A Pep Talk for Clinicians. Restoring Focus – We Are Making A Difference!


Kathryn Biel

This isn’t about helping our kids who struggle to pay attention. This blog is a pep talk for us, the clinicians. I’m mostly coming from the stand point of the school-based clinician, but this can certainly apply to those in other settings, so keep reading.

I have 26 days left in the school year. Not that I’m counting or anything. 26 days is not a lot of time, especially when you consider that I have at least one meeting scheduled on 16 of those 26 days, and I’m taking one of those days off while my son graduates from elementary school (please pass the tissues). Then there’s the packing and cleaning and sorting. Not to mention all the reports I have left to write. I’m starting to—no, I’ve already got angina—thinking about it all.

And the worst part is, I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m rapidly approaching burn out. I don’t have time to finish my evals. To chase down prescriptions for summer school that the parents haven’t sent back yet. To deal with the parent demanding to know why we won’t evaluate at her child, even though no concern has been raised all year. I’m still trying to treat. To squeeze my kids in where I can. I do (HAHA) make-ups, especially if I chronically miss the same kids.

Then I look at the kids who either haven’t come as far as I’d hoped, or who are starting to fall apart. Why wouldn’t they fall apart—the adults are even having trouble keeping it together at this point. I write up the eval for the student with the progressive, terminal condition and try not to make it look too bad, even though we all know it is. I work with the child who I just cannot seem to get through to and wonder what kind of goals I can even write for him, because he ignores me the entire session as it is.

But then, I have a day like yesterday. A day that brings it all into focus. A day that reminds me why I’m here, and why I work so hard. A day where I made a difference in a child’s life. For this child and his family—a heartbreaking situation where nothing we’d tried made a difference. Watching the mom cry at meetings because her child was suffering. This mysterious condition that has been robbing him of his ability to communicate with the world. To make friends. To participate in life. And I said to her, “He doesn’t live inside the box, so we’ve got to think outside of it to help him.” And that’s what I did. And it may have changed his life. At least for yesterday, he had the ability to communicate. We’ll see what next week brings.

I am going way outside the box. I’m a physical therapist, but I’m trying to figure out what is going on in this kid’s brain. What is driving (or getting in the way) of his motor control. Way outside my comfort zone. But I stepped outside of my box and tried. And this one time, it was successful. Yesterday, my heart was full. I knew that all the paperwork, the bodily fluids, the tantrums (from students, parents, and coworkers alike), the running around, the exhaustion—it is all worth it.

For the rest of my 26 days this year, I will remember that. Why I do what I do. Why we all do what we do. When you’re approaching that burn out. When you don’t want to think. When you’re ready to just phone it in. Remember, what we do makes a difference. We may not be told that. Parents may not express their gratitude. Students may not realize that all that hard work has had results. Teachers may not realize what we’re doing. But we’re making a difference. We’re helping, each and every day.

And that is something on which we should stay focused.

~Kathryn Biel, PT, DPT