The other day I got to thinking about what a golden opportunity speech therapists have to develop the oh-so-important one-on-one relationship with a child. Research-based evidence claims this can be the one most important factor for a kid who is struggling — one adult who will listen to them without passing judgment. I started researching peer-reviewed journals to find quotes and numbers to prove my point, but all day long, Lorraine kept popping into my mind. Pall-Mall puffing, potty-mouth Lorraine. So here goes…

When I was a teenager, we had one small bathroom in our farmhouse and had to literally walk through our parents’ bedroom to use it. Combining that with an ancient septic system and limited water supply, the old outhouse back by the grove of trees was often called into service, especially when extended family came to visit. I remember Lorraine, my stepmother’s step-niece (I did say “extended”) absolutely hating that trip. She was about 12 years older than me so in my 15-year old eyes, she was oh so adult. We often ended up sharing a bed and Lorraine would sock me in the arm in the middle of the night to wake me up and accompany her to the outhouse. I was honored.

Lorraine would light up a Pall Mall for the trip and we’d tip-toe down the steps, giggling our fool heads off. Once out the back door, we’d grab each other’s hands and bolt through the cold wet grass, Lorraine swearing a blue streak. My job would be to hold (and puff on) Lorraine’s Pall Mall and keep a look-out for men with axes. The corn fields of southern Minnesota were full of them – seriously. Lorraine and I bonded over those trips to the old outhouse. And once back in the safety of my bed, too wound up to sleep, we would talk. Well, I would talk, Lorraine would listen. I could say anything to Lorraine, she would never never pass judgment. She listened to all my troubles, all my hopes and dreams, she made me feel worthy, heard, and special. Now no one in the world would have positioned the Pall Mall smoking, potty-mouthed Lorraine as being a role model for a struggling teenager. But she was. She made a difference. I will never forget her.

To all the hard-working compassionate speech therapists out there — be the Lorraine in your clients’ life (Pall Malls and potty mouth optional). You have that golden opportunity — one-on-one uninterrupted time to just listen — no assessment, no judgment. Just listen.

Keep Them Talking….


Dori Lenz Holte