My Living Legend…
As a passionate Vision Therapist I really have only one serious goal…I want to be just like Linda Sanet.
I first encountered Linda at an OEPF sponsored event in San Jose, CA in 2000, where she was teaching a weekend course. At the time, I had been working with patients less than a year and over the course of that weekend, I was sold. She is the real deal. Not long after, I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Linda for almost five years. I could write a book on how amazing she is as a person, and then write another book about how fascinating it was to see her in action as a Vision Therapist. In the years since working in the same office, Linda has been and continues to be an amazing friend and sounding board, be it regarding a patient who is troubling me or a personal matter where no response is needed. Even from afar, she continues to inspire, continues to amaze, and is never short on ideas when they are most needed. For those who have never seen her in action, believe me when I tell you the hype is real, her reputation should always precede her, and she is as close to a living legend as you will ever meet.
She is just that good.
In the twelve or so years since we worked in the same office, I’ve always tried to be “more like Linda”, emulating her compassion, her drive and her integrity. I will not pretend I’ve ever been fully successful, although I’d like to believe I’ve had moments where I may have come close. Linda always seems to just know what a patient needs, to just know how to approach an activity, and to just know whether levity would work better over a more earnest approach. Some of the ideas and concepts she came up with, seemingly on the fly, continue to amaze me; particularly, in light of the fact the more I realize just how tough some of our patients can be and how thinking on your feet is a skill set unto itself. Even after some time of being “out on my own”, I still find myself wishing I could lean over and see what Linda is doing. Including today…
About three months ago, a patient was added to my schedule who was supposed to be straightforward, and dare I say the word, easy. She was diagnosed with some mild Convergence Insufficiency challenges and was having trouble remembering what she read. This young lady, all of 9 years old, seemed to be bright, bubbly, full of life, and she always walked in with a smile. As her sessions progressed, I came to realize easy she is not. In fact, quite the contrary. Among other schemes I’ve picked up on, she is a “skimmer”, who is never really willing to make too much of an effort. For those unfamiliar with the term or idea, to me a skimmer is someone who “skims” the surface of the water just to get the answer, never really diving deep into their skill set because that’s where the challenges are hidden. It’s just easier to keep things on the surface and not worry about the tough stuff. In a nutshell, that describes our therapy sessions over the last few months. Recently, I’ve been digging in a bit, working to find the answers which may not be on the surface but require some thought, some risk taking, and some bravery. Mostly bravery. I’ve come to realize this young lady is one of those students who has probably survived in the shadows. Her grades are just good enough to get by, her outward approach is just strong enough so no one will offer to help, and her frustration is through the roof because despite her best efforts, this is how things have turned out. She doesn’t want anyone to know how bad things are, including me, and tries with everything she has to put on a brave face. The emotional wall between where she lives and a successful outcome is well constructed and seems to serve a dual purpose; keep the negative out and to keep her struggles hidden on the inside. In other words, she just doesn’t go there.
If you never read or believe another word I write about myself, please remember this: I feel for these kids because I used to be one of them. We need to make this better.
Have I mentioned how much I want to be just like Linda? I have found myself thinking long and hard recently (called daydreaming) about how Linda would handle this situation, or perhaps in terms closer to the disciples, what would Linda do? One of the thoughts which continues running through my head is my patient needs to get out of her own way, she needs to have a breakthrough so she can heal. My sense is she has all of this emotion surrounding her struggles and it is literally standing in the way of her own success because the risk taking has been knocked out of her. What do I do with that? Do we push? Do we back off? Do I create a safe place for her to stumble? Do we refer her to psychology?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good as Linda Sanet in the Vision Therapy room, but I can promise anyone reading this I spend each and every day trying to be. Working to ask the right questions, working to choose the right activity, and working to create a safe environment for all my patients to succeed or fail. This young lady has her guard up, and she will not put it down or let go of it until I can make her feel safe enough to do so, and maybe then we can have a much needed breakthrough. Maybe then she will trust me enough to take a risk.
After 19 years in the VT room, it’s not often I feel the pressure of helping a tough patient. For the most part, my approach is good planning, solid programming, followed by a well executed session and things generally tend go well. For some reason, those tactics just don’t seem like enough in this situation. There seems to be more to this, although I can’t seem to wrap my head around why my feelings are such. There’s more to this little girl than a Convergence Insufficiency diagnosis. Her quality of life and her future success is literally in my hands and she needs me to figure this out.
As I wrote that last sentence, I couldn’t help but wonder if Linda feels that level of responsibility with all of her patients.
Maybe that’s why she’s so good…