Saturday, October 27, 2012

barriers to engagement

The amount of times I have sat back and watched a therapist attempting to work with my children and completing missing it and not making a connection with my kids is quite shocking. It is so frustrating being a parent and seeing the lack of connection, the missed opportunities of learning and relationship. It sounds like it is simple but obviously it isn't simple so what are the barriers to engaging with a children:

  • the pressure of the program. How often do we see the agenda of the therapist coming through so strongly it overpowers the child resulting with a dis-empowerment of the child. The pressure of time takes away the time necessary for children to engage with you, the time for a child to warm up. Without this time, the child doesn't have the opportunity to feel respected, to trust the therapist and to feel that they can be themselves.
  • not observing the child's non verbal behaviour. Sometimes a therapist can be so consumed in verbal language that they forget to read the non verbal. It is easy to see when a child is communicating non verbally that they don't feel comfortable. Unfortunately I have seen this the most with speech therapists. When a therapist ignores the non verbal behaviour and communication it actually sends a message that if a child can't speak or struggles to speak for that person, that the therapist's efforts are wasted. I will speak on and on about the stages of communication just because the child is not talking, does not mean they are not communicating.
  • putting on a director's hat or parent hat. In the therapy situation it is really tempting especially as a parent to feel a little worried when your child acts in a socially unacceptable way. For me when my son jumps around too much or is too loud I am so tempted to say something. Or when he snatches or does something I am trying to teach him not to do, the temptation to speak is so strong. I have seen this with therapists who get distracted with other things I have heard therapists discuss how the child needs to sit differently or get frustrated when they are distracted. This is a barrier to engagement.
  • convenience. Now hear me out before you shoot me:) I have often seen what is most convenient for the therapist overriding what is best practice for the child. Often this includes the therapist being close minded about the best way to approach therapy including feeling that the parent doesn't know what they are doing. Also one issue in relation to Selective Mutism the majority of the time most people do therapy at their centre. This is ok in most situations but in others no. I have heard therapists outwardly discussing they will not do any therapy outside of their office, sometimes because of bad experiences of other people not turning up. Secondly it has to do with time, the rhythm of the child. Sometimes the times offered for therapy actually don't help the child. Say after school the therapy may be arranged straight after school. I have personally seen the lack of progress because of choosing the wrong time. Please understand I am not judging those who may be therapists. But I have seen how for example my son interacts at home compared to in the centre. Personally I believe it should come down to the best practice what is the best way to do this, and best interest what is the best for this child?

These are just a few short ideas on what I have seen come up in therapy as barriers to engagement with children. I find it humbling to think how many times I have actually be involved in placing barriers between me and my children because of what I am doing.

Next post we will discuss how to engage with children.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

it's the little things

When I become a parent, I had envisioned maybe dreaded would be the correct term lots of playschool doing actions and learning songs and dancing with my kids. It sounds like such a small things and a normal part of a child's development. Whether or not it was Selective Mutism, his SPD or his BJHS it wasn't a part of our life.

At school I have memories of watching my son in the plays and seeing my outgoing loud son completely stone frozen. No expression on his face, unable to move make a noise or even an action. Even during school he wasn't able to do actions in circle time or even dance. Even at home it become something I didn't ask anymore because I knew what the answer was, or the stone silence and nothingness was not what I wanted to deal with.

Now our SM son is not our only child as our second boy grew up we noticed a lot of things especially now he is 4. He is able to dance or to do actions or to sing to music but he was and is held back a little by his bigger brother's example (another complexity of parenting a special needs child). 

When it started I am not sure, but he has been listening to some music at home by Sean W Smith and over and over again in his room as he is going to sleep. Sean W Smith is a christian artist who writes decent music for kids. I am a musician and I do have a standard of only playing decently played and written music to my kids. I don't want to torture them! :) One great thing about the lyrics in a lot of the songs by Sean W Smith is that they are strength building, encouraging lyrics that deal with the issues that young kids come across like being scared at night, dealing with bullies. 

One night my husband come in and told me he is dancing in his bed, under the covers in his bed, quite a funny thought. He is learning some of the words (which he has always struggled with) and is able to do some actions. This is now generalizing in other areas as well he is moving, well wiggling to music. A sight to see, now the task of teaching my child how to dance a little:). With school starting next week I wonder if the teacher will notice what the difference is in him.  

What have I learnt about this experience? Two things it's surprising the little things that seem insignificant that can get you really emotional 1 if they can't do it and 2 when they finally learn how to. Secondly I am learning not to underestimate the small things that can bring breakthroughs in my children's lives.  So maybe things are changing dramatically but I am stopping to enjoy the small victories along the way. Have a think about what might be happening big and small that you can be grateful for? Think on this!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

getting the full picture

Life can be a tapestry, well even more so parenting is a like a tapestry it is so difficult to get the full picture on what is really going on. I often think I wish I understood my child more, what does he think, what does he feel does he even know? The idea with a tapestry you can see the threads from behind some days they look like a mess, well a lot of days they do but when you turn it around you can see the full picture. I constantly feel like I am trying to peer around the corner trying to see, but I can't reach.

At the moment we are working through some testing with my son, general cognitive stuff. Last week we did some speech testing which had some surprising results and then this week we looked into the cognitive side and he did the WISC, which he did really well he worked for a full hour and made it through with a few short breaks to regain full concentration. Things that stood out to us are his love for numbers his weakness in auditory processing and skills in that area. Apparently he has a high processing speed so he can think quite fast and he does have a normal IQ. Next appointment we will look at it more and see what else the tests reveal. 

So often with my son there are two versions of him, what we see at home the loud, sometimes rude and bossy, funny and lively young man, and then outside of the home he is withdrawn quiet and non verbal a lot of the time. What was great this week and last week was that Josiah was able to talk to the psychologist, well it was a whisper so it still counts. But he was actually talking normally this is quite a feat, not just answering short questions or short subjects, things that he was thinking about his experiences. What was even funnier was that he was actually talking too much last week and it was interfering with the testing. It was something the both of us kept smiling at each other about.

The question is, he struggles so hard to just do school that therapy often is very hard, I recognise the HUGE difference between what he is like during the term and what he is like in the holidays. It is so dramatic. What changes can I make in this area to make this issue a little easier, it does become a huge obstacle to therapy. I am also recognising the impact of his sensory processing issues are having on him and the associate fatigue, shut downs and low arousal issues. More on that in my other blog Sensory Processing Disorder and Selective Mutism. For now I am enjoying the fact that my boy's psychologist gets to see the hidden Josiah what a privilege.

The other questions we need to ask ourselves are:

Do we really need to know EVERYTHING that is going on, do we have to understand everything? Why does mystery become a source of anxiety?

Secondly maybe the tapestry is not finished yet, if we shortcut the process we may miss out on the beauty of the finished task. Contentment is a quality we all need to chase after. 

The ability to be peaceful no matter what the circumstances are, could be or should be. Hey if we figured this out, then most of our problems would cease to exist, it would be a high and lofty goal. The question is do we allow ourselves to be at peace?