One day, I watched a father hold the bus’ back door open for his, around, 3 year old son. He expected his son to get down from the bus to the sidewalk on his own. The boy hesitated. Rather than use words to urge the son past his hesitation, the father simply held the boy’s hand, perhaps, to help him down. The son suddenly jumped down to the street. Dad’s silent, connecting hand enabled an existing ability.
Delayed children also want their leap and use gestures, like pausing, to be understood. Kelly, for example, wanted and needed to eat more. Born at 23.5 weeks, at her 20th month the IFSP report stated she had been through seizures, bleeding in the brain, and pulmonary problems. She has hydrocephalus, vision problems, cannot sit on her own, move her left arm or hand much. Her right arm and hand could move some. When we met at her 24th month, she could intentionally move her head a bit to the right even though the IFSP stated that she had no control over her head. Her parents had trouble feeding her and were concerned with her weight. She ate barely enough of pureed food and had a feeding tube in her history. I wanted to keep tube feedings in the past. I wondered how I could help before I even met the family.
Wondering is part of a three step process for developmentally based therapy. Developmentally based therapy is about meeting the child’s needs from the child’s perspective. The other two steps are watching and waiting. Developmental therapists have to be patient and know that their particular disciplinary knowledge must fit in to the child’s desires expressed in gestures or words. Like the father on the bus, the therapist has to watch and learn about the child to help the child solve their own problem. Waiting, like quietly holding a hand, helps the child take the next step because we can see the child’s wishes.