By: Tim Bush, COTA/L
When I was in 6th grade I had the opportunity to go salmon fishing with my dad in Kenai, Alaska. The day we arrived on the Kenai Peninsula we had time to spare before check-in at the lodge. We were eager to see the river we would be fishing, so we drove to a nearby trail and took a riverside walk. We walked a trail through the woods that paralleled the river. We walked nearly a mile admiring the water and the forest before we came across a pool of standing water in the trail. My dad was the first to see the large grizzly bear tracks on the edge of the pool. He also noticed that the water that had been displaced by the bear’s paws at the far end of the pool was now filling the fresh tracks. I simply stood and admired the tracks, marveling at how large they were. Little did I know the bear was likely less than 20 yards away in the thick forest.
As I continued to look at the tracks dad calmly said, “You know what? Let’s go ahead and walk back to the car, and let’s talk a little louder too.”
“Okay”, I said with a smile. We turned back and had a loud conversation, likely talking about the big salmon we were going to catch in the days ahead.
I continued to admire the river and the woods as I walked alongside my dad. I didn’t have a care in the world.
When we arrived back at the car, my dad breathed a massive sigh of relief and proceeded to tell me that he had never been more scared than he was during the walk back to the car. I was shocked. On the exterior, dad maintained a very calm and pleasant demeanor.
My dad and I still talk about that walk along the Kenai River. He still talks about the fear he felt during the 20 minute walk back to the car.
What did I learn from this situation? My dad’s ability to stay regulated during a potentially dangerous situation helped me maintain my own state regulation. In fact, I was completely oblivious to the fact that we were in the presence of one of the world’s most dangerous predators.
If dad had become dysregulated on that walk, I most certainly would have become dysregulated! If we had panicked, the situation could have taken a dangerous turn. It could have triggered the bear’s own fear response leading to a charge. Dad knew that his most important job was to protect me at that moment. He was terrified, but maintaining state regulation was paramount for my well-being.
It can be scary when your child or someone you love is in danger. Stay calm. Stay regulated. For their sake.
Tim has been working with Unyte-iLs, helping professionals find the best neural solutions for their clients since 2018.
He has over 13 years of experience in mental health and occupational therapy, and has worked in multiple environments including pediatric day treatment, pediatric outpatient, Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) and assisted living facilities.
Book a call with Tim directly to learn more about Unyte-iLs non-invasive multisensory solutions.