OH boy, September is intense for us school-ish folks! Lots of meetings and organizing (and re-organizing!) caseloads, and figuring out which cute little mini-student matches up to a name on the list.
For me, it has been such a welcome breath of fresh air! It reminds me what I love about my career and that makes me oh.so.happy! (clap along...if you feel like a room without a roof...because I'm happy.... - sorry if you didn't want that great song in your head for the rest of the day!)
My primary contract this fall is with preschool and kindergarten kids in a school division that believes really strongly in the value of play for kids. I found the evidence in this video we watched on Monday to be quite compelling.
I think lots of us like to say that we value play...at least in theory. Or maybe when it occupies our kids so we can make supper or check facebook, if I'm being really honest! But many of us adults have kind of forgotten how to play - it's a good thing that it often comes naturally for kids, so we can follow their lead and let them decide how it's going to be, and that is good for both the adult and the child! It can be kind of overwhelming at first to let go of our own agenda and just play with kids. (thoughts coming through our minds might be something like...shouldn't we TEACH them? how will we know what they have learned? Where are the rules? ha!). It has been really rewarding for me as a mom to watch my children's imaginations blossom and to watch them love playing together.
As an SLP, it is a shift in thinking to challenge myself so that I can address the speech and language goals of my students through following their lead in play in a classroom setting. It takes an open mind, and I am making an effort to really try it and find my way through it. I had a great time today...I played a lot! I drove cars and worked on several concept words and built rapport with two little girls, I played at a ship and worked on 'sh' with a slightly older boy with good language skills, and I did some puzzles with some boys who get frustrated easily. I also did a lot of collaborative 'cleaning up'. I don't know how it's going to look on a contact note yet, or how I will remember what to work on with each student, or whether I'll feel like I'm really doing my job. But I'm looking forward to trying this out, and it touches on concepts that resonate really deeply with me.
I'll keep you posted! But in the meantime, I will be playing with a purpose!
I have had a few questions come my way lately about when to be concerned about little ones who aren't yet talking, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts on this topic.
In recent years, I think the push for 'get help early' has gained momentum in our profession, and is moving further away from some of the 'wait and see' approach.
My absolute go-to source for early language is the Hanen Centre. Here is a quote from their article (referenced below) about some guidelines to determine whether your child should see a Speech-Language Pathologist:
The Hanen experts also share some thoughts about the stories you hear of kids that suddenly start talking when they turn 3 in complete sentences (usually it's someone's uncle, ha!). It's a good idea to see an SLP when you START to have concerns, partly because we can give some 'everyday' tips to help a young child's language develop, but also because we can help look for other red flags that may indicate reasons some kids don't speak until later. Many will develop age appropriate language on their own, but some won't, and getting help early can make a big difference.
In the meantime, what can you do?
First things first, you can't make someone communicate! You can try to force a child to copy what you say, but that doesn't mean they are communicating, and that isn't really what we're looking for in language development.
Second, quizzing a child with questions and asking 'what's that called?' is also unproductive in the longer term. I know it's tempting, as I think it gives us as parents a good feeling to feel like we are teaching our little ones something. They may answer your question, but that doesn't get at difficulties with spontaneous communication and telling you what they actually want to say. And more than likely, the questions are tough for the child and the child will fail in the interaction. No one learns well when they feel like a failure, even a child.
I always encourage parents to try to play with their child without asking any questions and see if they can do it. It's tough! :) But reducing the number of questions we ask really helps. Try commenting on the play by describing something or even saying 'this is fun' at first, just to build interaction between you and your child while playing. Use simple sentences, or even just single words...or maybe even just sound effects for starters (farm scenes help with this, or cars and trucks).
Don't be afraid to leave some quiet space in the play! Watch what your child is doing, and follow along. Children do learn language by imitating us spontaneously, so I try to leave a long pause after commenting on something, with a big smile and see if the child copies me. Repetition helps a lot. So for example, if we're playing with bubbles, I might say 'pop' or 'more' over 100 times, even though it feels a bit ridiculous at first! I have had great success with teaching simple signs at this early level too - such as 'more, help, puppy' or 'drink'.
There are many other ideas that can help, but maybe that's a few to get you started! This is one of my favourite areas of my profession, so it is fun to discuss! Feel free to send any questions along, or other topics of interest!
What an exciting week! A lot of 'unknowns' are now becoming more clear for me, so it has been really fun to have more of an idea of what my work is going to be like this fall! I haven't been this excited about general work routines for several years, so it is a breath of fresh air! So far, the dreams I had for starting this business seem to be worth the risk - I have been able to be with my kids at key moments this week in the first week of school, and my schedule is looking like it is just right for me. Now talk to me in a few weeks in the craziness of first assessments and sorting out caseload and I might be singing a different tune, ha! I'm super thankful for my kind friends that are giving me invaluable help through this transition.
But as I head off to the schools tomorrow, advocating for kids with disabilities, this thought comes to mind this evening.
To me, this seems like sort of a no-brainer at first. But I have seen evidence to the contrary a number of times in my career, even, I will admit, by myself in earlier days. I have been guilty of making assumptions about what kids were understanding, just because they didn't have a way to indicate their understanding to me. But I have been proven wrong in a glorious fashion a number of times, and I'm thankful that I was.
This quote says it fairly clearly - it is safest to assume (at least at first) that a child is capable of learning. I believe it is a human right to learn and to be challenged and to be given the same opportunities as other kids whenever possible, with adaptations to compensate for the complex communication challenges. In essence, it's about respect. And students deserve respect just as much anyone else. In my humble opinion!