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The Gardener: Part III

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

I

 

Meira: I don’t think I’ll ever get Suri, but I can work on supporting her.

Therapist: Meira needs to find Suri’s strengths and dream big for her.

Bubby: I have a surprise for Suri. I bought her a pet rabbit, and she can keep it in my apartment!

A

fter a few sessions with Suri, I schedule a consult with Meira.

“Suri’s working hard,” I tell her. “We’re continuing to address her body language so she can project a more socially appropriate image. She’s learned to identify her own interests and other’s interests. Soon she’ll be ready to engage others in their interests, which is one step in building relationships. I wanted to talk about how you can support Suri through the therapy process.”

“Okay,” Meira says warily.

“Suri feels pretty bad about herself,” I explain, “for the same reasons you described at our intake. She’s socially awkward, and compared to her sisters, she’s clumsy. She needs you to show her she has value.” [Suri will be the most successful version of herself when she values herself.]

“How?” Meira sounds skeptical.

I’d told Suri how important it is to show interest in her peers’ interests, and now I tell Meira the same thing: “Show interest in Suri’s interests. That shows that you take her seriously and value her.”

“I should talk to her about animals?”

“Yes.”

“But I’m not buying her a pet, no matter how well she’d care for it.”

“I hear that. What about her other strengths?”

“Um, I need to think about that. [In order to build her daughter, Meira is going to have to work on discovering and nurturing Suri’s strengths.] Maybe gardening. I think she’d be good at it. But I have a question. All these things — pets, flowers — they’re weird. They make her socially off. Why are we encouraging them?”

 “Because boosting her sense of self-worth will make her more attractive to other people. [People are attracted to people with confidence.] Now, another thing: try to give her responsibilities that show you trust her.”

A frown. “She can’t cook to save her life.”

“I hear, and it will be frustrating for you, but it’s important that you let her do it. I know it’s hard, but you’re not going to be able to just get Suri to ‘snap out of this.’ She’s a delicate flower, and you’re the gardener who has to nurture her. Gardening takes persistence and patience.”

Meira is willing to work on accepting Suri, but it’s going to be a journey. What Suri really needs is a “safe place,” someone who fully accepts her.

“Is there anyone who has a nurturing relationship with Suri?” I ask.

“Maybe my mother-in-law. They’re similar in some ways. And she’ll be thrilled to help.”

“Fantastic. Maybe you can also talk with your older daughters about supporting this process. They can build her, show her she’s one of them. Suri’s suffered a lot — she’s like a plant that hasn’t been watered. She’s going to need a lot of TLC.”

“They’re not going to plant flowers with her. But,” a lightbulb goes on, “they’re all musical. And Suri sings beautifully. They get annoyed when she sings loudly at the wrong time, but maybe they can start building on that, uh, ‘shared interest.’ ”

Meira looks relieved to have finally found a way to help Suri. She is a good gardener, after all.

Originally featured in Family First, Issue 626. D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice for over 15 years. She is the creator of the Link-It reading comprehension and writing curriculum for elementary school students and directs continuing education programs for speech-language pathologists and educators. 

 

 

 

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