a life changed…
Close to two years ago, I wrote a post entitled the little battlefields which told the story of my patient at the time, “T”. She had just finished first grade and during an initial session, told me her teacher essentially told her that her intelligence was inadequate for the first grade.
Here’s an excerpt from that post:
My mind was spinning. What in the world is this girl going through at school? We changed gears to one of T’s favorite activities to try to lighten the mood and finish on a positive note. She cheered up and her session ended. Since I had a break after seeing T, I asked her mom to come back to chat with me. I shared my concerns about T’s comments; some obvious red flags for a 7-year-old child. My initial comment was:
“It’s not uncommon for kids to feel they are stupid when they come here, but it seems like someone is tormenting her with this ‘you’re stupid’ idea. Can you help me understand?”
Mom started crying.
Her mom shared that T’s first grade teacher was very strict and quite unforgiving. Through her body language she would “acknowledge the successful kids, and ignore the struggling kids”. Mom explained that the teacher let the struggling kids know, in no uncertain terms, that she did not have time for the kids that struggled. Apparently, even suggesting at one point that some kids in her class “should have stayed in Kindergarten.”
“My daughter was crushed. It makes me so sad because I didn’t find out any of this was going on until a week before school ended. T refused to get out of bed, refused to go to school, and refused to tell me what was going on. Her teacher had scared her so badly, all T could do was hide within herself.”
Five or six months after that post was written, T graduated from our VT program and was well on her way through second grade. She was a new kid, brimming with confidence and ready to take on the world. The VT we offered her was as much about demonstrating to T what she could do and how smart she was, as it was about anything else. She really became a great success story.
Fast forward 18 months…
Yesterday on my way home from dropping my daughter off at her mom’s house following a golf lesson, I stopped at my local grocery for a few things. (…my co-workers are laughing right now because I’ve become notorious for seeing people I know at the this very same grocery store…). I was in a bit of a hurry, zipping up and down the isles to get the few things I needed, when I hear this…
“Stop walking so fast…(a little girl giggles)…I wanna say hello!”
After the voice repeated itself three or four times, I realized they were speaking to me. I turned around, and there was T. She was taller than I remember and smiling from ear to ear; her arms outstretched for a hug. Her mom caught up and offered a hug, too.
We spent several minutes catching up, talking about school, about family, and our neighborhood (we figured out we live three blocks from each other) and everything in between. When I asked her about school, she went on for several minutes about achieving straight “A’s” thus far in third grade, she told me of a writing group she joined for fun along with the poem writing contest she entered and won, and she told me of how amazing it feels to learn new and exciting things. She’s even got her sights set on the GT Program (Gifted and Talented) next year. Now 9 years old, she’s quite a different kid than the defeated 7-year-old who cried during her first VT session. Her level of self-confidence is incredible when compared to that little girl we met a few years ago. We exchanged hugs once again, promised to keep in touch, and went our separate ways.
One of the best things we can do for our patients is to simply love them a little. That was the case with T, and clearly, she felt that love and now loves us back. I often tell my fellow therapists that the greatest compliment we can ever receive is the kid who doesn’t want to leave VT when it’s time to graduate. They know we’ve helped them, they know we care, and even if they are not able to verbalize completely they recognize that we are a safe place to take risks and rebuild. For some people it can be emotional to say goodbye to that safety, and T was one of those kids. She cried on her first day of VT and she cried on her last, but for very different reasons. She came in defeated; she left confident in herself. For me, having the opportunity to witness her transformation, both in the VT room and now in this chance encounter have been beyond amazing. Something tells me the world has not heard the last from this young lady, and to know that in some small way we’ve been a part of that, is a pretty incredible feeling.
It’s quite possible we have the best jobs in the entire world.