Written by Ilene Sherry, Speech-Language Pathologist, Mecklenburg County CDSA
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking”
Oh, the twists and turns our fields have gone through in the past thirty years, and I have taken all the turns. It is never easy adjusting to change and is often scary; however, I can honestly state that early intervention services have vastly improved since I graduated with my Master’s Degrees in the “dark ages.” It was suggested that I write this blog because I am “mature” and “well-seasoned” (which translates into old). I was trained in a clinical/medical model, which is very different from what early intervention is today. Early intervention services today makes sense in that we are coaching parents and primary caregivers to be their child’s first teachers.
Years ago, in a “land far far away………..”
- A parent would leave the room to do laundry during a therapy session. Today, we encourage the parent to involve the child in the routine of doing laundry and coach them to teach their children new skills (to get them to use their words, to identify items of clothing, to practice motor skills while squatting to get the clothes out of the dryer, or to touch different textures of clothes as they take them out of the dryer).
- A parent used to hold off giving a child a snack until a therapy session was done. Today, we encourage the family to give their child a snack and coach them to take advantage of this learning opportunity that happens so regularly (to get them to follow directions, make choices, verbally ask for what they want, use a spoon, or walk to the kitchen).
- Parents used to remove siblings from a therapy session instead of including them in the session; however, siblings live in the home and are part of daily routines. If, for example, a family wants their child to enjoy playing with their siblings instead of biting them, does it not make sense to include their siblings in the visit and to give the family tools to make this happen?
- We used to do feeding therapy in a clinic. Doesn’t it make more sense to address the family’s concerns about their child’s feeding development at home where the child is surrounded by familiar smells and eating where they would normally be given a meal?
- We used to bring our “stuff” to the family’s home. How much more logical is it to work within the child’s environment and with the materials they already have, or to help the family utilize natural resources they have instead of bringing our “bag of tricks” into the family’s home?
How wonderful it is to come to the realization that children are inherently motivated to communicate, want to do activities with the most important people in their lives (not a therapist), and are more comfortable learning new skills in their natural environment (instead of in a therapy room)! It is amazing how I thought I knew it all but am learning how short-sighted I was in the past. Interacting with families from a coaching perspective has truly enabled families help their children because they have been given the resources in which to do it. We have underestimated the power of families in that we thought that only we could help a child because we had the degree and the credentials. Oh, how we have been proven wrong!!!! The look on families’ faces when they “get it” and have that “a-ha” moment is amazing. Many families say “I can do this!” We have become “cheerleaders” for our families…..even though some of us are “seasoned” and cannot jump and do cartwheels like we used to.