By Christine Marchant
As a Child Development Facilitator (CDF), you are expected to have a million ideas and toys in your toolbox. Many people think everything has to be pretty, shiny, perfect, new, etc. But in reality, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on supplies. You need to look at what you already have and make a list of at least 5 different ways to use each item or game. Make a list of every goal each item can be used for.
The basic goals can be:
- Short/long term memory
- Keeping the conversation going
- Creating a curiosity in peers and environment
- Paying attention to details
- Expanding language
- Taking turns
- Independent play
I recommend picking up each of your toys, games, items, etc., looking at it, and after deciding what goal you can use it for, detail how you will use it. There are five things that I always ask myself:
- Why are you doing this?
- When are you doing it?
- How will you do it?
- Where are you going to do this?
- Is it a safe/appropriate activity ?
If you can answer all of these questions, you will know it is a good, safe, and appropriate activity. If you can’t answer all of those questions, put the activity on the shelf or in the box that has all of the “I’ll save this for later” items.
Everything you do as a CDF must have a purpose and you must be able to explain to anyone what you are doing and why. This keeps you on the right track for staying true to your goals and makes writing your notes SUPER EASY. This also makes it easy for you to explain to the adults about what you are doing and why. When the adults you are working with know why you are doing the activity, they get more interested in the sessions and goals. When the adults involved with the child are interested, they become your support system and will become involved with the sessions.
Hide and Find
- Short/long term memory
- Independent play
- Paying attention to details
- Fine motor
- Creative thinking
- Problem solving
- Keeping the conversation going
- Social-emotional learning (SEL) (the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success”)
- Place out 10 party hats/boxes/containers
- Place 5 pairs of matching items (e.g., animals, shopkins, pet shop, pictures of items, etc.) in each different container
- You and the child each take a turn to pick an item and put it under a party hat/box/container
- When the items are “hidden”, take turns trying to predict where to find the matching items
- Each person chooses an item from the container and picks where they think the match is. If it matches, keep it. If it doesn’t match, put it back and try again.
- When the child is feeling confident, start to fade yourself out.
- You fade out by encouraging others to take your turn, then fade out completely.
Sit back and enjoy the experience. You can play this with a group of children or one to one with your child. Smile and show your interest in the activity.
Be genuine with your interest and feelings. The children know if you are genuine. When you are genuine, the children will enjoy the sessions and the activities you have provided. Laughter and eye contact increases and the child’s enjoyment and desire to participate in the activities also increases. When they are having fun, they are learning and achieving their goals faster.
Enjoy the experience.
By Christine Marchant
As a Child Development Facilitator (CDF) we need to be quick to respond to the child. We need to pack light, yet have at least 5-10 different activities or games in our bag. We need an extensive collection of activities and toys. This doesn’t mean that we need to spend a lot of money on our supplies. I had a toy store in my basement because I LOVED my toys and games.
I had up to 8 clients on my caseload a year. This made me aware of what I own and when to use it. I was practicing COVID health safety long before COVID. I was always careful to not cross contaminate my clients. Each client and each location had their own bag, backpack, or duffel bag. I had several duplicates or versions of every popular activity or game. That way I didn’t worry about wiping each item as the child used it–saving so much time when I was pressured to rush to the next client. Every 2 weeks or school break, I would empty all the bags, clean out the scraps, broken, ripped items, disinfect everything, and leave the stuffies or papers on the shelf for several weeks. I stored my supplies according to the target goals. All of my supplies were from the dollar store, thrift store, or homemade.
Ring toss is a popular activity that is EASY to make. I found MANY different versions of it. When I go to the thrift stores, I look for anything that can be converted to the activity. A variety of different sizes and textures. I found cheap ring toss games. Quite a few times I created my own from some games that I converted. Here’s a few versions I had:
- Real ring toss games
- Pipe Cleaners (Great Occupational Therapy (OT) activity. Letting children create their own ring toss activity gives the child a wonderful sense of accomplishment and reaches most of your goals. Children are more engaged and interested in the sessions when they participate and enjoy creating it.)
- Yogurt Container Lids (Lids of every size and colour are awesome! Use a sharp pair of scissors to start the cutting. Alternatively, let the child use their child safe scissors to cut the centres out. The lid centres are quite thin and make it an easy OT activity to create rings. These are also awesome with a ball of wool or string when you have them wrap the disk with it to change the colours and to add weight to it.)
- Cut Different Shapes (Use different colours of construction paper and cut out the centres and laminate them. Children love to make these. They’re light and it’s a wonderful way to hit multiple target goals.)
- Twister (Has rings in the game. They are blue, red, green, and yellow and are great for teaching the basic colours. I also use them for teaching the zones of regulation where the target poles or bowls have the zones on them.)
I like to have several sets and switch out the games after 3 sessions. This keeps the activity the same yet different.
- Paying attention to details
- Understanding and acceptance of instruction
- Problem solving
- Language stimulation
- Fine motor development
- Keeping the conversation going
- Taking turns
- Becoming aware of other’s struggles and needs
- Offering help to others
- Self regulation
- Place the poles, bowling pins, or bowls a foot away from you and the child (my favourite was this tall green plant that waved, swerved, and rolled away). The players stood on their knees or feet and tried to toss the rings onto the target.
- Stand or kneel beside the child. Never send the child to a spot away from you.
- Place the rings in front of the child.
- Allow them to pick them up and look at/explore them
- When they are satisfied, show the child how you hold the ring and say “toss” as you toss it. Let the child toss the rings
- They may go crazy! They’ll throw them EVERYWHERE and wear them on their head, lick them, bang them, stand on them, sit on them–let them go through this necessary phase. (Do not reprimand them or threaten to take away the activity)
- Explain the only rules you have are: (1) do not hit a person and (2) do not throw it at the walls, tv, windows, etc.
- After the child has calmed down, take turns gently tossing the rings
- After the child is confident, move the target another foot away
- Once the child understands the rules and expectations, start to fade out prompting
- Encourage the child or others to take your turn, then back out of the activity and smile, laugh, giggle, etc., when they land on the target or miss it
Be genuine with your reactions and enjoy the experience. Always keep the child beside you. If you place the child across from you, there’s WAY too much space between you and the child which might put you in the position of chasing. DO NOT chase—EVER!
Keep the child beside you and you guide their arms and throws. If they are wild, put your arm around them to guide and support, and to quickly react when they decide to whack you in the head! If you do your due diligence and always prevent the behaviour, you’ll never lose control of the child or activity.
I found out over the years of experience that this is definitely the activity that will set off impulsive behaviour, dashing, throwing, spinning, and running around the house. MANY times the child will start whacking me in the forehead. Do not discipline the child. Gently push the hand away from your body, downward, and remove the ring from his clutches. Explain the rules, tell him he has one more chance, and then remove the ring and clean up the activity.
This behaviour only happens with the most difficult cases. 90% of the time, it’s a fun, pleasant activity. I mentioned the extreme example because I found this activity is a HUGE trigger for kids and I don’t want you to be caught by surprise. It’s a complete shock when it comes out of the blue with no warning. There’s something about ring toss and bean bag toss that will trigger impulsive behaviour in pretty much any child.
Plan for prevention and you never lose control of the activity. Keep the goals in mind. Landing the rings on the poles can be a goal but it does not need to be the only goal.
Be genuine with your smiles and encouragement. Enjoy the experience.
By Christine Marchant
Ever have a child that just moves SO SLOW? I’ve had a few slow moving children over the years. They are very intelligent and soft spoken, always logical, and have very good reasons for going slow and will explain it if you take the time to listen.
When I received the contract to work with this child, he was stressing the adults because when they tried to speed him up, he would go even slower. The adults were becoming frustrated because they had a class to run and a schedule to follow. A little sloth refusing to go faster tends to throw everything and everyone off. He was getting the reputation of being defiant. They tried tons of visuals: the good old first/then, reward boards, consequences, the frowny/happy face, etc., but were stumped.
This was a tricky case. I observed him for two weeks. He was EXTREMELY slow moving. At arrival, it took him over 30 minutes to take his jacket and shoes off, put it away, put on his indoor shoes, and sign in. The Occupational Therapist (OT) and I tried starting his day with “body waking up” exercises. Each child is different, and each goal is different. At this point, the child has weak muscles and stamina. This child started with wall pushes–we only did 15. It’s important that we model the activity in the correct way. It’s also very important that we do not over-tire the child, and we keep the child happy and engaged. We then went marching down the hall. At this level, we only did 15 marching steps. After the marching, we did 5 frog hops. Frog hops are intense–at this point, we have peaked the “body waking up” and now we start to bring the child back down. A tip is to NEVER end the activity on the way up or at the top. Always bring the child back to the acceptable social level before re-entry to the classroom. We did the bear walk for a short distance. The final activity was the teddy bear pass game. This calmed the body and brought the body to a calm state, ready to go to the classroom.
We continued this activity every day. As the child’s stamina grew, we increased the length of each activity. We only increased the numbers by a small amount. When we reached 100 wall pushes, 100 marching steps, 7 frog hops, and doubled the distance for the bear walk, we were ready to move up to another level. These numbers sound like a lot but, in reality, it’s not. They fly through it. At this point, we changed one component to each activity and dropped it back to the original number. We did it this way because keeping the routine the same but adding to each activity helped to teach the new skill:
- The wall pushes now have a clap between each push
- The marching now has the hands cross the midsection and tapping the opposite knee
- The bear walk is now the crab crawl
- The frog hops are now bunny hops
- The donkey kicks/frog hops/bunny jumps/kangaroo hops were repeated 7 times
- The teddy bear pass now has each person pause-count 1-2-3 at each passing point
We did this until we reached the maximum number. When this new benchmark was reached, we again changed only one component to each activity. The number again, drops to the original number.
- We did half of the pushes with one hand, then switched to the other hand
- The marching now has one hop on the first leg and a hop on the second leg
- The kangaroo hops now have a word as they jump, animals, vehicles, transportation (this gets the processing faster)
- The crab walk became the seal crawl
We kept it up until the child was able to finish the routine in under 10 minutes. We monitored him to see if there were any changes. We did this the whole school year, which meant that we had a lot of variety, but with the same expectations. Some of the activities were:
- Wall Pushes (Stand away from the wall and drop the body towards the walls, with hands spread apart. Lightly bounce back.)
- Marching (March, with legs lifted straight and calm. Keep legs lined in front of the body.)
- Soccer Kicks (Child sits on bum and bends their knees. Adult rolls the big ball towards the child’s feet. The child kicks outwards and continues this 5-10 times.This is a very intense exercise and should not be over used. The soccer ball rolls down the hall. You can use different sizes of balls!)
- Pencil Rolls (You can use those flat gym mats, or just the floor. The child lays on the floor like a pencil. Roll the child 10 to the left, then 10 to the right. The child may want to speed through it. Roll SLOW! The goal is to regulate the body, not to get to the end as fast as possible. Do the maximum of 10 at a time.)
- Teddy Bear Pass (Stand with two people back to back. The toy can be anything–we have even used a scrunched up paper towel. Have the child look up to the ceiling while passing the “teddy bear” to the partner. The partner then bends down and passes it between their legs. Have the child bend at the hip, reach between the legs and take the toy. Go SLOW! This is to regulate the body–not to go as fast as possible! NEVER go more than 10 passes. It’s goal is to go slow and calm the child down, so they are ready to re enter the classroom or activity.)
- Bear Walk (Walk on hands and feet with bum in the air.)
- Crab Walk (Walk on hands and feet with belly facing up.)
- Snake Crawl (Entire body is on the floor, belly-down. Use your arms to pull your body along.)
- Noodle roll (Lay 4-5 pool noodles on the floor and use your hands to pull your body along. Take the noodles from the back to the front as the child rolls along.)
- Frog Hop (Hop like a frog.)
- Donkey Kick (With hands on the floor, kick high to the sky with bum high in the air.)
- Ball Chase (Crawl after a ball.)
- Thomas Pick Up (Use pictures of Thomas the Tank or any favourite characters. Walk down the hall dropping the photos face up in a zigzag pattern. You can use any of the body movements to get to each photo and touch it. And go as fast or as slow as you wish.)
By the middle of the year, the “slow moving child” was noticeably stronger and faster. This transferred into the classroom. He really enjoyed the one to one attention. The energy sparked up from this quick 10 minute exercise every day and actually kept him moving until the midway of the class. The days we missed the exercise session, he was sluggish and off task, with low body tone. We supported the child by adding another exercise session at the midway point of the classroom program. This was not a full session. Just a top up, outside of the classroom.
I hope this post gives you some ideas for managing your slow moving child. There’s a million reasons why the child is slow moving. We never assume we know the reason. The biggest goal we have is to keep the child’s dignity and confidence intact. Don’t do any activity that the child doesn’t want to do, and don’t allow the child to get out of control. If the child doesn’t want to do the activity, just switch it to a different activity that serves the same purpose. If you don’t remember which activity serves which purpose, ask your OT. Each activity serves a purpose, some will activate the brain and muscles, some will regulate the body, while some are used to coordinate the hand and eyes, etc. If you’re new to this, be sure to ALWAYS ask your OT for guidance. Like any activity, it can go astray if not used correctly.
Have fun! And they will too!
By Christine Marchant
We’ve all been in this situation. We are the Child Development Facilitator (CDF) for the child that is constantly hitting, biting, kicking, snatching toys, having meltdowns, etc. The teachers and assistants and even the other children are constantly on the lookout for little Bobby and his “negative” behavior. Any screaming or crying or disrupting behavior, it’s little Bobby! You noticed that it’s always little Bobby. He’s ALWAYS in the middle of the fray and ruckus. He’s guilty every single time! He’s always the instigator and always the only person everyone points to. He’s ALWAYS disruptive and badly behaved.
You’re exhausted and tired and out of solutions.
So, now that you have tried all of the obvious solutions, try this solution: STOP!!
STOP trying to solve their problem!
STOP running into the situation, assigning blame, and dragging out the accused!
STOP assuming that little Bobby is guilty!
STOP assuming little Bobby is the problem.
Now spend the next week observing. Keep your eye on little Bobby EVERY second of the session. Not to rush over and “catch him being bad” but to actually see what is going on. Don’t run over to the situation—keep watching them. Count to 30 in your head BEFORE you bolt up and run over. Now, keep your eye on them. Watch little Bobby’s hands and body language for his reaction. Continue to count slowly to 30 in your head as you silently and casually walk to the situation. If little Bobby starts to grab, pinch, hit, etc., you silently and quickly scoop little Bobby up into a toddler hold (exactly as I call it, like you’re holding a toddler with the child on your hip, using your arms to gently hold his arms down against his body). Smile and say calmly “What’s all this fuss about boo boos?” EVERYONE will start yelling at once! Little Bobby will start to kick anyone close by. You are the adult. You’re taller than them and you just quietly walk away from the group. When you are in the clear section, you give little Bobby that gentle jiggle we instinctively give to every toddler we have in our arms. Little Bobby will take the cues from your body language. Walk around or rock back and forth and jiggle little Bobby and say “It’s ok, it’s all done. One and done folks. We’ll discuss this later. Continue playing.”
This immediately diffuses the situation. The other adults will immediately start lecturing you about how WRONG you are!!
They will immediately try to assign blames and punish everyone involved. Don’t let them intimidate you. Just smile and continue to hold and rock little Bobby. Let the other adults deal with the situation. You just continue to hold and jiggle little Bobby. You’re not comforting him and giving him the idea that it was okay to beat on his friends. What you are actually doing is keeping him from attacking his peers and causing more negative behavior and disruption. Keep your body calm and a calm expression on your face. When the adults have calmed down and the children have calmed down, you assess little Bobby’s body language. If he’s calm, carry him to an isolated location and pull out a book to read.
This will get the other adults all upset with you and they’ll tell you that you are WRONG!! You’re rewarding him for his behavior, etc. I’ve taken SO MANY “dressing downs” for using this technique. I just shrug and keep a pleasant expression on my face.
Now that little Bobby is calm, you don’t discuss anything about the situation. You say, “Bobby, you are welcome to join your friends when you use calm hands and a gentle voice.” Then model exactly the behavior you are expecting. You join the children and play the way you expect little Bobby and all of the children to play. Using gentle hands and a kind voice. Don’t boss the children around or become the entertainer. You play as if you are a child. This shows everyone involved how we expect everyone to behave.
An example of this. My little Bobby has spent September, October, and half of November being in this situation. By the time they called me in, this poor child was having complete meltdowns maybe 3-5 times a day. Every time there was an activity transition or even if the class had a few free minutes of no attention from the adults.
His meltdowns consisted of attacking his peers, body checking peers like bowling pins, running over to a group of children, snatching a toy, and running away, etc. This was very disruptive and created total chaos in the classroom. The adults’ response was to wade into the fray, pluck little Bobby out and sit him in time out, then calm everyone down. It looked very grim by the time I showed up. By using this calm, toddler carry method, within two weeks, the classroom management went from total chaos and frustrated adults, to calm transitions and no one was yelling at little Bobby anymore.
I was very fortunate that this classroom TOTALLY embraced my method immediately!
The adults had been watching me for a few years and requested to have me in the room.
Not all adults are open to this way of responding. That’s why I model my methods instead of talking about it. I wait for the first two weeks and watch how the teachers are dealing with this issue. Then, as they get used to me and I see they are open to new information, I will explain what I’m doing as I am doing it. This gives the adults the chance to watch as I explain and they see the immediate results. As the year goes by, and I see the adults are doing what I’m modeling, I will invite them to join me and I support them as they try to use the skills. I find that I have the fastest positive results with the children when I work with adults–supporting them as they learn the skills I’m modeling,
This method can be used during in-home sessions as well as the classroom. I described using it in the classroom in this post, but I’ve used it in the home. It’s basically just a formula I perfected, then I adjust it to the situation.
Don’t forget to be genuine and calm when you pick up the child. Never be rough or do it in an aggressive manner.
Calm body = calm child
Remember to smile and enjoy your child. Look for positive things they’ve accomplished and always be genuine with your emotions. Smile and enjoy them and they will sense it and enjoy you too!
By Christine Marchant
As a Child Development Facilitator (CDF), we are expected to just magically know what the therapists mean when they are writing the goals. Therapists tend to use words that we have never heard before. You will work with many different styles of therapists. If you don’t understand what the therapists are saying or you don’t understand why they are asking you to do something, just ask them. This will not make you look stupid or incompetent.
I know SO MANY aides that nod and smile when the therapists tell them what to do. They feel intimidated by the therapists and are scared to show them that they don’t really know what they are being asked to do. I would be working with an aide, either from my own company or from a different company, and I would watch them struggling to follow the instructions. These ladies would be doing things that are SO wrong! Or SO weird and inconsistent. Finally (because I can’t stand it anymore) I would ask them—what are you doing?!?!
The aide will either dismiss me because they believe that the privacy act prevents them from asking for help or they actually think they know what they are doing. The privacy act doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help in understanding what you are expected to do. It prevents you from using names or other ways to identify the specific person. That’s why I refer to all of my clients as “Little Bobby”. I don’t disclose any personal information. I am explaining this because people are confused about what they are allowed to discuss.
If you are not sure, or even if you are sure that you know what the therapists are expecting you to do, talk to them about it. If you repeat to them what you are understanding, they can correct you or explain exactly what they are expecting. This doesn’t make you look weak or incompetent. By asking questions about the goals and how you are expected to teach the child these goals, you build a bond with the therapists and a trust.
The next most important thing to ask is “why”. Why are you doing this? Why do you respond this way? You need to know why you are doing something so you can transfer the information to other areas. If you just do the one or two examples the therapists have given you, you will not be as successful as you can be if you take that information and apply it to other activities and goals.
An example of this is when the OT had me have the child do dinosaur stomps down the hallway. The child quickly became bored with it. If I didn’t know why we were doing this activity, I would have either made him continue or I would have thought “Well it’s not important, let’s drop it”. I had asked the OT “Why are we doing this activity?” The OT said it was important to tense the muscles and release the muscles in a controlled manner as this wakes up his body and activates the brain. I asked the OT if there were any other activities we can do to accomplish the same thing. The OT gave me two other activities to get the same results.
Another really important thing to ask the therapists is “when”. When do I do this activity? This is really important because the time and the order that we do things will really affect the results. These are important questions to ask all therapists. The team must work together and understand that all the areas are equally important. If the CDF doesn’t know or is doing things incorrectly, the job will be frustrating and actually not satisfying. If you are feeling confused or frustrated with the expectations of you, it will affect your efforts and results.
Don’t get too confident either. A little knowledge can make you feel like a pro. This will make you less likely to ask questions and accept the information.
Ask “why”, “when”, “how”. Then always ask the therapists to model what they are expecting you to do. Not all therapists will be happy about it. I’ve had some therapists that are not happy with my questions and will shut me down immediately. They have the “do what I say” style. Other therapists are happy and open to sharing their knowledge and will happily model their expectations. If you are working with the “do what I say” style of therapist, don’t be intimidated or discouraged. Just google EVERY word you don’t understand. Read EVERY article on everything you are asked to do. Then, when you see the therapist, share the stuff you learned. They will either tell you to stop or will suddenly get very happy with you and will correct you or expand on the knowledge.
The more knowledge you have, the more confident you are. Always remember to have fun and be genuine with your feelings. When you are having fun and showing your excitement and modeling having fun—your child will too.
By Christine Marchant
The job description of a Child Development Facilitator is exciting. We don’t know what we’ll be dealing with or what situation we will be entering. By the time we arrive, the entire environment could be in crisis mode. The adults are usually at the end of their ability to cope and are barely able to manage.
I don’t read the IPP or notes on the family or classroom before I start the job because, when I walk in, I like to have a fresh, no bias look at the situation. This is my method, I’m not saying you should do this. You do your own thing to prepare for the job. Everyone has their own style. I love to go in “cold” and observe quietly in the background to see how the interactions are naturally happening.
In this post, I’ll share with you one of my ways of building a relationship with the adults involved.
For about the first two weeks, I stay out of the way.
The first week, I observe the people in the environment, what the children are doing, and how the adults are responding. I always ask the adults involved:
- What are you expecting us to do?
- What three things are the highest priority to you?
- Are you willing to work with me towards these goals?
- Are you open to having me give you the reasons I’m doing something and are you open to following my examples for how to achieve the goals you feel are most important to you?
The second week, I write notes in my book. In the third week, I start addressing the issues. I go over the notes with the adults and ask them if I am going in the direction they are expecting. Some adults dismiss me and aren’t interested in working with me. Most adults though are very open and curious about what I am doing. I’ve met up with some HARD CORE defiant adults, but I don’t get offended. I see these adults as people who are in crisis mode and aren’t able to accept information. Some are exhausted, and have no more energy to receive even a small suggestion. This is ok! I back away and gently build up the relationship between myself and the children. Then, I work on a separate relationship between me and the adults.
About a month into the contract, I usually have everyone on board. As a team, we sometimes get so involved in the child’s needs and our eagerness to “show” everyone we are working hard…we sometimes forget the real reason why we are there. The adults are overwhelmed or exhausted and just nod and agree to whatever the therapists are suggesting. They know and understand that the team knows more. Unfortunately, they don’t always speak up about what they expect and want in their heart. This can lead to the adults not buying into the program and they check out or feel like it’s a waste of time. If they trust you, they will be honest with you and tell you what they really want. That’s the golden ticket!! If the parents don’t plan or can’t envision their child EVER being out of their care, they don’t care about community skills. If the parents don’t see any problem changing diapers, they don’t care if little Bobby ever gets potty trained. If the parents don’t mind doing everything for the child, they don’t care if the child learns self care. As the child grows, the adults grow. When the child starts developing skills, the adults start to realize and understand the importance of the goals the team is creating. Until then? The goals are just words to the adults. As the CDF, we are the bridge between the team and the adults in the child’s environment. By asking the adults what they honestly want and expect, we can start the relationship with honesty.
Sometimes, their desire is really out there. You don’t say anything. You smile and nod. Then you design ALL of your small immediate goals towards the adult’s large goal.
An example of a large goal: “I would really love to be able to snuggle my child and enjoy reading books together”. Don’t focus on potty training, or getting the child to brush his teeth independently, or even community safety. Gear your goals towards “wait for it”, “ ready, set, go” “imaginary play”, “building curiosity”, etc.It’s important that the adults feel heard and are working towards a common goal. This is just one example of a goal that an adult shared with me. The team never knew because the adult never expressed their desire. It was such a large goal for the family, yet such a small thing that everyone else takes for granted.
Another example is the parent that only wanted to be able to open his front door, say to his son “Let’s go to the car”, and finally, to walk together like every other parent and child. This is when I gear all of my goals towards “stop and go”, “wait for it”, “independent play”, “paying attention to his environment”, etc.
Another goal a parent had was to be able to go for a bike ride with their child. I geared my goals towards “look, look, go”, “stop and go”, “find the match”, “match me”, “fast and slow”, “paying attention to their environment”, and “compliance to instructions”.
The adults seldom tell the team these desires because they feel like they should be working on the “real” goals. It’s our responsibility to build a relationship with the adults who are in charge of the child. If the adults feel valued and heard, they will be the best support for you as the CDF. The best feeling ever? When you say to the adults—remember when I first met you? And I asked you what you truly wanted? Well—here it is. Little Bobby is now doing….What is your next most important goal?
It’s actually not difficult to figure out the “real goal”. You take the big final goal, break it down to what mini goals the child needs to do, then break those goals down to micro goals that the child can actually reach. These micro goals will look different for each child. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll NEVER reach the big goal. But it’s okay if you never reach it because the end goal is ever changing while the mini goals are the actual skills that the child is learning and building on. Many micro goals succeeded equals many mini goals accomplished which equals a huge variety of bigger goals accomplished.
When everyone starts to see the micro goals being met, everyone can start to see how we all work together as a team. I have found that when the adults involved start to see how all the mini goals work towards the large goals, they become invested in the adventure. Suddenly everyone is celebrating every micro success and this makes it all worthwhile. THIS is the key to building a relationship with the team.
I love working on teams that enjoy each other’s efforts and ideas. Everyone on the team needs to feel they are important and valuable. I love seeing the parent’s eyes light up when they realize that they can now cuddle with their child or when they can now just open their front door and say “Get in the car!” By the time we get this goal met, the team has a wonderful trusting relationship with everyone involved. We are no longer just strangers coming to their house and telling them what to do. We are a team.
By Christine Marchant
“Waiting for it” is a very important skill for the child to achieve. It’s a developmental skill that comes with the child growing and opening up to their environment and expectations. For those children who are developmentally not able to “wait for it”, we teach this skill slowly and in little steps, just like we teach everything else.
Telling a child to “wait a second!” or “wait a minute!” doesn’t work. If it did, we wouldn’t be in this situation. I like to teach this skill through games.
I pick their favourite game and make “waiting for it” the goal. It doesn’t matter what the game is, as long as it’s their favourite. First, I explain the “rules” to the child. “When it’s our turn, we will count to five before we play.” Waiting will be difficult for the child at first, so start with the lowest number. I like to count out loud. I tap my fingers on the surface of the table or area that the activity is being held. If the child doesn’t understand this, and is still reaching for the activity, I usually place 5 pieces of paper or cards with the numbers 1-5 on it. I flip each card over and say the number. This shows the child time is passing by. The child could still be in the concrete stage and cannot grasp the abstract idea of time passing. I use A-B-C-D-E for the child that is obsessed with the alphabet. If numbers don’t mean anything to the child, use cats, cars, shapes, etc. Anything that catches the child’s attention so they are looking at the cards and counting out the five seconds. We want the attention on the time passing, and they are doing something while waiting.
This is important! Do not make the child “sit quietly” for this target. The target goal is not playing the game or sitting still, it is to recognize that we are waiting for five seconds and this is what it feels like. To show the passing of time, I like to start off with the actual ‘visual’ and ‘audio’ but wean them off of it as they grow and develop. I go from counting out loud, to counting silently. As they develop, I extend the five seconds slowly to as far as 30. Eventually they can watch the timer and by the end of this goal, they know that they are able to transfer this skill to wait patiently to all the other areas.
One of my children a few years ago couldn’t hold still even for five seconds. So, I had him jog in one place for the count of five. Then we moved it to holding the table edge, jumping up and down counting to five. Then it was standing at the table, marching, then sitting on his bum, stamping his feet, etc. Eventually, he was sitting on his chair, rapping out the numbers. It took several MONTHS, but at the six month mark, he was able to wait a full TWO minutes! Quietly with his hands on his lap! At the end of the six months, I would put the timer on for two minutes and he would sit patiently while I “wrote” my notes or “read” my book. I would say, “Here’s the challenge: I’m going to read my book for two minutes and you will sit quietly and patiently.”
This was a very important skill for everyone to learn. There’s a fine line between waiting for your needs to be met, and passively not advocating for your needs. When the child is tiny and learning, we meet their needs immediately. As they grow and mature, we must teach them how to know when to wait and when to advocate for themselves. It is our job to teach and support the child as he is learning to advocate for his needs while learning to wait for his needs to be met.
Another example of teaching this skill is when I had a little boy who was non-verbal and had a global delay. He couldn’t count because he was non-verbal and had absolutely no clue of what we were saying when we introduced him to numbers and letters. This little Bobby was always given whatever he wanted immediately. Little Bobby wasn’t given the skills to manage his frustration or disappointment when he was denied anything he wanted. His behaviour was violent! I worked with him for 9 months and he was finally able to understand “wait for it”. The method I described earlier, did NOT work for him! This little Bobby needed a whole different approach. I’ll share with you how I managed to give him the skill of “wait for it “ in another post.
There are SO many different approaches and styles of teaching. No one way is the correct way and the only way. The most wonderful thing about this job as a child development facilitator is that everyone is allowed to be their own authentic self and interact in their own individual style.
By Christine Marchant
In the earlier post I explained who I was and shared with you the first 5 things that I hear people say about the children and adults I work with. I explained why I don’t respond to the diagnosis but I respond to the person. Respect, kindness, and compassion—those are the ways I respond to the children and people I work with.
That should always be the go to response—and then you respond to the diagnosis.
Here are another five things I hear all the time. I have been taken to the side and given a “dressing down” for the way I respond. That’s okay—I have my formulas and I know they work—and when they do, I have success. I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. As a child development facilitator (CDF) you bring your own talent and awesome skills to the job. How you do your thing is just as right as the way I do my thing.
I’ll share with you another five things that I hear all the time. Then I’ll share with you why I disagree with it and give an example of how I respond. With that said, I only gave one example of how I respond—there’s a different way for each child and each situation. The way I responded to #4, was only one child. The other dozen of children had a different way. Hopefully over time, I will get a chance to share the different ways to respond to each situation and each child.
- “Always talk calmly and explain everything in short simple words.”
- “If little Bobby gets upset, he’s having a temper tantrum because he’s not getting what he wants. He doesn’t understand why he needs to comply.”
- “Give little Bobby an iPad or iPhone. He can’t understand real life and can’t communicate without the iPad or iPhone.”
- “Let little Bobby eat only what he wants. If he resists or cries, immediately give him whatever he wants.”
- “Be very careful about how you talk to and respond to little Bobby. Autistic people don’t like to be touched or hugged!!!!”
“Always talk calmly and explain everything in short simple words.”
Yes. Use short simple words and talk in a calm voice. BUT!! Not ALL the time!! Use your normal voice and tone. Use hand gestures and talk respectful and kindly. Here is an example. “Little-Bobby-you-must-always-put-your-boots-on-because-if-you-don’t-you-will-get-cold-feet-outside-because-it’s-winter-in-winter-it’s-snowy-…… bla bla bla…” Little Bobby is now ignoring you or is beating on your head with his boots!! I avoid this. I say Bobby sit. Boots on. Line up. Love you. Little Bobby has his boots on and is lined up with his peers and I’m smiling and giving him thumbs up.
“If little Bobby gets upset, he’s having a temper tantrum because he’s not getting what he wants. He doesn’t understand why he needs to comply.”
Little Bobby is not upset because he isn’t getting what he wants. He’s upset because he’s stressing out and has no other way to express himself. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling because the adults haven’t given him the skills to understand the situation and how to respond appropriately. Instead, look at what he is feeling. Why is he feeling like that? I respond by not responding. I stop and try to figure out what is the real issue. Here is an example. The teacher says “Okay, snow pants-jacket-hat-mittens—then your boots. Let’s go! Let’s go!” Little Bobby is laying on the floor SCREAMING. The teacher says, “Stop screaming and put your snow pants on first.” He screams louder. She says, “I don’t care if you don’t want to wear your snow pants, you’re wearing them or you don’t go outside to play.” Little Bobby says, “I’m not wearing them!” And sits in the classroom and watches his peers playing in the snow. She made many mistakes, but I won’t share it here. She said “He always has a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his way.” I watched this go down—I hold little Bobby until he stops crying. When he’s calmed down to the big sobs, I asked him “What was the problem?” He responds, “Those aren’t my snow pants—they belong to my brother!!” Simple. I acknowledge it. I ask him how he thinks he can solve the problem and we work out a solution. In 10 minutes, he’s dressed in his snow clothes and is outside playing with his peers.
“Give little Bobby an iPad or iPhone. He can’t understand real life and can’t communicate without the iPad or iPhone.”
Constantly handing little Bobby an iPad or iPhone just reinforces his belief that he can’t handle life without it. Little Bobby hasn’t been given the skills to communicate or express himself without the iPad or iPhone. He has always responded to the electronics because the electronics always respond predictably and consistently. There is no reason for him to learn new ways to respond or interact with his environment. I do not like to use any electronics with any child. I establish this rule right at the beginning of my interaction with the children. I take the time to respond to the child and understand him. I start slowly by not getting into little Bobby’s space. I interact very minimally and not directly. I do a lot of side looks and playing beside little Bobby but not insisting little Bobby respond to me. Once he has figured out that I’m way more desirable than the iPad or iPhone, he starts to open up and interact with his environment and leaves the electronics alone. Adults think they need to use the electronics to “reach the child at the child’s level” when it’s actually the complete opposite. Put the electronics away—pull out your inner child and play. Then you are truly at the child’s level.
“Let little Bobby eat only what he wants. If he resists or cries, immediately give him whatever he wants.”
Feeding little Bobby can be a real challenge if you believe this. This is in the same category as the myth of never changing their routine or environment. Little Bobby is like this because the adults have given him the mistaken impression that he can’t handle changes. When we rush around trying to avoid allowing the child to feel any emotions except happy, we are unintentionally reinforcing his belief that he can’t handle changes. Just relax—treat it like everything else. Ask the child what foods they don’t like. Why don’t they like it? Then expose it to them in small doses while playing games or watching a movie. This is when I allow electronics. I put on their favourite 3 minute video and then we eat the undesirable pieces of food. The movie is NOT the reward!! It’s the distraction! Tell them to pay attention to the movie and eat the pieces of food. When the video is finished, ask them “What did you eat?” It’s fascinating. They are surprised. When they are desensitized to the foods, I decrease the video length each time until they don’t even look at the electronics. It’s using the electronics as a tool not a reward. They get stuck in the loop of only eating certain foods and having a meltdown if they are expected to eat undesirable foods because the adults are so concerned that the child can’t handle it.
“Be very careful about how you talk to and respond to little Bobby. Autistic people don’t like to be touched or hugged!!!!”
This is such a silly thing to say. I see a lot of people and children that “don’t like to be touched” so I don’t touch them. By respecting this but allowing them to approach you, and allowing them to lean against you or touch your body with those gentle feather touches, you are respecting them. When you respect them, they want you to touch them or hold them or pick them up. I allow all my children and people to touch me when they are ready. I look distant and act like I am not warm and fuzzy. But I give a lot of winks, small smiles, finger waves etc. So, follow their lead and stop trying to touch and hug children. They will hug you when they are ready.
These are only the first 10 things that I hear so often. I don’t like being aggressive or forceful when I first meet my clients. I don’t see the child as my only client. I see the whole class—the teachers and the assistants and all of the children are my clients. I see the whole family as my client. I like to take the gentle approach and use modeling as my way of getting everyone involved and on the plan towards success. When you hear some information about certain diagnosis and you are told to respond a certain way, stop and say no. Look, listen, feel, and respond to each person as a person first and then the diagnosis. It doesn’t matter what education or experience you have. The only thing that really matters is that you realize that by the time you are in that house or classroom, the entire environment is in crisis mode. Walk gentle, talk softly, and listen to the adults and the children. In another post I’ll share the formula I created years ago, and I follow it each time I start a new case.
By Christine Marchant
We’ve all been there.
You accept the position of the child development facilitator (CDF). I came from the background of running my own day home for 20 years and over 10 years as a nanny and as a daycare worker. You’d think this was the best experience to prepare me for the job position. No. All the other jobs were easy. I was able to hand pick the families or children I would work with. This job position? I never knew what I was going to encounter.
I’ll share with you some of the tricks I learned over the last 9 years as a CDF. I will say “him” as the gender to make life easy. The word “child“ will refer to all the ages of the people I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with “regular“ kids to anyone with any diagnosis. I tend to not define my clients by their diagnosis—so I don’t respond to them in the way too many people tend to do.
SO many times I’ve been told—
- “Little Bobby has autism—you can not talk to him like the other children.”
- “He doesn’t understand what you are saying- you must talk slowly- after every sentence- stop talking and give him 30-60 seconds to process what you said”
- “Never change the routine or the order of the words because he can’t understand what you mean and it will stress him out.”
- “Autistic children can become violent if they don’t get what they want!“
- “Don’t make jokes!!! Little Bobby thinks you’re serious!”
I can’t tell you how many times I have been given a “dressing down” by therapists, teachers, or a co-worker. Maybe it’s all true. Maybe I don’t know anything. I’m not telling anyone what to do and what to say to the people in your job position. (Note that I didn’t put any diagnosis in front of the word people). I’m only going to share my experience with this job position.
I actually don’t read the IPP or anything about the child I am working with ahead of time. I spend a minimum of two weeks of observation and gentle interaction with the child. After I see for myself the child in his environment, I read the IPP and the notes. I don’t recommend you do this—I do it because I have been working with children since I was a teenager. After graduating grade 12, I immediately went into the childcare center and became a daycare worker. Then a nanny and then a private day home provider. You do your own way of preparing for the job position.
I’ll now explain to you why I don’t believe these 5 suggestions on dealing with little Bobby. I’ll then share how I responded to the child in each example.
“Little Bobby has autism—you can not talk to him like the other children.”
A child with any diagnosis is a child first. Any person with any diagnosis is a person first. Respond to everyone as a person first—then their diagnosis.
“He doesn’t understand what you are saying—you must talk slowly. After every sentence, stop talking and give him 30-60 seconds to process what you said.”
I have seen adults do this to the child. They are so convinced that they are doing the right thing that they start to think inside of themselves and don’t actually look or listen to the child. I am standing there watching the actual facial expressions and the child is just as confused as I am. An example of this—I was working with another CDF from another company in the classroom. This aide was very intense and believed she was very good at her job. She would constantly take me to the side of the room and lecture me on how I am supposed to respond to little Bobby. I was treating him like the other children and I was messing him up! I began to avoid the whole situation. But!!! The child wouldn’t leave me alone!! One time, I was “doing my own thing “ with my child and I heard a little voice say, “Can I play with you guys?” Without lookaying, I said “Sure you can play. Pop in the chair and put your car on the road.” And then I realized it was little Bobby!! The aide charged over to my activity—in front of the child and his classmates and lectured me on how I just made a huge mistake in responding to him like that. The child put the toys down and walked away with the aide. She told him what to do and what to say etc…VERY slowly!! I believe in responding naturally to the child, if they think you think they are capable of handling it, they are actually able handle it.
“Never change the routine or the order of the words because he can’t understand what you mean and it will stress him out.”
This mistaken myth is how the child gets stuck in that loop. The adult is so eager to “not upset” the child that they buy into the idea that he can not handle any changes to his routine or environment. When the adults do this, they are actually setting the child up to think change is NOT okay! When the adults acknowledge that the child cannot change the routine or anything in their environment and they respond to the child with respect, kindness, gentleness, and compassion….. they show the child that it’s okay and that it’s okay to feel like that.
“Autistic children can become violent if they don’t get what they want!“
This is another myth. Children do not become violent if they don’t get their own way. Children become stressed out or very agitated when they feel like their environment is not in their control. It’s not the getting what they want that is the issue. It’s the way they are expressing their stress and fear. The violence is because they aren’t taught that they have other ways to respond. As a baby, flinging themselves around and having a temper tantrum was the only way they had to communicate with their environment. As adults, we must teach the child that it’s okay to be disappointed or upset and then give them the skills on how to appropriately express themselves. If a child becomes violent, don’t respond immediately. Stop, watch, listen, and respond to his feelings—not his words or actions.
“Don’t make jokes!!! Little Bobby thinks you’re serious!”
This one REALLY gets me upset!! Life isn’t that serious! If you respond naturally, you will teach the child that it’s okay to be silly! Make silly jokes! Put the cow on your head and OINK like a pig and hop like a bunny!! Use simple toddler humour to start. If the child becomes upset or confused, stop, assure him it’s okay! This is called “being funny”! Then make a point to be funny twice a session.
These are only the first 5 things I learned while being a CDF. This is a job that takes a lot of flexibility while staying consistent. There’s no one way to respond to each child in each situation. You need to be able to recognize that by the time you arrive in that house or classroom, the entire environment is in crisis mode. The adults are stressed out and not open to new information and new people telling them what to do.
That’s why, instead of reading about the case before I arrive, I try my best to stay out of the way and see what is going on. I allow the adults to get use to my presence. I say nothing about anything. I see how they are coping, and I listen to the adults talking about their stresses and their troubles and their ideas. I stay quiet and I learn how the children behave and how the adults behave. I listen to the therapists, the parents, the teachers, and the assistants, etc. I then read the IPP and look at the whole thing as a whole situation and start asking the adults for their input into the situation. I follow their suggestions. I gently show them the successes and the failures. I then slowly start inserting my way of doing things. I don’t tell the adults what I’m doing or why. I just model it. When I sense they are opening up to be accepting the new information and new ways of doing things, I start explaining as I’m doing. I don’t tell before I do it. I tell as I’m doing it so the adults can see it and hear it and then they can see the results. Once the adults are trusting my skills, I start giving them the responsibility for the decisions of what we do. Then I invite them to model what they have learned and, finally, at the end of the contract, I’m stepping back and allowing the adults to take over. It’s a formula I created years ago. Once I caught on that there’s a formula for success, I wrote it out and started to actually follow it. Now? Every time I enter a new job situation, regardless of if it’s in a school or a home, I follow the formula. It hasn’t failed yet, even though sometimes I don’t get past the first step. But at least I’m consistent and I know that eventually it will be easier.
By Monica Morela, behavioral aide at Connecting Dots
Many scholars within the field of disability studies illustrate the relationship between service providers and families by using different analogies. Yuen (2003) describes how having a child with a disability can be like embarking on a journey to space. Such a quest can be exciting at times, lonely, or scary; and asking for help along the way is always necessary. Alternatively, parents describe having a child with a disability as feeling like a spider sitting on a web (Yuen, 2003). Where weak strands are strengthened by connection, and where a ‘web’ of professionals are there to help. I think that Fialka (2001) beautifully illustrates the professional-family relationship by comparing this connection to a dance. In service provider relationships and in a dance, there is an element of forced intimacy. The nature of our circumstances brings us nose-to-nose with strangers in ways that can be awkward. Being aware of this awkwardness can help behavioral aides and therapists to think about how we can reduce the number of times we step on toes!
Another dimension of Fialka’s (2001) illustration that I found very poignant was the idea of who leads the dance of services. Many practitioners will refer to parents as the experts on their children. It might be more accurate to refer to parents as contributors. In a dance, each individual’s contribution can evolve and build on each other as we offer different perspectives about a child. Finally, in a dance, each partner listens to music that guides the movements of their dance. In the dance of services, ‘music’ can be an illustration of priorities. Priorities for parents and service providers can sometimes differ. This difference can lead to misunderstandings regarding the role and goal of services. When practitioners are willing to put on parents ‘headphones’ they will hear the experiences of parents and will be more effective in strengthening the parent-professional relationship.
Fialka, J. (2001). The dance of partnership. Young Exceptional Children, 4(2), 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1177/109625060100400204
Yuan, S. (2003). Seeing with new eyes: Metaphors of family experience. Mental Retardation, 41(3), 207-211. doi:10.1352/0047-6765(2003)412.0.co;2