When I look at young children, I see bright lights in tiny bodies. They are quite dazzling in their beauty, playfulness, fun and readiness to love and be loved. I look at children and I see freedom… unashamedly allowing the world to see exactly who they are and how they experience life. Children will share with you the tiny wonders they discover along the intrepid adventure that is their average day. They will let you know when their bath water isn’t warm enough, their drink cold enough, their shoelaces tight enough or their t-shirt sparkly enough.
Allowing Children to Express or Squashing them to Conform?
When children have difficulty communicating, they come and see me: I work as a speech pathologist with children of all ages. Before becoming a speech pathologist I taught and coached swimming for 7 years. Both in my work as a swimming teacher and as a speech pathologist, I have found the task of trying to guide a child to ‘achievement’ against a set of criteria daunting.
Just as light eludes being trapped by lines and angles, children resist being moulded and squashed to conform to a structure that doesn’t honour the endless wonders that they are. And children know when they are put into a box that isn’t the right fit for them or doesn’t honour where they are on their journey.
I used to plan how I was going to teach a child to swim or how I was going to guide a child to develop their communication skills and try to get them to fit into my plan. The plan worked for some children and for some it didn’t. The children that the plan didn’t work for would show me this in a number of ways:
- They would be what is often described as ‘naughty’.
- They would have trouble concentrating and need to be constantly re-engaged with what I was presenting.
- They would start to be ‘silly’ or begin ‘fidgeting’ when I was talking to them.
- Even worse, there were some children who would be ‘good’ and do all they could to squash themselves into the structure of my plan.
All of these responses were in fact expressions of the fact that my plan didn’t work for these children. It didn’t work because I hadn’t taken a moment to put aside my plan, their parents’ expectations, time constraints, goals, etc. to look at the child and really see them. To see the endless wonder, natural joy and beauty that sparkles within all children, regardless of any diagnosis; but also to allow myself to feel what they had brought with them into the session.
Everyone struggles with the demands of their day and everyone carries around a matrix of challenges, burdens, belief systems and hurts that influence their ability to participate in life. Children are no different and they bring this baggage to every interaction they have… including swimming lessons and speech pathology sessions.
Meeting Children and Allowing them to Be
Structures and plans are needed when working with children, but they need to be coupled with a willingness to meet and see the child for where they are at and ALLOWING them to be there.
I still put plans together to address the difficulties that children have with their communication but now I adapt the plan to meet the child where they are at on any given day and on their life’s journey. I let the child guide me and most importantly, I remember that the child was already perfect before they walked into my treatment room. I am just there to support them to develop their ability to express that perfection.
So, that is what I am joyfully unravelling at the moment, allowing children to be exactly where they are and guiding them to express the awesomeness that already exists within them. It is remarkable how much beauty you will see in a person when you look at them and see them for who they are on their journey rather than asking them to jump in a hot-air-balloon with you and to join your own path.
For me, there is a particular joy in seeing the pure exquisiteness of a child, mixed in with everything else they come with on that day, and allowing them to be what you see. Once you invite them to share all of themselves with you… they very often do. I never fail to be touched by the amount of joy, love, humour, conviction, confidence and wisdom that is right there in children – and they are just dying to share it with you. But… is it just children who are little powerhouses of awesomeness? Or is it possible that we big kids are that too?
By Kate Maroney, Speech Pathologist, Melbourne, Australia