One… is the loneliest number

All by myself

So I was very hopeful (Naïve?) that upon graduating I would beat the odds and be the minority graduate who was able to work together with other conductors soon after graduating. I was adamant that I did not want to be on my own at the beginning. I wanted support from, mentoring by, and practice around more experienced conductors. I wanted to work on professional development straight away. Ah, the optimism (a product of the sheltered Uni environment?)

I spent my first two months as a qualified conductor in, for me, an exceptionally idealistic environment. Not only was I working with incredibly capable and experienced conductors, I was working in an interdisciplinary team that included OTs and PTs. I loved it.

But then my summer job ended. Sigh…

So here I am now. Alone. In precisely the position I had hoped to avoid. Obviously I have time to get to where I want to be, no one’s first job is their dream job right? But still, it is tough going.

I am currently working full-time at a group home and part-time 1-to-1 with my little brother, JZ. My role in the group home is minimal, because I work nights. So I only have a few hours each shift with the guys and my time with them is mostly just making sure every gets their meds, their breakfast, and their shoes on the right feet before leaving for their day-programme. My work with my brother is more suited to my qualification, but is still not quite the environment I would like. I am not thrilled to be working 1-on-1, the group is one of my favorite principles in CE.

Generally, I am lacking the structured support that I feel I need as a newly qualified conductor. You can’t even do this as a physio or OT, where one is required to be supervised initially. There is stuff in the works at the moment, headed up by NICE, to help get NQCs, and conductors in general, more support and organized professional development. The gap is being addressed but we’re not there yet.

There is one other conductor in my state. One other conductor in a space that is equivalent to the entire UK.

I feel so alone (woe is me).

Anyway, onto the constructive complaining.

{As this blog shows fairly regularly, I am a lover of lists (and parenthetical statements, it’s even worse before my first 3 rounds of editing…). I have therefore organized my difficulties in a handy, bullet-pointed list. This should make is easier both for me to organize my problems and for you to solve them!}

So here are my NQC issues:

  1. Lack of Support

I’ve already kind of beaten this one to death, but to be more specific; sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I come to the end of my knowledge and experience and need someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, to debate with. I need someone else to lead a program, to make me articulate why I am doing something, to offer a different perspective. JZ recently got a new style of *brace that I do not actually know how to put on, I am at a loss when it comes to potty training with him, and I need more ideas to teach reading.

I feel I have a decent understanding- obviously to be hugely deepened- of the principles of CE, but they do not always seem to be helping me get past these practical areas.

I would like to flesh out some of these difficulties a bit more in a future post, because I genuinely would like to get some advice.

*Theratogs, thoughts? I am cautiously a fan when used with CE principles in mind. I have managed to use them a few times with him since writing this, hello Velcro!

**Also, I must mention that since my previous post, an experienced conductor, whom I respect hugely, has reached out to me to offer her support, and I have taken it gladly. Perhaps I need to be more active in looking for more support from experienced conductors, even if it’s long-distance.

  1. Working 1-to-1

There are just SO MANY advantages to working in a group. Many of the things I struggle with I feel would be solved by a group environment. A couple of areas that I am having to learn to adjust for working 1-to-1 are:

Planning: I find it difficult to find a practical way to plan for 1-to-1 sessions. JZ is quite susceptible to illness, if he is not well the entire day needs to be adjusted. If he were just one in a group, the plan would still work, and just be adjusted a bit for him. I swing between varying levels of planning for our day-to-day work. Some days I plan out exactly what I want to work on throughout the 3-4 hours. Some days, I just keep in mind his goals, see how he is feeling and reacting that day, and go from there. I think the answer lies somewhere between these approaches.

Rhythmic Intention: It can feel a bit forced to use RI with one person. I generally use a mixture of RI and normal speech. I use it consistently for areas I know he really benefits, like walking, and then maybe less often for tasks he has a fairly good grasp of. Would he benefit more from using it all the time as would be the case in a group?

Programs: In 1st year we would be glad if we had a small group, by 2nd year we were always hoping for big groups! Similar to RI, it just seems harder to do programs with one person than with a group. For example, if JZ cannot complete a task, I feel I should always wait for him to finish it. But should I always hold him to such a high standard? In a group, he would inevitably not complete each task to the best of his ability every time. Also, a group would force more independence from him, etc.

Motivation: It’s hard to keep things interesting, mix them up, create an atmosphere, etc, when working 1-to-1 (maybe I’m just a boring person..). The group is a highly motivating force that I am finding difficult to replace (or that I rely on to make up for being boring). CE groups are like teams, with each person fulfilling a role of some sort, contributing to the team. I am struggling to find ways to instill the desire to contribute without peers for JZ.

  1. Putting knowledge of principles into practice in completely different contexts

In our 3rd year we had several lectures and countless discussions on the difference between CE philosophy and CE methodology. We discussed how important it is to try to identify and maintain the philosophies when adapting the methodology to suit your context. I am very grateful that there was a strong emphasis on this. I find that I have to frequently determine ways to stay in line with philosophy when working without a group and on a sessional basis rather than in a school.

  1. Transitioning to being a ‘professional.’

One day you are a student, the lowest on the totem pole. You are allowed (and expected) to make mistakes, to not know all the answers, to question yourself.

The next day you are a professional out in the big bad world and people expect you to be a professional. Which, obviously, is completely fair. However, it is kind of an abrupt shift and it takes some getting used to.

I am very grateful, however, to have had my final placement where I had it. While on placement at CYP I felt like part of the team. My ideas and opinions where always considered, my perspectives respected and seen as valid. I not only felt accepted but necessary, which is brilliant for confidence as a student. I believe my time at CYP was very helpful in moving me out of the student mentality and into a professional mindset, but I still have a way to go.

  1. The realities of moving away, again

Three and a half years ago I uprooted my life and moved to another continent. Six months ago I did it again. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. I am NOT ready to do it again just yet.

Unfortunately, all prospective CE jobs are a minimum of 7 hours away, with most being over 12 hours from where I currently am. I want to work in CE, but at the moment I’m still getting over the last move and the thought of another is overwhelming.

*****

I do want to point out that it’s not all problems all the time! I am really enjoying my work at the moment, despite these challenges. In future posts, I am going to discuss some of the aspects that are different but enjoyable, what I am learning, and ways I have found to overcome some of the difficulties I’m facing (does this make me an ‘Orthofunctional Conductor’? 🙂

As always, please let me know your thoughts! I am craving good CE interaction.

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6 thoughts on “One… is the loneliest number

  1. Becky Featherstone says:

    Jalyss JJ Zapfletts reading your blog post I can identify with much of what you wrote as I too have been in the same situation. I graduated over seven years ago and not only was my first job as a single conductor within a project, but in a country on the otherside of the world, different language, culture and only one of two conductors in the whole of South America! A challenge it definitely was, lonely without a doubt!!! I still work alone today, sometimes 1-1, sometimes in group setting but always the only conductor. Not through choice but necessity. I am also self-employed, so no longer have a project that “has my back” as so to speak. But let me tell you, I have no regrets. I have worked continuously to improve my skills depending on the support of more experienced conductors via the web, and also more personally with other professionals in rehabilitation. I have made mistakes, maybe fewer than I myself think, as working alone I can be very judgmental about my own work. BUT I have learnt so much. Because I didn’t have other conductors around I surrounded myself with other great professionals. I not only have learnt more about how I want to apply CE, but I now have so much more knowledge about other techniques and methods of rehabilitation and different equipment. You spoke about Theratogs, and your uncertainty to whether you agree or not with its use. I too had these same doubts about many pieces of equipment, but always tried to remained open-minded and educate myself more before deciding whether I would recommend it for an individual or not. I even went as far as to do a course on how to fit the Theratogs, which I found very useful for a number of reasons. I think if I would be to give you one piece of advice I would say to go after every opportunity you possibly have!!! There have been times when I have been offered experiences, not all within CE, and I have thought, “not sure if I want to” or “that’s a long way to go” or “that means being away from my family”, I have had many doubts if I am following the correct path but have always jumped in head first. And because of this I have had so many valuable experiences that have helped me to grow professionally. So don’t be afraid, and try not to worry too much about the future as with much determination everything will fall into place. I by the way have very much stayed of the CE radar the last 7 years, maybe mostly because of where I work, but like you have a dream to return to a constant group setting with other conductors, and I am each day closer to achieving this. I hope your journey is CE is as exciting as mine has been!

    • Jalyss says:

      Thanks for your comment Becky, and for the advice!

      I am hoping to go abroad sometime in the next few years. Ironically, I have made an effort to be in the US for a while because I want to get more experience around other conductors.

      What are your thoughts on Theratogs?

      I would love to get some more experience in massage, speech, etc, but I’m not really sure how to get involved in it, especially as I am not part of any bigger organization. Conferences would be great, but are expensive. How did you manage to get experiences outside of CE?

      I know I need to be better at reaching out to others in CE online, it’s just not quite the same as being WITH someone.

  2. Jules McDonad says:

    Hi

    This has made for interesting reading to me. About a decade ago when i myself was newly qualified, myself and a conductor friend wrote an article (in the then-CE journal – RACE – i think) about a similar topic. Some of our thoughts were very similar and we had some other thoughts too. In some ways it is a little sad to see that not enough has changed in that time.

    I would be interested to know where you are geographically? are you registered with the PCA(uk) and if so, you know we have an online conductors forum for discussions, ideas, advice etc…. also, i hope you are on fb and have found the CEPEG/PCA fb group and page – another portal for conversations, linking up, sharing ideas etc… All of these are still in their infancy but need to be used to be useful.

    I have been recently thinking about the idea of regional conductor contacts – and trying to find one conductor in a region who is happy to be a point of contact, advice, support for anyone within their region to try and create a more dynamic network between conductors. I am involved with CEPEG and PCA and so if this is something that conductors want and need i would happily take it forward so feedback would be appreciated.

    And finally, i am more than happy to be a sounding post for any conductors… i may not have all the answers – but i have a few years experience under my belt and LOVE CE so by all means add me to your list.

    Thanks for writing this, and thanks to andrew fpr sharing it on FB or i would probably not have seen it.

    Jules

  3. Jalyss says:

    Hi Jules, thanks for your comment!

    I would love to see your article, is it available online?

    I am in the US, in MN. I could be part of ACENA, I have not joined yet. I don’t know if it’s as well connected as the PCA, I think in large part due to geography.

    I would love to be involved in a discussion forum, I was thinking about how helpful that would be the other day. I didn’t know one existed. Is it only available for those in the PCA?

    I love the idea of regional conductor contacts! I’m not sure where one would begin with that.

    Thanks for the offer, I am sure I will be taking you up on that before long. Hope to also keep hearing from you here on the blog!

  4. Becky Featherstone says:

    I think one of the best ways to learn more about other areas of rehabilitation, or even improve what you already know is within a multi-disciplinary team. I have worked in schools, clinics, institutions, rehabilitation centers and private projects. Each has taught me something different, whether it be good or bad. When I hear about a new method or equipment I study it, and often ask to accompany the work of others to be able to broaden my ideas. It was never an intention of mine whilst at university but I have become very involved in inclusion within mainstream schools, this being in a country where it is very rare to see a disabled child in regular education. If I were you I would seek out local centers and ask if you can make a visit, get to meet new professionals and then exchange ideas. With regards to Theratogs, for the majority of children it is very beneficial, especially when correctly fitted. It can greatly reduce abnormal patterns of movement and reflexes. It can stabilize trunk control, and in many cases help to avoid hip problems. I don’t use it all the time in CE sessions but I do show parents how to fit it depending on position and what hope to achieve, and also recommend it for example when the child is at school and not always accompanied by someone for correct positioning. The creator of the Theratogs is called Beverly, she lives in USA, but would have to check which city. I am happy to share ideas whenever you need to and I have a page on Facebook dedicated to equipment which I can add you, although I post in Portuguese the links are all there for you.

  5. Jalyss says:

    Becky, I agree. I had the opportunity to work in a trans-disciplinary team, which I taught me a lot about other approaches and a multi-disciplinary team which, interestingly, taught me a lot about CE. Made me think a lot about what elements of CE are critical and what can be adjusted to suit the environment, etc.

    I would like to shadow an SLT or OT for a while, but I’m just not sure how that would work. I guess the first step would be to just call and discuss it with local organizations? It’s different now that I am no longer a student, I don’t really have any connections in the area and I’m not sure how to make them. I will look into some local centers though and see where that goes.

    I would love to be added to the equipment page, thanks!

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