Yesterday my son began preschool at a great early learning center. Actually, next week is his first time alone. This week, it is the two of us together supporting his transition. A plus of a mommy SLP, is that I love to buy toys and I love to watch children play. Truth is, before I became a mom I loved to buy toys and watch children play. One of the biggest reasons, I love to watch children play is simply it helps me as a therapist really create social cognition, social skills, and social play goals that are meaningful and move my clients closer (and exceed) to their neurotypical peers.
At the end of each day, my son’s schools send pictures of all the kids in his class depicting their day. Instead of joyful smiles of glee, were faces of serious contemplation, concentration, and thinking. Initially, I thought “oh they are not smiling”. Then later, I was reminded and then deeply reflected on the fact that play is work. Particularly to young learners, play is contemplative problem solving, negotiation, processing, and much more. Sometimes we hear voices of joy and tones of satisfaction and even groans when the coveted toy is captured.
But, more often than not we see the nonverbal negotiation:
- The looks children give one another
- The smiles of satisfaction
- The intent observation to understand how something works
- The working and reworking to get a block structure upright
- The pause
- The reflection
Often times in treatment, we teach play and go for the declarative language, the “I want ” phrasing in young learners. When, in fact, young learners playing do not speak as much in “I want” phrasing as they look and communicate nonverbally.
The observation of the Pause. Reflection. and Contemplation…are all critical for ABA (Radical Behaviorism…thinking about the toy, what to do with the toy, how do I use this toy), OT, and Speech -Language Therapy. The task is for us as therapists to write these nonverbal transactions and skills in our programs as measurable goals and program prescriptions.
Beginning with the End in Mind is where this is leading me and where I am headed. What do I want my clients to do? How does that look in the neurotypical population? Then we move towards goal writing and never leaving out evidenced based practice and research.
Learning from the preschoolers yesterday was a powerful gift to me as a therapist and a human.
Pause. Reflect. Contemplate. Move.
Continuing to Thrive!