Lessons from a Remodel: What Home Renovation and Speech Therapy Have in Common


Hey Mighty Voice readers! Today I have a lighter post for you…maybe a 50% tongue in cheek and 50% serious. Today I’m sharing how a major house remodel is a little like speech therapy, or maybe even like having a kid with a challenge like hearing loss or speech and language delay.

Have a plan, and then be willing to adjust the plan

My family and I are about 1 week into a fairly major remodel, including our kitchen, laundry room, and a bathroom. I’ve been so grateful that we have a bar in our (1950s, time capsule-esque) basement where we can cook and do dishes. The only problem with that is the basement is in the construction zone.

A photo of a midcentury style basement bar.

So even though the plan had been to eat all of our meals downstairs, this past week was demolition, and by the 2nd day, I could see that getting down to the basement was not really going to work very well.

The path to the basement stairs had been shrouded in a haze of dust with nails and debris on the floor. The crew said they could clear us a path, but I didn’t want to slow the work. So instead, we made a lunch date with my husband and met him at a fast food restaurant for lunch.

Sometimes during a therapy session, the therapist and parents can make an excellent plan, but the child absolutely does not. want. to. look. at. a. book. right. now. So what do you do? You adapt. Maybe you do the activities in a different order, or let the child choose which book they want to read. In the famous words of Tim Gunn, you have a make it work moment.

When something looks difficult, try it anyway. The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t work.

A long hallway with a washing machine in the middle of it.

We opened the bedroom door one morning to see our washer and dryer in the hallway. Totally fair…they need to move them to work on the laundry room. But, the white door at the end of the hallway is where we needed to go in order to get my 3 year old out to the car to go to playschool.

I really wasn’t sure I could squeeze through between the washer/dryer and the wall, but the other options (walking through the work zone…skipping school and being stuck in my bedroom with both kids all day) weren’t too appealing either. So we tried, and even though the 1 year old wasn’t too sure about being hoisted in the air over the machines, we made it.

When you have a kiddo with special needs, there are definitely things that look like they might be too hard. Their listening and spoken language therapist might ask them to make a longer sentence than they’ve ever made, or to remember a list longer than they’ve ever remembered.

Or we as parents may be asked to practice things or do activities with our kids that just seem too difficult, or we’re just not confident…but you don’t know until you try. Sure, you may fail, and then you adjust. Or you may find you can actually do it, despite being covered with construction dust. 🙂

Try to change your mindset (reframe)

Living in a house with a 3 year old and a 1 year old while the remodeling is going on isn’t ideal. But neither is moving a 3 year old and a 1 year old out (also it wasn’t in our budget). And yes, there have definitely been challenges and things I haven’t enjoyed. But as least when I’m around the kids, I’ve been trying to reframe, so that I can keep things as stable, calm, and normal as possible for them.

When we couldn’t go down the basement for lunch, I could have explained it to them by saying–“We can’t go downstairs and eat lunch, it’s too messy.” But, I wanted their cooperation in my “plan B,” since hell hath no fury like an upset toddler. So instead, I said “Hmm, we’re going to do something different today, we’re going to have our lunch upstairs in Graham’s room!”

Two children sitting at a small table eating sandwiches

And I cleared the changing pad off of the dresser, and proceeded to make PB&J sandwiches in my 1 year old’s room. I scavenged water bottles and cups from my bedroom, and my 3 year old thought it was the best idea ever.

Sometimes as adults, we need our children to show us the joy in seeing things from another perspective. I wasn’t thrilled about sitting on the floor eating a sandwich or experimenting with whether or not my 1 year old could eat on a regular kid chair instead of a high chair (he can!).

Thankfully, my 3 year old’s excitement was contagious. He kept talking about how fun it was to eat in his brother’s room, and helped to make an annoyance into an adventure. And isn’t that what we need sometimes? A fresh perspective? Sometimes kids can be our best teachers on seeing the good in situations.

When All Else Fails, Step Out for a Bit

A room that has been stripped down to studs with a black covering on the floor.

See the black stuff on the floor? It’s some kind of old glue or adhesive from the 1950s vinyl the contractor had pulled up, and is apparently very difficult to remove, and also necessary so that the new floors can be put down on a smooth surface. It required the use of some kind of grinder or sander (tool names aren’t really my thing), which operates incredibly loudly (and makes our house smell sort of like a campfire).

A picture of a wood floor with bits of black coming out from under the doorway.
Bits of the black glue that escaped through a closed door.

Since I work from home, I have heard every step of the demo. I stayed in the basement through the first day of sanding/grinding, but eventually I couldn’t handle the noise. It was just too loud, irritating, etc., So, I left. I took my computer to a nearby coffee shop to work, and felt so much better about handling the noise level when I returned home.

I think as parents we sometimes need to extend ourselves that same grace. If therapy has been particularly hard, or you’ve been working on something with your child that is just tough, give yourself permission to step back. Let your partner handle it for a while, or just give yourself permission to take a night off from practicing.

If it’s a school relationship that is challenging, let them know you’ll be taking some time to think through your response or next steps. If you can, physically step away from the people or situation that are stressing you out, so that when you come back to it, you’re fresh and better able to handle the challenge.