I thought I had a pretty good understanding of ‘how to connect’ with the children in my life. Connect… its a vague term. Though I think there are some common factors that fall under this ambiguous concept. Primarily, compassion, empathy and understanding.
It wasn't until I recently attended a talk that I realised there was more to the concept than I could ever have imagined…
Only, on the surface, the talk had nothing to do with connection… It was actually about Sensory Processing Disorder.
So did I miss the point entirely? I’m still not sure.
I believe a key point of the talk was to come to realise that each little being exists in order to perceive the world through their senses.
Furthermore, their senses are designed to interact and perceive the world exactly how they're meant to…
But would that sound too new-age, hippie, earth-child for you?
What if I told you the talk was by a respected and highly educated paediatrician?
One of the activities I like to do with the kids who come to me is really explain whats going on for them on a neurological level. They learn that being dyslexic means their brain perceives the written word differently- this has its pros and cons… but like eye colour, its just how they're wired. Similarly, ADHD, autism and other sensory processing disorders have a neurological base.
So for me, it always comes back to the brain.
But hang on, this paediatrician is asking me to look deeper… beyond a neurological cause? What else is there?
If you’ve read this far- chances are you're open as I was to hearing her out. I finally understood what she was asking me to do as a practitioner, educator and parent.
She was asking me to look beyond the DSM-V, beyond ticked boxes on a behavioural assessment..
She was asking me to consider the soul- the essence of being held by these little people I seek to help.
One measure of intelligence is how many distinctions a person can make- Im not talking about how many D’s on a university transcript.
An Eskimo has 50 words for snow. There are 50 distinctions within the category of which I only have one - snow. Who demonstrates more ‘snow’ intelligence? Me or the Eskimo?
What if we applied this theory to children with sensory processing disorder?
I hear silence… but a child with sensory processing issues may make many distinctions- they may hear the flow of electricity, the hum of the fridge, a summer insect- the list is potentially endless.
So when a child can’t concentrate because the hum of the fluorescent light above their head is too loud, or the little girl cant stop tapping because there is a constant rhythm in her mind or the boy is too overwhelmed by noise to enter an assembly hall…
Look past the sensory processing disorder.
What is it like for the boy to hear sounds so distinctly? Is the girl tapping to a rhythm you cannot perceive? Does the boy who feels so overwhelmed by light and noise need his soul calmed by peace and birdsong?
I still recognise Sensory Processing Disorders as very real, neurological conditions- though I cant help but feel a fundamental shift that can only come from true understanding. An understanding and connection not only with the child but with a higher dimension…beyond a book listing diagnostic criteria… So while I may feel frustration when a boy with a sensory processing disorder hasn't followed an instruction- even after the fourth repetition… Isn't it my responsibility to adapt? To find a way to enter his world rather than forcing him to join mine? To ask myself - What can I do to help him hear my voice over the hum of the city?