2020 will go down in history as unprecedented. It was a year best described as a never-ending roller coaster that even the most spontaneous thrill seeker would beg to stop and get off once and for all. The world sat at home and watched time speed up and slow down simultaneously. There seemed to be more time to do the things we always wanted to do yet no opportunity to execute them effectively and safely. We collectively grieved the deaths of our favorite celebrities, watched social injustice ignite around the world, participated in tik-tok challenges, tried, and failed new recipes, and debated if Carole Baskin killed her husband.
Our daily vocabulary included social distancing, stimulus, quarantine, PPE, virtual (insert any life event), essential vs. non-essential, and for many service providers telehealth/teletherapy. Many therapists can agree that “provided teletherapy during a pandemic” is now a skill worth adding to one’s clinical toolkit. Despite the spontaneity 2020 brought, one thing that remained constant is that our clients and their families needed us to continue providing the best support possible and that is exactly what we did.
One book that changed my perspective on life is The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. The Four Agreements are: 1. Be impeccable with your word, 2. Don't’ take anything personally, 3. Don’t make assumptions, and 4. Always do your best. Number four is the agreement that helped me see the glass half full rather than empty as a service provider during a pandemic. I showed up each day to my new home office knowing that my best would vary based on my capacity, but nevertheless it was my best. Prior to establishing teletherapy in my district, we were required to contact the parents of all the students on our caseload and provide home programs and consultation addressing specific IEP goals. That sounds simple, but when you work in a transient district plagued with poverty, contacting parents can be a challenge. Often when I finally reached a parent, they would express their anxiety regarding their child’s possible regression and their inability to be a parent, teacher, and therapist at the same time in the home setting. I chose to do my best in these situations by listening and encouraging them.
Once teletherapy was established and we were trained in the new platform, I felt like my best was better than before, but still not the standard model I was used to delivering due to uncontrollable factors such as inability to access technology. I chose to do my best in this situation by directing parents/caregivers and even colleagues to appropriate resources then following up to assess the outcome. I discovered that if my students, parents, and colleagues felt heard and seen during this tough season, I had done my best, and that was enough.
It is easy to reflect on 2020 and list all the negative perspectives, but one thing is for sure is that no matter where you were, you showed up for your students and families and did your very best all while learning a new platform to provide services and managing your own personal stress. That is something to be celebrated and honored. You may be tempted to beat yourself up and ruminate on all the ways you could have done something differently but rest assured that no matter how much service you provided, your students and families appreciated it.
Author: Janani Webb, M.S., CCC-SLP