My doll, Mary, is modeled after a very spunky, delightful young girl that I had the pleasure of working with. She had personality, humor, and mild Cerebral Palsy. One day we were working on balance skills and we were blowing feathers into the air. I remember she had a runny nose that day. We were blowing away then she inhaled and a feather planted itself firmly under her nose, giving her a mustache. She threw her head back and started to laugh so hard that her chair began to teeter and totter. I reached for her and within moments, we both collapsed slowly. She landed and continued to laugh as the perfectly placed, orange feather mustache lay on her lip. She reveled in having an orange mustache and her lack of self-consciousness still inspires me today!
Things can get so serious at work. As occupational therapists, teachers, childcare professionals and parents, we are all trying to meet the needs of children we truly care about. We work hard to formulate plans, write goals and try to make programs that support what we tend to see as “growth’.
It’s valuable for me to stop and look at what skills and abilities children are bringing us. I always get so inspired at simple yet profound teachings. It’s good to slow down and make sure we are making plans with parents and to also get the child input too. What is the child most interested in? How can we incorporate their favorite tasks, subjects or hobbies into their learning process? Also, it’s always important for me to remember to ask parents what their goals are for their child. Sometimes, I am way off from their plan, which is when I like to ask the important question, “What do they see their child doing at age 21”? It’s a great way to invite parent conversation and also to focus their long-term planning goals for their child. Approaching teaching and occupational therapy not as a one-size-fits-all model keeps the people I work with and myself on our toes. It keeps us creative and open to learning from each other. Seeing the abilities in children first allows for customized learning techniques in a way that is fun and worthy of challenge that children can meet.