Saturday, May 25, 2013

Adapting to the child

I adapt to the child.

Most of the time, I get clients who love coming to therapy.  They get big smiles when they see me and give me hugs when they are leaving.  I have lots of kids who can sit at the table and do drill work while we play a game.

But sometimes a child will come in who is a "slow to warm up kid."  These kids are really quiet at the beginning of the session.  They might need a lot of coaxing to come into the room.  They might cry a little bit or try to hide behind their parents.  I could yell and clap my hands and get really excited and talk in a loud voice because they aren't talking.

I adapt to the child.

So I get quieter, I show them what I am playing with.  I give them time to come to me.  I might engage in a little eye flirting.  I pretend to be really clumsy and drop things.   I walk really fast and see if they can catch up to me.  I give them time to feel comfortable and I am mostly quiet until they start talking.

Sometimes I get a child who can't sit at the table, who needs to carry 5 objects in their hands to feel safe, who communicates primarily through whining.  I could set up a behavioral plan, insist that they could do it if they tried, tell the parents that it's okay, their child needs to learn how to sit and do their work.  I might tell the parents that a lot of kids cry when they come for speech therapy.

I adapt to the child.

I follow their lead for a little bit.  I let them have more control, I make sure that their goals aren't too hard.  I spend a lot of time building trust and turn taking.  Once I have that I can get them back to the table-and it will be fun.  

Sometimes I get a child who ONLY likes Angry Birds or Transformers or the shape of counties in our state. (seriously).  I could tell the parents how important it is to expand their interests.  I could say it's not healthy to only play one way or with one type of activity.  I could make them do my picture cards and insist that they play with different toys.

I adapt to the child.

I study up on their special interest.  I buy products on stores like Teachers Notebook and Teachers pay Teachers.  I know the names of all of the Star Wars Characters and Superheroes.  I know that Nick Fury leads the Avengers.  I know more than I have ever cared too about Bakugan.  But once I've established the trust then we can start to work on pushing to see what other things we can do with their special interest.  We might try to find similar items.  I'm like Amazon: If you like this, then you might like this....

When I take the time to adapt to the child-instead of forcing them into my idea of therapy, I build trust.  When I build a good foundation of trust, teaching and speech therapy becomes easy.  When speech therapy becomes easy and fun, my clients are excited to come to speech therapy.  When they are excited to come to speech therapy, it makes life easier on their parents.  When a little bit of stress is lifted, they may be more able to complete some home programming.

I'm not super human, sometimes it takes me awhile to figure out a kid.  Sometimes we have a few bumpy sessions.  But  I really try to take time to change myself, my activities, my demeanor before I decide a child has a "behavior problem" in Speech.  (Disclaimer: this works a lot better during individual sessions then in groups.  Groups probably require different strategies.)

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