This insightful reflection is one of two pieces written by Jessica VandenBrink, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Comprehensive Therapy Center. All client names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.
It’s the first day of Therapy and Fun: a warm, beautiful day. It starts with the opportunity to greet excited, nervous, and crying children with their names held high in the sky. As an SLP, I stand smiling, thinking of all the plans I had for teaching each individual student for the summer. I’m standing beside a graduate SLP student; we would work together to greet, incorporate a dialogue, and start the morning off with a fun welcome.
As we gallop, hop, or jump across the parking lot, there is a myriad of fun obstacles to starting our gross-motor workout. We watch others that will become our friends throughout the summer stumble off the balance beam or miss a bean bag toss into the bucket bonanza. When the music starts playing, we scurry over to join our circle of friends and start learning the first couple of movements to the chicken dance. We finish up our last song, ending in: “It’s time for you to go, It’s time for you to go, hi ho a cherry oh, it’s time for you to go inside.”
The volunteers are making the day run smoothly. They help bring friends in and out of their assigned rooms for art, music, dance, occupational therapy, speech therapy, reading, and fun! Our speech team retreats to our comfortable rooms at the end of the hall. Each student – except one – enters the room with a shy look in their eyes. We start with a book about school friends. Some are a little nervous to meet new friends, but I can spot the Therapy and Fun friends who’ve been here before, excited to see everyone they may not have seen since last summer.
Oh boy! It’s a joyous reunion!
George greets me with an “I know you!” and continues to blurt out about every idea he thinks of throughout the first lesson. We practice taking turns reading, answering questions with on-topic responses, and not talking when someone else is talking. This is hard work at first. The time together feels short as we transition to snack time or oral motor exercise group.
As we circle up to exercise our lips, mouth, tongue, and cheeks, I notice it is hard to pay attention when there are so many bright colored blocks in the corner, just waiting to be played with. We pass out the blocks to add some music and a beat to our exercises. There is a lot of hard work to do, preparing our mouths to speak clearly and getting ready for our snack time. Once we get the snacks, it feels like a family dinner as we gather around our snack table. The volunteer clinicians and friends are talking all about their favorite games, movies, foods…
We sing The Ants Go Marching as we head out the door. Stephanie walks to the next room, but gets tired and takes a seat on the bench. We are off to speech to work on responding with more than 2 words. We play Simon Says in the hallway until we get to the speech room. What fun and laughs are shared when patting our stomachs, taking tiny steps, and tickling our knees. And so the day goes on.
When we part for the afternoon, our friends are ready to see their parents and take a nap. We’re all ready to join our families and get some rest. With a smile, I think of the new and old friends I’ve met today; I can’t wait to see everyone again tomorrow.