What do you see?

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I was reminded today that we all see things so differently in life.  And it is no different for children.  They are whole complete people, with their own likes, dislikes, tastes and opinions.  And it pays to remember that when we prepare environments.

Water……..

It’s one of the most sought after commodities in our space.  Actually – I could say it’s one of the most sought after commodities in our country right now.  The drought has really taken hold and is affecting so many.  Ultimately all of us.  But I digress.

It’s not unusual at all to find children gathering where water is.  Today – that was the bathroom.  So I decided to head outside and get them some water to play with.  Doing it in the bathroom really is the best option.  We went through the shed together, and gathered all the items that they thought of – jugs, watering cans, funnels, different size and shape clear containers, droppers……….

Then, after a false start where the hose burst off the tap and drenched me completely – we got filling the table.  The next thing was a request for blue….. of course, no worries…….  now I am drenched, with a blue hand!

Immediately children flocked, as they do when water is involved.  And the water started flying thick and fast.  Or maybe that should be thin and fast……..

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Next thing I knew, a couple of children had turned away from the draw of the water table, and were deeply engaged in turning mud.  One ran off to get a trowel, and they began conversations about being “brickies”.

So you see – some children see mud, where others see water.  The opportunities are the same.  Do with the resource as you will.  It is not up to me to decide how to play……… I am just the resource to get what is needed.

I love being with children, and just observing what comes for them.  They are resourceful and creative and talented and knowing.  And I get to go home at the end of the day, marvelling over what has been, and wondering at what is to come.

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Be quiet and learn.

Be quiet and learn.

I believe that childhood, in all its complexity, can actually be the most simple and carefree experience we could ever have in our human lives.  So why is it that childhood in this day and age, seems to be anything BUT simplistic?  We complain about children wanting so much.  We complain that they don’t seem to be satisfied with the simple things we were as children.  But where does this come from?  Does it come from the child?  Or do we in our adult agenda, push children down this path?

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Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

This morning I was exposed to a heart touching video, made by a parent of a child with autism.  Highlighting the perceptions and wonders of living with a child “on the spectrum”.  You can watch the video here.  I’ve also posted the words to the poem, “Autism Night Before Christmas” by Cindy Waeltermann below.

I’ve worked with children with varying levels of autism over the years. The one thing that touches me more than anything, is their aversion to being affected by the outside world.  I see these children as being so attuned to themselves, that they struggle when things break their barriers.  We have different expectations of children on the spectrum. What I’m proposing though – is why?  Why can’t we have that similar expectation of ALL children?  It is about inclusion.  A child is a child, is a child.  From any angle.  Every child has a place in community.  In their own special way.  It is about accepting that and coming together.  Allowing children to belong as they are.  Our Early Years Learning Framework says it perfectly – “Belonging, being, becoming.”  Do we live by this?  In its true and fundamental quality?

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Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

A child, in essence, is a being new to this world – filled with awe and wonder.  Learning so many things for the first time that we don’t even remember exist any more.  Too often, their enthusiasm is brushed aside because what they are seeing has become so familiar to us, that we forget how absolutely mind-blowing our world is.  Too often we drag children out of their awe and wonder with our stale adult perspective.

We push aside the fact that we need to allow children space to be in the world, in whatever capacity fits them.  Different for each child, but the same in concept.  We need to stop pushing our adult views onto children.  Stop expecting them to move through the world with the knowledge we possess only from many years experience here.  Stop pushing our materialistic agendas onto them.  Stop stealing their joy.

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Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

All children, no matter their ability, label, differences……. need just one thing from us.  To be understood.  In order to do that, we must know them as people.  Listen to them.  Allow their idiosyncrasies, in the same way we would for other adults.  We need to know that each child has their own way of being in the world.  Their own personality.  Their own special needs.  What if we could do that for children?  What if we could sometimes just leave them the heck alone, and let them discover and be the amazing person they are?  We need to step back.  Observe closely.  Gain understanding of a child’s culture.

Maybe for ALL children, what we need to do more than anything, is to “be quiet and learn”.

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Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

Autism Night Before Christmas
by Cindy Waeltermann (2008)

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse

We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract

The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift
The right color
And style
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?

Our relatives come
But they don’t understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.

“He needs discipline,” they say
“Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent…”
And on goes the attack

We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The argument is moot
Let them all take a side

We know what it’s like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
Achievements, regressions…

But what they don’t know
And what they don’t see
Is the joy that we feel
Over simplicity

He said “hello”
He ate something green!
He told his first lie!
He did not cause a scene!

He peed on the potty
Who cares if he’s ten,
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!

Others don’t realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope

But what they don’t see
Is the joy we can’t hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride

We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With jealousy, hatred
Or even distaste,

But what they don’t know
Nor sometimes do we
Is that children with autism
Bring simplicity.

We don’t get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings

Children with autism
Try hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.

They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky

So to those who don’t get it
Or can’t get a clue
Take a walk in my shoes
And I’ll assure you

That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You’ll look at me
With respect, even shock.

You will realize
What it is I go through
And the next time you judge
I can assure you

That you won’t say a thing
You’ll be quiet and learn,
Like the years that I did
When the tables were turned……

Photos courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre.