring and the dropping of the head would commence literally seconds after the turn was done. I would have been amused, but having to preface every question for them with “Wake up, ___” gets old.
- Improvement is rarely seen from this specific group. Degenerative disorders are just that, they progressively get worse. You’re trying to stave off as long as you can what it will eventually get to them. It’s just as unlikely to see change if it’s been years since their stroke or traumatic brain injury because the window for huge improvements is 6 months to a year immediately after their injury. You have to really love working with adults to be okay with not seeing changes (and in a lot of cases seeing their health decline over time) like you would more easily in a kid.
Next semester (my last!) I’ll be in a public school working with kiddos 4-5 days a week, on top of multicultural clinic 2 nights a week, and taking my last class, an autism seminar. Then after taking the PRAXIS, I can then officially add an M.A., CCC-SLP to my name (and I guess get a job too). Fancy!