Franziska and Bettina are two of many young physiotherapists from apex PROaupair who lived with a host family with special needs as professional au pairs. "The program has enabled me not just to experience cultural exchange and accompany a girl with cerebral palsy and developmental delays in her everyday life, live with her for a year, but also to get to know the american people and culture," explains Franziska.
(Franziska and her host child)
Franziska and Bettina had a special focus when living with their host children- the professional au pairs accompanied the children to their different therapies and exchanged knowledge with the respective U.S. therapists to help the therapy goals together as a team. Other care givers, including the parents of the children, were also involved, resulting in a holistic approach.
Since the host mom works a busy career on Capitol Hill, she really welcomed the young Germans to engage with her children and bring a new culture into their home.
"I was able to be a part of a team of ABA behavioral therapists, equestrian therapists, speech therapists, and physiotherapists. I've learned a lot and I've been able to exchange regularly with them to get tips for my work with my host child, "says Bettina.
Through the close cooperation in the interdisciplinary team, Bettina was able to use her current skills and supplement them with new therapeutic approaches and methods. The special routine played an important role in achieving the therapeutic goals with the children.
"Experiencing the everyday life of a family with a child with therapeutic support needs has brought me a lot of professional and personal development while learning more about American culture. It is simply quite different if one sees the child two times per week in therapy. Beeing with the child up to 45 hours a week has a bigger opportunity to support the development positively and really make a connection for live," explains Bettina.
For the children, as well as for Franziska and Bettina, it was a win-win situation. Franziska's and Bettina's host parents quickly trusted their professional au pairs and the parents and the US therapists were able to design a therapy routine that was nearly indistinguishable from play time for the child.
"Before I came to my host family and host child, she had three times a week physiotherapy and once hippotherapy. This means she was already very well looked after, but it was important for the parents that their daughter is not only well looked after in everyday life but also get some cultural exchange experience. So, my tasks were to share some of my German cultures, holliday traditions, attend the US therapy sessions and then take the home work usually the parents do and package the therapy homework in daily life, so that the little one had fun and became more independent and agile," reports Franziska.
"To see how my host child improved so much while I was with my host family in the US, was the greatest experience I could hope for," describes Franziska.
Professional au pairs Franziska and Bettina found a unique opportunity to combine their experience as physiotherapists from Germany with an international cultural exchange experience while caring for their host children.
"My wish before I traveled to the US was to go abroad for a while, experience the american culture, share some of my therapist background with US people and develop as a person."says Franziska. "I found a wonderful family in the USA, met great friends and traveled to many places like New York, Florida or California. I am very grateful for this time. "
The friendship with the host family remains strong, even after returning to Germany. Many calls and visits back to the US happened since then.
Once Franziska and Bettina arrived back to Germany, they were featured in a local publication called Physio Journal where they shared about their year as professional au pairs and the amazing U.S. Department of State au pair program who made that all possible.
Way to go, Franziska and Bettina!