The amount of times I have sat back and watched a therapist attempting to work with my children and completing missing it and not making a connection with my kids is quite shocking. It is so frustrating being a parent and seeing the lack of connection, the missed opportunities of learning and relationship. It sounds like it is simple but obviously it isn't simple so what are the barriers to engaging with a children:
- the pressure of the program. How often do we see the agenda of the therapist coming through so strongly it overpowers the child resulting with a dis-empowerment of the child. The pressure of time takes away the time necessary for children to engage with you, the time for a child to warm up. Without this time, the child doesn't have the opportunity to feel respected, to trust the therapist and to feel that they can be themselves.
- not observing the child's non verbal behaviour. Sometimes a therapist can be so consumed in verbal language that they forget to read the non verbal. It is easy to see when a child is communicating non verbally that they don't feel comfortable. Unfortunately I have seen this the most with speech therapists. When a therapist ignores the non verbal behaviour and communication it actually sends a message that if a child can't speak or struggles to speak for that person, that the therapist's efforts are wasted. I will speak on and on about the stages of communication just because the child is not talking, does not mean they are not communicating.
- putting on a director's hat or parent hat. In the therapy situation it is really tempting especially as a parent to feel a little worried when your child acts in a socially unacceptable way. For me when my son jumps around too much or is too loud I am so tempted to say something. Or when he snatches or does something I am trying to teach him not to do, the temptation to speak is so strong. I have seen this with therapists who get distracted with other things I have heard therapists discuss how the child needs to sit differently or get frustrated when they are distracted. This is a barrier to engagement.
- convenience. Now hear me out before you shoot me:) I have often seen what is most convenient for the therapist overriding what is best practice for the child. Often this includes the therapist being close minded about the best way to approach therapy including feeling that the parent doesn't know what they are doing. Also one issue in relation to Selective Mutism the majority of the time most people do therapy at their centre. This is ok in most situations but in others no. I have heard therapists outwardly discussing they will not do any therapy outside of their office, sometimes because of bad experiences of other people not turning up. Secondly it has to do with time, the rhythm of the child. Sometimes the times offered for therapy actually don't help the child. Say after school the therapy may be arranged straight after school. I have personally seen the lack of progress because of choosing the wrong time. Please understand I am not judging those who may be therapists. But I have seen how for example my son interacts at home compared to in the centre. Personally I believe it should come down to the best practice what is the best way to do this, and best interest what is the best for this child?
These are just a few short ideas on what I have seen come up in therapy as barriers to engagement with children. I find it humbling to think how many times I have actually be involved in placing barriers between me and my children because of what I am doing.
Next post we will discuss how to engage with children.