When Krisi asked me to write something for her blog about feeding therapy, I thought about all the various aspects of helping kids to eat: the physiological and/or medical concerns, the sensory piece, the motor skills and the learned behaviors. But what keeps popping into my head are the lessons I learned from many expert clinicians, like Krisi. (She’s turning red right now, but let me continue…)
I remember hosting Krisi’s course in Colorado several years ago. We brought in two of my clients, both with very complicated medical histories, for Krisi to evaluate while the attendees observed. She is an excellent instructor, delivering her presentation quite professionally and answering questions from the attendees with patience and expert knowledge. But, when the parent and child sat down in the front of the room, Krisi demonstrated one the most essential qualities for being an excellent therapist: She listened. She may have been the one asking the evaluation questions, but most of the time, she listened as the parent’s told their story. Her voice softened, her head gently nodded and she even listened with her eyes…somehow, she rarely looked at the paper as she jotted down notes. The 40 other people in the room seemed to disappear. She was telling those parents: You have my full attention and what you have to say is important to me.
Months later, I had an attendee in one of my courses in Baltimore, Nina Ayd Johanson, who teaches AEIOU: An Integrated Approach to Pediatric Feeding. Nina and I may appear to have different approaches to feeding treatment, but as we chatted together over lunch, we realized that we both have quite similar ideas. Honestly, I was a little nervous having her in the audience that morning because I wasn’t sure if my approach was her cup of tea. Ever gracious, she told me, “Mel, you really got me thinking differently…” Likewise, Nina gets me thinking too – and thankfully hundreds of parents and therapists around the United States. Nina brings a holistic approach to feeding therapy that I believe is the key to a successful feeding journey for every child. Nina’s lesson for all of us: Look at the big picture and be open to new ideas.
Jennifer Meyer’s courses are packed with practical tips and gems of information that Jen calls “bumper stickers” that I’ve used in my practice numerous times, thanks to her enthusiastic delivery. But what stuck with me the most was this comment: “Ground yourself before you go into a home for a therapy session. Be careful what energy you bring into an already stressed environment.” Recently, when I was having a particularly bad day due to some upsetting remarks on social media, the phone magically rang and when I answered it was Jennifer. She had seen the comments too. She was calling to ground me – to help me pause and breathe – and to support me so that I could approach a very stressful situation with a quieter, calmer energy than what I was walking into.
I could tell you so many more stories of remarkable professionals who set their egos aside and continually support fellow therapists, but I’ll conclude with Diane Bahr. Have you ever taken her courses? While you’ll learn to truly embrace the developmental process of speech and feeding, what you’ll take away when you chat with Diane one on one is how much she wants all therapists to be open to collaboration. One day, Diane took the time to write me an email, encouraging me to write a second book. She said that supporting each other is “what we are supposed to do” and she has found that indeed, “colleague feedback makes (her) work and knowledge base so much richer and better.”
So if you’re wondering where I am going with this love fest, it’s to tell you this: I’ve noticed a change over the years. When I used to teach my courses to OTs and SLPs, invariably someone would raise their hand in the audience and ask “Yes, but isn’t that the role of the speech therapist and not OT’s realm?” or “But now the BCBA’s want to be involved – and how do we decide what role they play?” or “That’s considered the OT’s job in our hospital, not the SLP’s” etc. But lately, I’m not hearing those kinds of questions, although they certainly were valid and important. I attribute it to a shift in therapists to be more collaborative, more supportive and truly refocusing on the importance of being a team. So, I thank you – each and every one of you. You’re listening to each other – you’re acknowledging each team member’s importance. You’re open to new ideas and remembering to see the big picture. You’re walking the walk – keeping comments positive and constructive, even if you disagree with another professional’s opinion. You’re changing the energy and supporting each other, regardless of “roles” assigned to us. And, you’re open to feedback when it’s delivered with kindness and encouragement. We are all in this together.
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP is a certified speech language pathologist, an international speaker on the topic of picky eating, and the author of the award winning parenting book, Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food! With over 18 years’ experience treating children with feeding difficulties, Mel’s approach to developing feeding skills includes the fundamentals of parenting in the kitchen, such as how to avoid mealtime debates and creating more joyful mealtimes, even with a hesitant eater. Mel embraces her work with families with an open heart and a touch of humor. After all, the journey to more adventurous eating should be celebrated each step of the way! She has also produced the award winning children’s CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food as a tool to keep mealtimes joyful and family centered. Connect with Melanie at My Munch Bug on facebook and twitter or email her at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.