Adina: I just want to fix this so we can move on.

Therapist: The mother’s role is to help her child by being a nurturing mother, not a stressful therapist.

Chevy: I never want to see another Cheerio in my life. From now on, I’m eating Froot Loops for breakfast.

 

O

n Adina’s first consult call, she’s anxious about doing therapeutic work with her child.

“How will I know if I’m doing it right?” she keeps asking.

“You’ll follow up with me. Power to the parents.” She likes that. “The first thing you’re going to teach Chevy is the concept of patterns.”

“Patterns,” Adina repeats. “Can you say that again? I’m writing everything down.”

I give Adina some ideas for activities that demonstrate the concept of patterns. “Once Chevy understands what a pattern is, you can teach her about sound patterns.” I give her ideas for that too. “And then patterns in word sounds, like rhyming.”

I’m surprised to get a call from Adina that very evening.

“Okay,” she says breathlessly, “I did it! Everything you said!”

“Great!”

“Yes, I worked with her a lot this afternoon. I’m exhausted. But it was great.”

“Amazing! So why don’t you keep working on the skills we talked about for another week or two and then come in for another training session?”

“A week or two? What do you mean?”

“Well, it takes a few weeks to learn and integrate so many new skills. Um, when you say you did everything… what exactly do you mean?”

“Well, when she came home I sat her down with a bowl of multi-grain Cheerios….”

That’s nutritious, I think.

“… and a string. And I showed her, put a chocolate Cheerio, a plain Cheerio, then a honey-nut Cheerio. Over and over. That’s how—” she seems to be consulting her notes “—I ‘introduced the concept of patterns.’ We made Cheerio-pattern necklaces, Cheerio-pattern bracelets, Cheerio-pattern headbands. We can open a Cheerio jewelry store.”

“Great. I mean, you may need to change the activity over the next few days, but—”

“And then we did sound patterns,” Adina interrupted. “I took a few empty spice containers. I put a few rocks in one, raw beans in another, and a little water in another. First, like you said, I had her shake each one so she could hear the different sounds. Then I had her shake them in a pattern: Beans, rocks, beans, rocks. Then we did beans, rocks, water, beans, rocks, water... We did a million sound patterns. I even had her identify the sounds with her eyes closed. She is probably the most proficient spice-music player you’ve ever met.”

“Adina—”

“Wait, I’m not done. I made these cards….”

“Adina, this is all wonderful. But I’m a little overwhelmed just hearing about it. I kind of envisioned you integrating these activities in your daily life — Cheerio patterns at breakfast, spice music when you’re cooking. It’s an integrative therapy approach. Not boot camp.”

Adina gives a sheepish chuckle. “But isn’t it important?”

“Sure, important, but it’s not an emergency. You’ll know you’re doing it right when it’s fun.”

Originally featured in Family First, Issue 618. D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice for over 15 years. She is the creator of the Link-It reading comprehension and writing curriculum for elementary school students and directs continuing education programs for speech-language pathologists and educators.