What!?!? Therapy in the Swimming Pool?!?!?!

Don't think out of the box - think like there is no box
Don’t think out of the box – think like there is no box

This post links in with my One Size Doesn’t Fit All post.  That post came out of thinking about “what I do” – concluding that it’s more-often-than-not a lovingly handcrafted approach to therapy.

I have also been thinking about “Where it’s done”.  That got me to thinking about engagement – so beautifully drawn together in the SSA Trust’s engagement scale document.

“Sustainable learning can only occur when there is meaningful engagement. The process of engagement is a journey which connects a child and their environment (including people, ideas, materials and concepts) to enable learning and achievement.”. (http://complexld.ssatrust.org.uk/project-resources/engagement-profile-scale.html)

My input as an independent therapist is at its best when I find the right place at the right time.  Engagement often happens away from the school desk/classroom.

For my own kids I mused on where they are most engaged and concluded, its in the swimming pool, on the trampoline, decorating cakes, hiding out in a tent in the living room, in the wardrobe choosing what to wear for the party or in the sweet aisle of the supermarket.  Yesterday, my youngest learned to count up to 48 in 2’s by using two pointing fingers to tot up how many cakes we had baked. Great engagement and motivation –  skill well and truly learned!

“Engagement is the single best predictor of successful learning for children with learning disabilities (Iovannone et al., 2003).Without engagement, there is no deep learning (Hargreaves, 2006), effective teaching, meaningful outcome, real attainment or quality progress (Carpenter, 2010).”

For many of the individuals I work with it can be really, really, really hard to get engagement.  So when getting to know someone, rather than try to ‘engineer engagement’ on my terms, I find it can be best to slip into a situation where they are intrinsically engaged. In the past this has been in the swimming pool, on the school minibus, in the supermarket snack aisle, watching the trains pass, in the sandpit.  This is a winner on many terms (and links satisfyingly to the quote above):

  • It just feels less daunting for the carers I am modelling skills to and coaching.  I’m not the critical expert – I am mucking in, alongside and building trust, figuring it out together (Effective Teaching).
  • It’s real life and where people really function day-to-day – so is fundamentally functional (Meaningful Outcome).
  • When it’s motivating for everyone, we’re all more likely to truly learn from it (Deep Learning).
  • Its relevant – it’s a place for me to model and pass on skills that have an everyday application.  In turn it’s the ideal place for my therapy partners to hone their skills and then bit by bit to generalise them (Quality Progress).

My Independent Speech, Language and Communication Therapy work gives me the flexibility to get alongside – in real time – where that individual needs it – and where it will make an impression.

So – back to the “where” of therapy (modelling and coaching skills)…… supermarket, trampoline, sandpit, swimming pool, flowerbed, trampoline, beanbag – you name it – if there is a chance of engagement that’s where I will choose to start.  All the world is a communication opportunity.