The greatest part was just having the connection with both of these kids and to see that even though things were really challenging for them and their families, that you can build a relationship with these children. That was very meaningful for me. People often misunderstand that. You can really get to know a child with autism and they can get to know you in their own way.
I also felt firsthand some of the judgment that families experience. One of the boys banged his head and once he was so upset he gave himself a black eye. I took him to the park and people looked at me, with a child with an injury, as if he’d been abused. I got a sense of how it felt to be in the parent’s shoes.
BLOOM: When a parent has a question about a child’s abilities in the future, how do you address that in a helpful way?
There’s no perfect way of giving a diagnosis, there is not. And you can make mistakes, you can make a misstep, but the idea is that you can recover from that. You can back up and redirect and reestablish a good connection with the family.
Part of why I enjoy what I’m doing is that it’s always a challenge and there’s always more to learn. I’m always thinking back to what I could have done differently to make things easier or better. We’ve done two sessions of simulation so far but we hope to be able to offer it to our fellows regularly during their two years of training.
BLOOM: Have your views about disability changed since you began 10 years ago?
There are stressful cases where you feel you don’t know how to help or how to resolve a situation and having someone to talk to is really important. Earlier on I had mentors like Darcy Fehlings or Golda Milo-Manson. And now I could still knock on their doors, but I have other people that cross disciplines, like Peggy and the other colleagues I work with.
You need many mentors and they will be different people at different times.