Every time a new graduate student starts an internship with me, I begin by explaining what I do. A new Intern started today. You will meet her, I am sure, since I always twist their arms and get Interns to write a guest blog post here. I actually didn't do much more than that one hour explanation today, as I was not feeling well and went home to sleep and feel sorry for myself the rest of the day. And write some Treatment Plans. And think about how darn convoluted the job I do is and how I never explain it the same way to any two Interns.
A child comes to see me with someone--usually a parent and from the child's perspective, he or she comes to play. That is the perspective I would like the child to have. This, you'd think would be an easy sell but the kiddo's who come to me are tough customers to convince so my job involves selling and then playing.
The parent who comes with a child usually has a different perspective on my job and is hoping that I will, somehow, do something that will help that child communicate better. Parents see my job as teaching. They are partially right.
I am keenly aware of all the possible issues that might be preventing a child from learning to communicate, but I never know what the specific issues are for any particular child and so I see my job as listening, observing, thinking (evaluating) and then sharing, what I heard, saw and thought with the important communication partners in a child's life--usually the parents.
Since the parent is usually not as aware of all the possible issues that might be at play, my job is also explaining and teaching parents. The Interns come to learn from me but actually, while explaining myself in dozens of different ways to Interns over the years, I am learning more and more about how to explain communication and autism. I learn in a whole different way because the expectation here is that the Intern should walk away being able to do my job. It is clear to me, and I hope to everyone involved that at many levels, my job involves learning. Every one involved, parent, Intern, child, (who ever shows up), is in the process of learning.
Playing with a child is just an efficient way to coax a child into showing me what he or she knows or wants to know about communication. Since real communication always comes out of a desire to communicate--I need to know that or I won't know what to teach. Parents too, show me what they know about teaching communication by playing. In this sense, playing is just a means to learning and then teaching.
But, getting all the parts of my job flowing as I like it to--the selling, listening, watching, thinking, learning, evaluating, encouraging, showing, speculating, experimenting teaching,.... getting all that going simultaneously--that makes my job feels like playing to me. It is a serious and important game that I try to host hour after hour put it has the quality of a great game--always challenging, focused, creative, structured, and fun. So my job really is playing.
That is how I am going to explain my job next time I have a new Intern--my job, and the job you are learning is playing but the rules of the game are complex.