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Behind the Breakthroughs

Oct 17, 2018

This is the fifth vignette that Dr. Nunez shares. In this vignette Dr. Nunez talks about a client she has seen for over 14 years and how he went from being non-verbal to driving himself to school. She recently watched him drive away after a session and she expresses how it was a poignant moment for her to watch him become independent and know that she had a part in his independence.

In this episode Dr. Nunez commends a clients parents for setting the expectations high for their son and never treating him differently. Their sink or swim approach to parenting have allowed their son to self-discovery in which he is living and loving his life to the fullest. Dr. Nunez also reminds professionals that you may not see immediate progress when working with a client, but to remember that over time you are making a huge impact many lives. 


  • Today’s Vignette is about a client that have both Dr. Nunez and Maylene have been working with for years.
  • They started working with him at 2 years old when he was non-verbal.
  • He is now 16 years old and driving.
  • Jonny attends a mainstream private high school and runs cross country, is bright, sweet, and he is driving now.
  • Nunez was recently tutoring him at school where there was a football game and a ton of activities happening at the school.
  • Since Jonny drives himself to school now, he is afraid of hitting a parked car.
  • So he parks really far away from the school entrance away from all the parked cars.
  • On this particular day since there was a lot happening at the school there were many parked cars near him.
  • To make sure he got out of the parking lot safely, Dr. Nunez said she would hang out after their session to make sure Jonny could get his car out without hitting a parked car.
  • Nunez watched Jonny pull out of the parking lot and as she was driving behind him, she couldn’t believe he was driving.
  • The kid that she started with when he was 2 years old was driving.
  • It was a really poignant moment for her to watch him drive away and being independent.
  • It was like letting go of her baby. Dr. Nunez does not have kids of her own so she explains that at that moment it was like having a child of her own that she didn't want to grow up.
  • She rarely gets emotional but this moment bought a tear to her eye, and it is moments like these that reminds her how truly rewarding this job is.
  • Parents have done a great job raising Jonny. They are consistent and never treated him as being different.
  • This summer he visited colleges, took an ACT tutoring course, received his driver's license, and had fun like any teen his age.
  • It is amazing to hear him talk about his life. This kid was non-verbal and Dr. Nunez would spend hours with him trying to get him to say his favorite toy “Mickey.”
  • Now Jonny is telling her about his whole summer, comparing colleges, and all his teenage experiences.
  • It is great to see him flourish and be a part of his journey.
  • He went to a public school but Dr. Nunez suggested to his parents to pull him out because he was not being challenged.
  • When Jonny attended the private school he was pushed, the school set the expectations high, and never treated him differently.
  • Parents redirected all the things that he struggled with to things that he loved.
  • He loved motor cross and now he is into drones and paintballing.
  • Nunez commends his parents because they have always set the expectations high and never looked at him with a diagnosis.
  • Their motto was really a "sink or swim" one. However, they coached him along the way and did everything that they needed to do to be proactive and help him to swim and keep afloat.
  • It has been rewarding for Dr. Nunez to watch him grow up.
  • That is what this vignette is all about. Sometimes all the hard work you put in isn't immediate. It takes a long time and you may not see progress right away. But over time when you start seeing the progress you have that moment where you’re like, "Wow I was a part of seeing this kid live and love his life and I had something to do with that."
  • For therapists out there we hope you get to see this type of progress with your clients.
  • It is so nice to stick with a client and see them get to that point of independence and self-discovery.
  • It is a great feeling knowing that you made a difference in a portion of their life.

MINDSHIFTS (takeaways) 

  1. Set the standards high for your child and believe that they can accomplish any goal you set for them.
  2. Parents, go in and check on your child at school and make sure they are progressing.
  3. Reframe and don't feel sorry your child when they cannot do something. Instead think of all their strengths as a special skill that you can help foster into finding something that your child loves and is good at.