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The Baker: Part 1

D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP with Zivia Reischer

"She can't get married if she can't build a relationship"

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Mother: Leah is my baby. I don’t mind driving her around.

Sister: I was shocked when Leah had her first date. How can she be 20 already? She’s not ready to get married!

Leah: I don’t get why we’re here, but my mother said we’re going, so I came.

 

"T

ell me about yourself, Leah.” I address the young woman sitting across me. Leah’s mother answers. “Leah is my youngest daughter. She just turned 20 last week.”

“Happy birthday!” I address Leah again. “What do you do?”

“She works at Cakebox Bakery,” Leah’s mother says. [Malky’s pattern of talking for Leah infantilizes Leah and has stunted her social development.]

“That’s nice. Leah,” I say, with a slight emphasis on her name. “What do you do there?”

Leah shifts in her chair. “I stand behind the counter. I ring up purchases. It’s a very busy bakery. They have long lines. They sell the best cakes.”

“How did you choose this job?”

She shrugs. “My mother found it.”

“Do you like it?”

Leah nods. “It’s a very busy store. I like the way the store smells. The owner is Mrs. Perk. She’s very nice to me. Her sons are taking over now. They’re making changes. They have new ideas. They say we need to specialize and not just be a plain bakery….” [Leah rambles about topics that are uninteresting to the listener. She doesn’t know how to maintain the give-and-take of a typical conversation.]

Her mother intervenes. “Leah, can you wait for me in the car? I need a few minutes here.”

When Leah is out of earshot she says, “I feel like things aren’t right for a 20-year-old.”

“Why?”

“You know, people are asking about a shidduch. And I realized… I don’t really know what would work for Leah.” She hesitates. “She actually met two boys, but they both said no right away. Maybe she needs something before she gets married….She’s not quite there yet.”

“Is this the first time you’re seeking help for Leah?”

“Well, no. She always needed help in school. She had a homework tutor for years, and she received remedial services in a few subjects…” Malky hesitates again. “I guess you could say she has a learning disability. We never got an official diagnosis, but she was never quick to learn things like other kids her age. It affects her socially also. She used to hang around with some girls when she was in school, but she doesn’t really have any social circle now.”

Malky schedules Leah for weekly sessions. “I can drive her on Mondays or Tuesdays,” she says. “But the rest of the week is busy for me.”

“Does Leah drive?”

“Oh — no.”

“Really? Why not?”

Malky looks surprised. “I’m not sure… she just doesn’t. Where does she go to already? To work, home… Sometimes a little clothes shopping… She would need me there anyway. What’s the big deal if she doesn’t drive?” [Malky’s pattern of doing everything for Leah, including finding her a job, driving her everywhere, and choosing her clothes, has contributed to Leah never becoming her own person.]

I let it go for now. “So what are your goals for therapy?”

Malky thinks. “When people ask me what kind of boy Leah wants, or what she’s like, I don’t really have an answer. It’s all so pareve. And I can see that she doesn’t know how build a relationship. I want her to be able to get married.”

Originally featured in Family First, Issue 639. D. Himy is a speech-language pathologist in private practice and creator of the Link-It and STARPower curriculums. The fictional characters in this column represent typical client profiles.

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