For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to working with children. Maybe it is because as a child I was given all the love, support, nurturing, and education that a child could want or need, yet there was something still missing in my overall development. I didn’t see a therapist or have a tutor, other than my friends and family, and they didn’t see what I can looking back: confusion and hesitation. This wasn’t anything major or something that prevented me from ultimately figuring out academics or finding myself as a person. However, that journey was stunted during my most formative years due to a lack of someone who could see what I was missing and provide a course correction on certain aspects of development to help me find the right trajectory to get there. This was nobody’s fault, but simply the realities of my personal world, cognitive development, social skills, and the emotional toolbox that I was still forming at that stage of my life.
It was this missing aspect that prevented me from being comfortable in my own skin and looking back it was the stereotypical case of “don’t we all wish we knew then what we know now.” My experiences over the past 25 years as an educator, teacher, and educational therapist, I have come to recognize one truth: behavioral and mental health issues are not defined by socioeconomic status, racial make-up, or gender identification and they do not discriminate against anyone. It is simply a built-in part of being a human being. Therefore, when factoring in the many known and identified disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and their traits which can be found to a lesser degree in a neuro-typical person, is it any wonder why adults, let alone children, can struggle with doing something in a "standard" or expected way.
However, the DSM-5 is only a medical dictionary, and doesn’t quantify or qualify your child with numbers, and its labels don’t predetermine what type of future success they will find. Whether dealing with a moment of, or consistent challenge with, anxiety, depression, attention, emotional triggers and control, manic moments, or behavioral compulsions, adults are forced to prioritize those humanistic needs before anything else to be effective, productive, and/or successful. However, they can forget that children are trying to process the same world but are feeling things in ways that are heightened and become formative in the development of their personalities, learning styles, problem-solving capabilities, emotional control, and overall cognitive make-up. In order to help navigate through these issues, I have found a more therapeutic and holistic approach is the one that works best. How far can intellect and academic success take someone if they don’t have the ability to function in the world?
There are too many cases to list out here, but they all include a common factor: their personal cognitive and emotional needs were more important than the academics by which they were being judged. Every student and client I have come in contact with, regardless of their level of need, have all responded the same way: when treated with respect, while demystifying and humanizing their experiences while using humor to get through their challenges, it eventually leads to the whole child growing in a developmentally appropriate way. My job is to harness the uniqueness of each person I work with in order to find the most success possible for them at any given moment, while developing resiliency and strategies to face any challenges that come their way.
The problem is, this was taking me into territory other than what is considered direct educational therapy. The purpose of an educational therapist is to identify, remediate, and quantify growth in academic settings and executive function. They also recognize that they work with clients who will have other cognitive needs and will touch upon these problems while collaborating with allied professionals to best support the students they work with. However, educational therapists also see very direct lines not to cross between the services they provide and the services a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other similar professional will give. In my experiences, the lines kept getting blurred and didn’t strictly apply to my clients. Instead, my role became to form a therapeutic alliance to achieve academic goals while also providing an appropriate and nurturing space for guidance and support in life. As a result, my experiences have led me to develop additional therapeutic tools that allow for a more successful overall process regardless of whether or not your child has additional professional resources. It is in this grey area in which I have found my passion: helping those who need someone to provide a tailor-made and idealized relationship that provides the necessary support and guidance to get through any challenge in a developmentally appropriate manner.
When I would talk about this approach with other educational therapists, I was repeatedly told I was touching upon areas that were not part of the "job description." This disconnect between what I "should be doing" and the success and happiness I was finding as a professional was something I was struggling with internally, as I didn’t want to compromise my approach and philosophy to conform to others’ views of my role as an educator when I was confident that what I was doing was beneficial for my clients and their families. Instead, what I came to discover was that I was becoming a different type of professional who was still providing educational therapy as a component of my work but no longer making it the sole focus of it. No longer an educational therapist, I now meet my clients at the intersection between their education and executive functions by starting with their emotions and helping them develop a toolbox to go out into the world and succeed. However, I needed a title for this new approach, and a dear colleague and friend helped me talk it out and put into words what I truly am. For that, I am forever grateful. And that title is Launch Coach.