Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 5 No 1 Contents BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 5 NUMBER 1 • 2016 • 25
recognise and be proud of their child’s unique way
of existing in the world.
In fact, most of what I do is interact with the most
important people in a child’s life – their families,
teachers and their friends. It’s working with this ‘circle
of support’ to understand what motivates a child,
what their strengths and interests are, and what
frustrations and limitations are obstacles to them
just being children.
But what does this therapy look like, and how do
these words, visions and ambitions translate to helping
little Jonah sit up by himself, or to Wafa being able to
communicate that she is hungry? Indeed, the nuts
and bolts of therapy are gritty, down-in-the-sandpit
strategies to help little hands and feet do what they
want to do, and go where they want to go.
He’s talking – just differently
Armed with a kit of creative ideas, a strengths-based
approach and very empathic ears, my next stop is
Milton’s house. Milton, his mum and twin sister are about
to have a morning snack. Perfect timing.
I remind Milton’s mum that we could practise using
his communication device, to help him ‘tell us’ what he
wants for a snack. ‘But if he uses the device, he won’t
learn how to talk, right?’
Gently, I remind her that this is, in fact, Milton’s way
of talking, and that if he can ‘talk’ using pictures, he’s
less likely to throw his custard on the floor and run over
it with his wheelchair!
She laughs and agrees to keep trying, saying, ‘I
know, it’s just hard to let go of that idea sometimes’.
I nod, acknowledging that it is hard to let go – so
much is made of these first milestones. The first step,
first word and first day of school.
I try to get parents to understand that their child can
experience these firsts – it’s just that the picture might
not be the one that we are used to seeing in glossy ads
in magazines and on TV, or even in the next playground.
Milton uses every ounce of energy to turn on his
device and accurately select ‘yoghurt and fruit’ from
the snacks page. He grins broadly when the device
barks out the selection, making his twin sister giggle,
and bringing a cautious smile to his mother’s face.
One size does not fit all
My fellow therapists and I work passionately to ‘get’
what is unique about each child and family that
we support. We work hand in hand with them – the
imaginative and collaborative problem-solving that
happens with our families is fundamental to creating
solutions that stick.
I begin each day imagining that I will be able to
change the world, and make life a bit better, nicer
and more palatable for each child I meet.
Baby steps forward
Sarah and I are still twirling and giggling. I then use
a giant purple marker to scribble a vague figure
without legs on the easel. Sarah stops, watches and
looks questioningly at us. ‘Oh, that’s our friend Cecil
the twirler. Cecil can’t twirl because he has no legs.
Will you help give him some legs?’ She’s sceptical, but
allows me to hold her hand with the giant marker, and
lo and behold, Cecil has legs! It’s a celebration that is
deserving of more twirling!
The room leader gleefully writes Sarah’s name on
the drawing as we talk about other ways to engage
with Sarah and build her skills. As I’m heading out the
door, Sarah momentarily looks up from her twirling and
Never is therapy about agreeing that a child is ‘just
naughty’, or that there’s nothing more to be done. It’s
never about suggesting that a child can’t, rather than
‘of course they can’, but it’s perhaps sometimes about
finding a different way.
And it is always about seeing the possibility that a
child is their own superhero, and that they can inspire
others to fly.
Christine Samy is an occupational therapist with
Scope, one of Australia’s leading providers of
disability support services and therapy services.
She has more than 15 years of experience working
with children and young adults with multiple
challenges and possibilities, across the age
spectrum from birth to 18 years.
When she’s not twirling, she enjoys good food
I begin each day
imagining that I will
be able to change the
world, and make life
a bit better, nicer and
more palatable for
each child I meet
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