My Life With Toddlers
By Kate Reardon CEIS, LICSW
December 21, 2007
Playing with toddlers is a multisensory experience. In this article Kate Reardon, CEIS, LICSW discusses how Inner Bonding has influenced her clinical practice with young children with various levels of ability.
I consider myself deeply blessed. As an Early Intervention Social Worker my professional life revolves around playing daily with toddlers. My clients are newborns to age 3 and their families. I love my job! Many of my kiddos are challenged in some way. They either have a developmental delay in one or more areas, we look at 6 (fine motor, gross motor, social emotional, cognition, language skills and self care abilities) or they have certain environmental risk factors, i.e. a parent with mental illness, addiction issues, poverty etc. Or they have a medical diagnosis like Autism or Down Syndrome etc. My practice with these kids and families has changed over the years I have been practicing Inner Bonding. When I have an off day the kids have an off day, it always happens without fail. Now that doesn't mean I can’t have a bad day, we all do, but it does mean that my sessions will be effected. I have a wonderful little client who is 14 months old, I will call him Joey. I have been working with Joey since he was 3 months old. Joey has Down Syndrome. First of all, he has the most beautiful smile you have ever seen. Two little bottom teeth showing with his wide, so happy to see me and ready to play grin! Joey doesn’t have language in the way that many 14 month olds do. He can’t yet say words to express his wants and needs, however he is one of the most communicative little guy’s I know. He is a social butterfly. He tells me what he wants through sounds, eye contact, smiles, frowns, whines and gestures. He uses his whole body to tell me what he is experiencing and if he likes it or not. In Margaret’s article “Can You Play with Toddlers?” She asks three important and interesting questions, “Can you play with toddlers? Can you get on the floor and enter their world? Can you get with them, flowing with their creative play?” I think these are great questions. I have considered them myself by the necessity of my profession. The great thing is that you can use these questions when you think about all of the different toddlers you have or may have in your life. Both typically developing children or children who face challenges. Each child is so different it’s important to learn to “go with the flow.” I ‘ve heard mothers say over and over again, my second child is nothing like my first regardless if there is another issue present in their development, i.e. a speech delay, motor delay or medical diagnosis.
Joey has helped me increase my creativity during play. I have learned through my experience with him how to be a partner in his world. At the same time he is being supported in all areas of his development. He is so excited by each new experience. He has just learned how to clap and sit up with the support of his team (I am one of three other professionals plus his mother and father.) He’s getting ready to crawl and this is HUGE! We delight in each one of his milestones, no matter how big or small.
It’s my responsibility as Joey’s provider to be open, connected and present during each one of my visits with him (and all my other kiddos.) My essence is out and about and I sing silly songs, put small toys on my head and pretend to sneeze them off, (by they way lots of toddlers think this is just HILAROIUS!) I bang on kiddy musical toys and make silly sounds. I engage with sight, sound, touch, verbal language, gestures and toddler sign language. Joey is as much my teacher as I am his. I am deeply honored to share in and experience his joy and creativity; he is such a loving little boy.
Step one of Inner Bonding asks us to go inside and tune into and be present with our own feelings. Margaret suggests getting to know your essence so you may enter into play with the toddlers in your life. A great way to do this is to get out the playdough, crayons, stickers, bubbles, jacks, Candyland, Uno cards, whatever makes you feel good and brings in those happy childhood memories. If happy childhood memories are hard to find, create new memories, here and now. There is no time like the present!