Introducing Mindy Emm of the Children’s Treatment Network
Parenting is not easy. We are here to help and to introduce your family to other great parenting resources in our communities. We’re excited to introduce you to Mindy Emm of the Children’s Treatment Network of Simcoe York.
Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what you were like as a child.
I lived in Stratford Ontario and moved to Lindsay Ontario when I was 9. I was always a very intuitive and observant child, noticing how people felt even when they didn’t speak. When I was in my teens I lived with my dad and my half-sister who at the time was non-verbal, had sensory processing difficulties and was later diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder. I knew that her reactions to camera flashes, train whistles, heights, and humming lights in Walmart were something that was beyond her control. Her hearing was tested and the Audiologist told us that she had the hearing of an adult dog. I tell her now that this is part of her super power.
Describe what how your work serves parents and families? How long you have been doing it?
I worked as a Paramedic for 7 years. I found my calling helping families understand that every behaviour is communicating something. I went back to school to learn everything I could about developmental and physical disabilities and communication. I have worked as Communicative Disorders Assistant and as a Preschool Resource Teacher/Early Interventionist. I’m now a Service Navigator with Children’s Treatment Network. In this role I guide parents and caregivers through the service system and share the services, funding and resources that are available for them. I learn all I can about their family and their child’s strengths and needs to make sure that they know of every service that is available to help them and get them connected to the right services.
One word that best describes how you work?
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about what you do and the work you do with your company?
My biggest lesson came from my stepmom in those early days with my half-sister. Every time she would leave a session or an assessment with the therapists she would be crying because they only talked about all the negative things and the things that needed to be worked on. I never want a family that I work with to feel as though all I want to hear about are the things that need to be changed. I believe that building on strengths and seeing the skills, accomplishments and what worked in the past is the best way to start building on skills and moving forward.
What keeps you interested in doing what you do?
The families I meet. One day while I was doing an intake (we call this a Child and Family Interview) for the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) Program for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) I asked the mom what she would like to work on with her son while the ABA consultant was working with her family. She named off some of the behaviours that stood out to her (and might have bothered other people).
She shared that she had accepted these behaviours, knowing that was part of how her son calmed/regulated himself. I started asking about his strengths and what he liked to do. The mom shared a story about when he was watching his sister’s soccer game he ran on to the field and started running faster than anyone had ever seen anyone run. He ran and ran and ran all the way down the street until she caught up to him in her car. She shared that the kids at school now call him Forrest (as in Forrest Gump). She sounded defeated as she started guessing that I would advise her to use the ABA program to teach him not to run. Instead I asked her what she thought about teaching her son the rules of the game so that he would know where it was okay to run fast and where to stop.
After that one question the entire conversation changed towards one of hope and possibility. Her enthusiasm was infectious and she was imagining all of the accomplishments her son could achieve rather than making him change who he was. Just by asking a simple question she was able to see her son in an entirely different light.
Every family and each child is unique and special. Sometimes I merely have to point out to the parents what they are already doing that makes the difference to help them realize the skills they have within themselves. I don’t think there’s a better job than that.
What parenting or baby resource/product do you wish you had invented?
Hanen programs. It Takes Two to Talk is designed for children from birth to 5 years old. It teaches parents how to communicate with their child and teach them how to interact. These programs changed my interactions with children for the better and I have seen them change children for the better. They are an amazing resource.
Share the title of a favourite parenting book. Why do you love it?
Happiest Baby On the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. I remember thinking that this book saved my life. It helped me to observe and understand why my son was crying. My little guy has a very sensitive temperament. I realized that the environment we were trying to get him accustomed to was just too overwhelming for him to sleep or to self soothe. That book taught me so much. I usually give it to expectant mom’s at baby showers now.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be curious, not judgmental. – Walt Whitman
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I’d love to see a Developmental Paediatrician answer these same questions.
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