Anyone else dread going to the hairdresser?! Two to three hours in one spot? What is she going to want to talk about? (another blog post) How can I sit that long? Do I have to talk too? And, oh my goodness if she has ideas about my hair! If the hairdresser leads with “I have a great idea for your hair” panic sets in. I think to self… Who needs ideas? What’s wrong with my current hair? Doesn’t it look ok? I mean, you did do it the last time, right?! I love my current hairdresser so lets start there and all of the previous ones too, but I finally found one that says “Yes, I see that.” “You are right Tracy, lets cut a little more there.” Do you know what a sense of relief it is to have someone acknowledge that for me? The reality is I can spot a picture from across the room that is millimeters off from being level. I notice small details about a person. I notice things that most people don’t which includes my HAIR. In some realms its a curse because I really need to let it go but when you get in and out of the car all day, you check your hair to make sure you look decent going into the next home. ( Come on ladies… Nod if you do too.) It is a constant reminder of the little piece that is not even. Why talk about this in a post as a speech pathologist, because in my job it matters. Attention to details matters. How does the child appear to feel?; is he/she anxious about a task; is he/she hungry?; has he/she slept? As we go about our busy days we need to pay attention to these details so we can be of better service to the children. Our lives are busier and busier; take the time to make sure your kiddo feels well. Their physical state impacts their ability to focus, their attention span, and the ability to filter out extraneous details; which in turn may alter the demands we place on them.
And the child that notices small details? The speck on the floor that is important. The ball. The cup. If the child is moving from object to object I need to look at that behavior and determine if I am the cause. Is the task too difficult? How does the child feel? Is the child anxious? Is that why he/she is moving from item to item or not able to stay on task? Does that child have low tone? Many of my kiddos have low tone and/or low body awareness so beanbag chairs are a hit. If your body is comfortable in space you are less apt to be visually distracted so you can focus (Think about that idea for a minute before moving on.)
If the child has low tone or is easily distracted I can incorporate some movement or input strategies provided by an occupational therapist or physical therapist. Are there too many objects in the environment which are visually distracting? I think redirection is good to help bring a child back to task, but sometimes when THAT THING keeps coming back I need to acknowledge THAT THING for the child. For example, the child that points to a ball across the room and keeps repeating “ball, ball, ball”, while participating in a structured task…. What do you do? I like to DANCE with these kiddos. I can follow that kiddo’s lead, point to the ball, say ball, pick up the ball, throw the ball, etc and then remove the ball from the immediate environment and continue with the structured task. This gives the child acknowledgment and often makes THAT THING smaller or disappear. And other times I can use a “first then” strategy… “first the puzzle, and then the ball”; or remove the ball completely and continue. Sometimes you take the child’s lead, and other times you lead; dance with the child. Often that depends on how the child is performing overall on that given day. It is not always about me and what I think needs to get done in a session. There are times when we need to think about our kids differently. We need to pause and pay attention. The reality is, the kid that points to the ball and then looks at me is communicating, and sometimes I need to acknowledge that, otherwise that ball may become the most important part of that room for the remainder of our session or other behaviors crop up. Limit opportunities for power struggles and acknowledge that child. When I was in college I used to study in the cubicles way in the back on the third floor of the library, limiting visual and auditory distractions (another blog post). Limit visual distractions in your home. I tell families all of the time, the child is not misbehaving, we need to change the environment or our behavior. Those rooms with the high ceilings? Less intimate and harder to focus in for some of our kiddos. Consider going into a smaller room or a kid’s tent for therapy and structured activities. Consider putting a blanket on the floor as a space for learning. Kids begin to learn that is part of the routine and part of their work space which can help increase their understanding of the expectation. The room that has “all” of the toys in it? Overwhelming and visually distracting. Put toys away in clear containers with lids. That kid’s table where the kiddo’s feet do not touch the ground? Cut the legs of the chair or put a stool of sorts under the child’s feet. Stabilize the child to help decrease his/her distractibility.
What do I do? I knew you would ask!
I have watched hairdressers enough to know where to make tiny snips for pieces that most people don’t notice. Thank goodness for those persons that notice the little things.
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