Toddler work is serious business. I have worked with many therapists including early interventionists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and behavior therapists. The providers who really stood out to me had extraordinary qualities about them—almost like they had superpowers.
I worked side by side with an early interventionist and watched in amazement as the children she worked with evolve from distracted and frustrated to organized and calm. Over the years I have noticed her superpower is her ability to have fun, but with clear boundaries and predictability. Having fun and playing with toys is a must as an early interventionist, but boundaries and expectations must be established early. This allows the child to feel more comfortable and therefore make more progress. She has a presence about her and families can feel her confidence
I have also had the pleasure of working with an occupational therapist whose superpower is to allow the child to explore their surroundings. In essence, she allows kids to be kids. It's not normal to work non-stop with a toddler through a 50-minute session. So as she works with children, she allows them to take breaks and explore as needed. All the while she explains to parents the process of taking breaks and what is really occurring for the child when they do that. While the child explores, she provides parental education.
I have had the pleasure of working alongside medical doctor who is a developmental pediatrician. His superpower is to detect a child's priorities to focus on. He recognizes and emphasizes the importance of eye gaze and joint attention. These skills are vital and important to establish before and/or simultaneously while working on speech or other skill development. I agree with him on this too, working on "talking" before joint attention, eye gaze, and non-verbal communication is extremely important, so that the child doesn't present with "Swiss cheese skills," i.e., some solid parts and some gaps and holes.
My good friend, a behavioral therapist, has some pretty amazing superpowers too. Working alongside him I have gained some great tools to work with children with negative behaviors. He believes in parent coaching and empowering the parent. You watch him work and only part of the therapy is with the child. His primary focus is to change negative habits of the parent, which in turn leads to negative patterns for the child. His other superpower is rooted in consistency and follow-up with clients and their parents. I have learned from him to teach parents to call their child's name once and look for follow up not the 10 times from across the room like many parents do.
Another therapist I have worked alongside works from her heart. Her superpower is to remember the reason she went into this field—to help children. When she meets families, she is genuinely interested in them and she goes above and beyond to assist and support them in every way. Parents feel her genuine spirit and are naturally drawn to her. She doesn't seem to work for a paycheck. Rather, she works passionately for the families she meets and sees their lives as a journey. If she’s met them, it's is for a very important reason, and she takes that very seriously.
All of these providers have guided me in some way or another as a therapist. Even though I say these professionals have superpower qualities, I think these skills are completely obtainable by anyone who is willing to strive for them.
I also must add that I have been blessed to have been born to the mother I have. She has inspired me into the world of working with children. My mother had a home day care from the time I was 10. She cared for young children, probably thousands of them to date and I consider her an absolute expert. Watching her as I grew up, I saw her superpower first hand. She has an extraordinary ability of empathy and patience both for the child and the parent. My mother has taught me not to take things personally. She taught me that parents and children are doing the best they can with their knowledge and circumstances. This ability to stay calm, to believe in the best for each child and parent, and to hold their hands along the way without being intrusive, is truly a superpower.