Sometimes, we notice that a lot of energy is used up in trying to “get” the child to do an activity. While we spend considerable amount of time framing goals and activities “for” the child, we hardly take the time to reflect whether the framed therapy plan is acceptable to the child. As a rule, we set a time, take out the materials and expect our children to fall in line with our planning. The end result, we spend one hour prompting, cajoling, pleading and finally raising our voices to “get” our child to do one small task. Wherein lays the problem?
Though it’s easy to pass the blame, the fault obviously lies in our therapy strategy. We have not planned our therapy to be child-centric. With child-centric therapy, our child is no longer a backseat driver, rather he or she is given the control of directing their therapy.
For example, if your child dislikes performing animal walks, we can substitute that activity with another which can provide the same type of input. This substitute activity will be based on your child’s preference or liking. In this case, if your child loves to hug, you can substitute animal walking by providing a hug pillow or doing wall pressing activities. In doing so, instead of imposing our ideas on the children, we give them the freedom to learn through their own forms of stimulation.
Another method of making therapy child-centric is to understand and follow their cues. For instance, if your child is still restless and running around, do not insist on a table top activity. It would be wise to plan out an energy channeling activity that gives them the freedom of running around. To simplify, we need to be creative and prepared to make changes in our therapy structure as required by our little ones.
However, the crux to this method lies in the degree of control. Do we set rules to this approach? Yes, we do. No matter the changes we bring about to the activities or the routine, we need to ensure that the goals are addressed during the entire activity. Moreover, children should be made aware of what is accepted and what is not. For example, in sand play, your child should know that throwing the sand around is not permissible.
Now comes the main question, how effective will the strategy be? Child-centric therapy will be very useful as we are working on the goals using activities that are pleasing to the child. Moreover, it allows the child a degree of control, making them more proactive and independent through their therapy.
Sarah Mary Joseph
Sr. Occupational Therapist
Prayatna, Centre for Child Development, Cochin