Do you have that one ornament that, every time you go to hang it on your Christmas tree, you become emotional? For years, I have been collecting Christmas ornaments from the places that I have traveled. Every year when my family decorates our Christmas tree, we have the best time reminiscing about our trips.
When my kids were young, I would even use it as a storytelling time, inviting them to learn about the places I had been and the people I had met. Over time, our tree got packed full of ornaments. I found myself going through the motions of hanging the decorations instead of taking the time to reflect on each of them.
One day my son came to me with one of the ornaments in hand and asked, “Who is Randy, and why does he think that you are his best friend?” My son was old enough to know all of my friend’s names, and he had never met one named Randy. I looked at my son, and my eyes started to well up.
I told him that Randy was a boy, just like him. A bright-eyed, fun-loving, athletic kid who was in a tragic car accident. Mommy was part of a team of specialists who helped him heal from his traumatic brain injury and allowed him to return to school and the sports he loved. This ornament was a gift that he gave me before leaving the rehab center, where I worked at the time.
My son looked at me and said, “Well, you would be my best friend too, if you had helped me do those things,” then he turned around and hung the ornament back on the tree.
It has been 26 years since I took care of Randy. For some reason, this year, more than ever, I am grateful for that experience. I was not a mom then; I had no idea that I would have two sons and that I would be in an even better position to help kids just like Randy regain the skills that they had lost due to no fault of their own.
Every time I work with a student, I know that the only difference between that child and mine is the circumstance. That is why I treat everyone who walks into my office like they are my own. That type of personal care is what I would want and what everyone deserves.
Randy was in a coma when he entered the hospital.
He was a typical teenager when he left.
He returned to school and life.
It is hard to believe if you were not there to see it, but I was there, and not only did I see it, I was also a part of his transformation story. For that, I am grateful.
His story and so many others inspired me to create a company with the mission to educate, equip, and empower the smart but struggling student through cognitive intervention and coaching.
Randy and countless others taught me the power of neuroplasticity, no matter the situation. I have experienced a lot over my 26 years, and I know that I was given each opportunity as an opportunity to share with others. It is hard to believe in something that you don’t see or have not seen before.
I can show parents what is possible and offer hope for their smart but struggling child. When you learn from someone who has been there, who knows the power of intervention, and who offers to guide you through your journey, it is less scary than walking that journey alone. It is what I would want if my child were struggling.
That is why it is hard for me to understand why people give up on kids and assume that they are not trying, call them lazy, or think that they are just not smart. Randy’s brain was damaged, through no fault of his own, but it changed through intervention. Neurotypical children who do not have brain damage, but are underperforming in school, can change too.
Given the right plan, the right specialists, and the willingness to do whatever it takes: anything is possible.
I think this year, Randy’s ornament will be front and center on my tree.
Now more than ever, people need hope.
Every night when I look at my tree, I will say a little prayer of thanksgiving for all of the Randys who have allowed me to be a part of their transformation and all of the Randys yet to come. If you are reading this and I have helped you, I want to say thank you.
Through every experience, I have learned from you and become a better therapist and a better person.
This post originally appeared on The Cognitive Emporium.
Kyra Minichan, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a Speech-Language Pathologist and the owner of The Cognitive Emporium in Hendersonville, TN. With over 25 years of experience, she specializes in finding solutions for complex kids. Her extensive qualifications include dual Master’s degrees in Specific Learning Disabilities and Speech-Language Pathology and a background in neuroscience. Kyra’s work leverages expert evaluation and her own Predictable Transformation Highway System™ (P.A.T.H) to help kids become independent, happy learners. In addition to her coaching and resources, Kyra is a sought-after consultant, providing a variety of online and in-person professional development training. To learn more about Kyra’s work, visit www.thecognitiveemporium.com or email Kyra@thecognitiveemporium.com.