Thursday, December 3, 2009

the fish bowl

I love Thursdays at 3 o'clock. No matter what is going on at school or homeschool, with good tutors or bad, Martin goes to see Miss Beth, his speech therapist. I like these times because I get to watch a professional in action. I get to see how someone who knows what they are doing works with Martin.

The set-up is very strange. We pass through a long corridor of exercise bikes to get to the therapy room. (The facility also does physical and occupational therapy.) I can watch the speech session through one-way glass, like I'm identifying a perp on Law and Order. I get to listen to Beth and Martin through a pair of headphones left over from the "We are the World" recording session in 1985. Despite the goofy circumstances, I learn a lot from watching the two of them work.

When Martin started with Beth just after he turned 4, he was so verbally unresponsive that she could hardly test him in order to make an official assessment. Today, he took directions from her in order to make a complex coloring project. He answered her questions about the Dick and Jane books they read together. He played a game where they took turns picking up a card with directions. Beth had to take her shoes off and then put them on. Martin's card directed him to name his favorite foods. And he did.

At the end of the session, Beth described basic objects to Martin to see if he could guess what they were. "It's a vehicle and has doors and you start it with a key," she said. "An automobile," Martin yelled. Then Beth asked Martin to do a description. You could see that he had no idea what to do and was trying to copy what Beth had just done. And it hit me again - as it hits me at least 5 times a week - that Martin learns absolutely no language naturally. Despite all his progress, he still learns language by reading it or by having people teach it to him. He simply cannot pick it up like the rest of us. I forget this all the time because there is so much he absorbs after the slightest contact. He knows the books of the Old Testament in order after just a few times trying it. He has whole books memorized about the weather. But he can't figure out how to describe a shoe, even if someone is modeling descriptions for him.

I sometimes wish that everyone could look in the little fish bowl of speech therapy. I want them to see what Martin is capable of and what it takes to get him there. I also wish I could let myself off the hook after looking in that little fish bowl. I'm an historian of the 19th century, not a speech therapist or special-ed teacher or professional tutor. It's OK that Beth is better at this work than I am, even if I'm Martin's mom.


  1. No one could ever be better at the work of being Martin's mom than you.

  2. Amen Marilyn! Beth could never be the loving, persistant and passionate mother to Martin that you are, Jen! And there are so many other words that I could use to describe what an amazing mom I think you are! :-) -Jeanine

    PS. I bet Beth doesn't know much about 19th century church history! :-)

  3. I concure that Martin is in a committed and loving home which goes the extra mile to help connect Martin to a mass of people (i.e. you and me) that see the world differently than he does.

    That said, I want to affirm that Jen and Stacy are just that, loving parents that are willing to grow, learn and sacrafice to provide their child with extra tools. And they should not believe that it is their responsibility to be on equal ground as somone who has studied and practiced for years what they have been taking a crash course in for a couple of years. You said it perfectly Jeanine when you said Beth probably doesn't know much about 19th century churh history, and no matter how important it was she to her family's well being she could not reach where Jen is in just a few years.

    So Jen, you don't have to be as "good" as Beth or other "experts" in the field. Beth may be the perfect tool for Martin's speech, but you and Stacy are the perfect parent's for Martin's being. MBS

  4. provide us with a little peek into the fishbowl of speech therapy, and so much more. We are better people for having that peek and hopefully we can be better fellow citizens because of it. MBS