As an occupational therapist, we advocate. I have always advocated for my patients and I do so frequently working as a pediatric outpatient clinician. But one day I got a girl on my caseload who really changed the way I looked at advocacy. It became so much more than just a discussion or a well written letter of medical necessity.
B, was a 10 year old girl with a diagnosis of Autism. B had a very low frustration tolerance, often becoming aggressive and a danger to herself and her family, as a result of poor receptive language and no expressive language skills.
As I worked with B, I realized that something was really wrong with her school placement, a public school self-contained classroom. B’s mother told me; via interpreter phone as the household spoke only Spanish, that because of B’s aggression her mother was frequently called to take her home from school “sick”. B was not bussed into school because they couldn’t ensure she would stay seated, making her mother drive her. Additionally, I was told there was never an interpreter at IEP meetings and paperwork wasn’t provided to her in Spanish.
Things weren’t going well in B’s OT sessions either. She would urinate whenever I placed any demand, requiring her mother to change her underwear, pants, and socks, sometimes up to 2x within the hour. This happened often at school too, and at the school’s request B was brought to the doctor multiple times with no results. During one session, she became aggressive attempting to bite, hit, kick and pull hair resulting in the need for me to bring in security. When I told her mom she would have to be discharged, as she was inappropriate for our setting, her mother was in tears; but I assured her even though we were no longer going to treat B we were going to continue to help.
I needed to find a way to assist this family who was clearly struggling. Our clinic has a designated person who is employed as a resource. So I got her involved. This person actually went down to the school the next day with B’s mom to advocate for a bus with a 5 point harness and an aide. She provided her mother with bilingual child advocate services who went to IEP meetings. I spoke to the teacher at B’s school who was willing to talk to the child study team on behalf of B and her mother. B’s mother and I spoke every day on the phone to see how things were going, just to let her know that we were still there. In the end, B was finally moved to a private school that met her needs.
It was absolutely amazing what we were able to do for this child and family. Now every time I think about advocating for a child I think just what a small bit of time and care can do, and what a huge difference it can make.
Rachael wins a free 2 Day live course of her choosing: $435 value.
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