the human tornado…
If there’s one common skill area that could always be improved, it might be our patience. Patience at home, with our kids, with co-workers, in the therapy room and even in personal relationships. As humans go, patience will ebb and flow with the changes to our personal space, and those who occupy it. But what should we do when a patient lays it on thick, and our professional patience runs thin?
One of my latest, and perhaps greatest challenges ever in this area is a current 7 year old male patient, affectionately referred to by his parents as “the human tornado”. Much like his pseudo namesake, he can go from zero to disaster in no time flat. Equipment being knocked over or broken, catapulting objects off our trampoline, firing beanbags at other unsuspecting patients, even using our nice new shiny Sanet Vision Integrator as a backstop as he gives the Marsden Ball a violent swing. Ironically, he loves to make a “whooshing” noise with his mouth during his most destructive moments. The human tornado – quite apropos.
Having started and stopped his Vision Therapy program several times over the last year, mostly due to his family’s financial concerns, we have become accustomed to reviewing the rules of the VT Room again and again and again – every time he comes in. Don’t touch this, please ask first, let’s be sure not to bother other patients, that’s not something we should be throwing, please stop talking so you can hear my directions, pounding on the wall is not OK, you don’t need to scream in this small room because I can hear you just fine – and my personal favorite – please keep your pants on, we’re not that kind of doctor’s office.
Don’t laugh, I’m totally serious.
His parents are fantastic people, perhaps a little weak in providing some much needed structure, but nonetheless fantastic people. Always supportive, always engaged and always willing to offer help in calming the storm. Sometimes they’re effective, but most times not. We’ve learned to only ask for their help only when all other strategies for reeling their son in have failed. Sometimes guiding him through a Vision Therapy session where nothing is accomplished but nothing gets broken is a true success. Not always though. Some days we accomplish a little, some days a little more, and during one visit we actually completed three activities in 55 minutes. To suggest that this little guy wears on my patience at times would be a monumental understatement. He’s tough. As hard as it is, and perhaps even counter-intuitive, sometimes the best reaction with this young man in to have no reaction. Take a deep breath, smile, and keep on moving. Remember the cliche about never letting them see you sweat? It applies. The more we react and possibly feed into the behavior, the more he reacts and spirals downward. We can only guide the behavior as much as possible, do the best VT we can with whatever behavior we’re faced with, and be ready to change directions quickly if and when the storm starts brewing. Above all else, stay calm and have as much patience as we can muster. Coincidentally, many parents have praised me for my patience with their kids, an appreciated comment that always makes me laugh a little though since they’ve never seen me with my kids. They also have never been around when the tornado blows through. Honestly, I work very hard both at home and with this most challenging young man, to ensure there’s enough patience to go around.
In particular, working with this young man has taught me to behave like a duck swimming on a pond – calm on the surface, but underneath, paddling with all my might.