Saturday, November 7, 2009

Life is Therapy

I am starting my first ever blog series. I hope that it will be informative, encouraging, helpful, and fun.

Sometimes we parents can get bogged down in the notion that the teaching of our children must be done by professionals. Parents of children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to this idea since children with special needs often have to learn and develop quite differently than children with typical needs. This series centers around the idea that learning can and does occur most effectively through everyday life experiences at home and out in the community--for children with both typical and special needs.

The other piece to this puzzle is that just about everything can be therapy of one kind or another. Jumping in a pile of leaves? Sensory therapy (crunch of the leaves, feeling of fall after the jump), emotional therapy (joyful exuberance), play therapy (work out some pent up energy), social therapy (turn-taking as you wait for your chance to jump in the pile), physical therapy (gross motor skills required in jumping), vision therapy (identifying the pile), kinesthetic therapy (using combined senses to know when to jump), speech therapy (talking about the leaves, saying boom or crunch), and occupational therapy (picking up leaves). Get the picture?

Here's some more examples. Back in this post, I joked that Jack was getting blue speech therapy by sucking an icee through a straw. Well, it actually is speech therapy. Sucking through a straw works the muscles required for speech and sucking up an icee requires the recruitment of more muscles than say water. This post was an example of how swinging can be used for speech therapy. Of course, swinging is also sensory therapy. Riding a tricycle is physical therapy. Every bite of every meal or snack can be vision therapy and fine motor therapy and sensory therapy as the child finds, touches, and tastes their food. Get the picture?

This series is not just for children with special needs either. Parents of children with typical needs don't really call it therapy when their children practice their skills such as potty training but it's basically all therapy. We're all trying to help our children to develop skills to help them have the best lives they possibly can.

This is where we share our ideas and stories with one another. We're all in this together. Let's laugh together, motivate one another, and stimulate each others ideas. If you have a blog, create your own "life is therapy" post and link to the specific post in the Mr. Linky below. If you don't have a blog just leave a comment with your life is therapy story.

After that long-winded introduction, here is therapy at breakfast starring Jack!

***More Life is Therapy:
Prepositions at the Park
Rainy Days


Anonymous said...

I am a believer in this concept. We had EI therapists and an educator come to our house until our son Simon (who has DS) was 3, and then some from the local school for the next year. They splintered all activities into a zillion bits that could be measured and documented, and with the associated objectives and plans made...producing stacks of pages and pressuring me (though I know they didn't intend to) to work on so many isolated tasks with Simon. The following year we decided to "go it alone" and just live life with Simon, teaching the next things he obviously needed to learn. He has progressed as well as ever, without the "experts", for the five years since (we homeschool).
An example I give of this is Simon's learning to empty the dishwasher: PT (standing and carrying items to the cupboard and setting them in place--he had balance issues), OT (handling the pieces, getting them out of the d/w rack), Speech (as we converse about it), Visual discrimination and cognition (identifying big and little forks, spoons and plates; sorting by type), learning to serve and developing a sense of self-worth (each member of a family contributes), preparation for future work outside the home (developing faithfulness, thoroughness, good attitude toward work). All we have to do is work alongside him, decreasing our part of the job gradually as he's able to do more. Judy

Marie said...

Judy, thanks for relating that great idea! I am definitely going to be doing that and it also definitely one that can be applied by parents of children with typical needs and helps us all to realize that often a chore is more than a chore! Thanks again.

**note to others considering linking their own blog posts: You may discover something that you never realized as you take pictures and/or shoot video. For example, I videoed Jack opening his lunch containers just as he would do at school. When I looked at the video I realized that my son with low vision was having difficulty seeing the seems of the foil covering his sandwich. It's hard to unwrap foil if it all looks like a solid piece. I'm going to start marking the edges with colored tape. DOH!

Rachel said...

Great Idea, Marie! and great video! I'm a big fan of realizing the learning happening in the day to day moments.. I like this idea!

Marie said...

Thanks Rachel. I'd love to see a post about you and Ali linked up...wink, wink, nudge,'s an idea that seems so simple but an idea that is really lost these days. I'm not very creative but I am so inspired by other people's ideas. I want us all to share the ideas with one another so that all our children will benefit.

Anonymous said...

Here's an excerpt from James MacDonald, which emphasizes to me how normal life is the best teacher:

I have known many children who have learned words for many school
type learning- words for colors, shapes, numbers.

Why can that be a problem?

Those words are not very communicative; in daily interactions they are
not the meanings we communicate about. So while the child may store
them for being tested, they are not words that they will use and
practice much.

Think of words coming from the child's experiences and reasons to

Confessions From A Work-At-Home Mom said...

My mom is a special needs teacher, and she employs this concept daily in her classroom. She truly doesn't think her students should be treated differently than "mainstream" kids, and really works on the inclusion line of educational thinking.

I've never thought about some of the notions you mentioned, though, and I am going to pass your blog along to her. I think she could get some new insights out of it too!


Rachel said...

Okay - I linked up some posts that are a few months old that explain how we used something simple like a placemat to learn all of her states during mealtimes. It was stunningly easier than I thought it would be - especially with some added bribery like Pistachios and Marshmallows. Since then, we've learned a lot of the presidents the same way (I'll link that one up another day).

Marie said...

Judy, thank you once again for sharing Dr. MacDonald's wisdom regarding late talking children. I have added a link to his website. He is definitely an inspiration!

Elizabeth, I would love to hear some of your mother's thoughts. Teachers and therapists often do have amazing ideas on how to incorporate what they do with kids in therapy and in the classroom out into the real world.

Rachel, thanks for linking up. Those posts are excellent examples of making learning a fun shared activity. And, um, I think Ali could school me on some geography. :)

j said...

I had a *ding ding ding* moment when I read the words "special needs" and "typical needs". My gosh Marie, that was so well put. All of our kids have needs. Typical and special - fabulous!

I need to tell Jamie THANK YOU for leading me to your blog. I have enjoyed getting to know you and Jack.

Anonymous said...

Some months ago I tried showing Simon the clock, showing and saying that "when the little hand is on the 3 (which it basically was at 2:50), and the big hand is straight up on the 12, you can have a movie." (He'd asked for a movie.) For the remaining ten minutes we kept discussing how the big hand was getting closer to the 12 (and the movie). And dramatically, at 3:00, we talked about the "straight up big hand on the 12", and put the movie on. We did something similar the next day or two, but somehow forgot about it after that.

Yesterday when Simon wanted a movie, he took my hand and pulled me into the room with the TV, and the wall clock; and he began talking about "straight up", "twelve", "movie". I was AMAZED that he remembered what we'd done, and that he thought he could get me to put on a movie for him by talking about the clock. So now we're getting back on using the clock like that in a purposeful way.

This is how I taught his 8 older siblings to tell time--in the course of life at home--with different things. I put a wall clock in their bedroom and at naptime would show them the minute hand, saying that when it would go all the way around from the number it was on, back to the same number, they could come out from their nap. And with our first few kids, we told them they could come out from their room in the morning at 7:00. Snack would be when the big hand was on the _________.

He can learn to tell time through it (practical, important to him, hands-on, concrete learning), and also hopefully learn to be better able to wait for the thing he wants, knowing it will come at a predictable time. As I'm writing this it is 1:00pm, and Simon is asking me for a movie. I told him it's too early, he can watch one at 3:00. (I am hoping to stave the movie watching off until later in the day, to spend a good amount of time on more worthwhile pursuits first! Once he starts a movie, he'd want to watch movies until bedtime.) He said, "OK". Though I know he doesn't understand how long two hours is. I'll see how it goes, trying to occupy him for the next two hours. His older siblings are out at a class right now :( He is very cutely taking hold of my arm and whispering to me, "movie, popcorn".

Marie said...

Thanks, Jennifer. Those ding ding ding moments are cool, aren't they?

Judith, what an excellent idea for teaching the clock! It sure helps to build their own internal motivation to pay attention and children easily learn from what holds their attention.