Time to Talk: Consensus Building Equates Better Planning
Summer Planning with Children
It’s that time of year when summer plans must be considered and finalized. No getting around it. But should the responsibility of figuring out future plans rest on one person? From my experience, although easier, I’d advise against that.
This topic takes me back to a client of mine during graduate school. At the time, I went to the University of Arizona, where research was conducted on the viability of group therapy for people who had had strokes. Each person had different limitations that made it hard to communicate with the rest of the group. One man — I’ll call him John — only had a few words to express himself after his stroke. Since I also was responsible for his individual therapy, I decided to make a small book with topic pages and pictures he could point to, so others would know what he was thinking about during group therapy. I worked hard to make sure he knew where the pictures were located and knew how to use the book and we practiced in every session. I made one for our practice and his group sessions, and another identical one for home. At the end of the semester, John’s wife asked me over for supper. As we were eating, I noticed that John was completely unable to contribute to the conversation and I suggested that he get his book. Neither of them had a clue where it was. I realized that I had taken full responsibility for the vocabulary I decided would be helpful, and never asked for what they wanted or needed. So they were not at all invested in using it with each other all those months. It never became part of their lives. It was only my therapy tool, virtually useless without my guidance. Ouch!
Since my experience with John’s family, I have always tried to remember to let my clients lead with ideas. I ask, “what would help you?” I ask parents and caretakers what would make a difference and share the things that I’m seeing work in therapy. Even with my five year olds, we talk about what matters to them. Many of them are surprised to have an adult ask for their ideas. I want them to take some ownership — and they do!
So when you make your plans this spring, remember to include all the adults involved, but don’t forget to respectfully ask your kids, too. Start with “if they could do anything,” then give them realistic choices or choices that lead towards their aspirations. Explain why you offered those choices and ask for input often. Then when you go to do the plan, you won’t hear, “Do I have to?” because they planned it with you. Be sure to check out all the wonderful community-based educational opportunities Hilltown Families highlights each Friday in Learn Local. Play Local. for a list of great summer choices. You will be teaching them collaboration skills, expressive language and narrative skills, as well as new vocabulary. But most of all, you will exemplify sharing responsibility with a group of people, and empowering your child by letting them know they are a valuable member of the family group. Valuable social skills. In return, you will get their willingness and have a smoother summer vacation! Let me know how it goes!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at kathypuckett.com