I was talking with another OT recently about our experiences when we were newly graduated and working at our first jobs. She shared a story with me about the first school she worked at. She found the former OT’s list of “Rules for OT” in the therapy room…which basically amounted to a personalized list of each child’s special interests, and the rule that they weren’t allowed to talk about that in OT.
“In OT, we don’t talk about cats.”
“In OT, we don’t talk about Transformers.”
“In OT, we don’t talk about the Titanic.”
Down the list, for presumably each enthusiastic, passionate child who had ever shared conversation about the thing they love the most with their therapist in hopes of connecting and bonding…only for the therapist to make a rule that it wasn’t allowed.
I cannot imagine a more effective way to immediately ruin all hopes of connecting with a child. To make them hate coming to therapy. To turn your relationship into a lonely, isolating chore.
The new OT decided to do things a little differently. After all, if the child’s IEP goals for OT were simply to improve handwriting, who says that you can’t work on handwriting by writing passionately and enthusiastically about cats or the Titanic?
And so they did. 😍
Look, I fully recognize that I say a lot of radical things on this site that are a lot of a stretch from where mainstream OT and parenting and child-adult interactions are. But this one does not seem like it could possibly be that hard. Unequivocally shutting down what any child tells you is gonna be relationship-damaging. Making a rule that an Autistic child can’t tell you about their special interest? That’s excruciating. That’s the passion and joy with which they observe much of the rest of the world. And with creativity, it’s sooo easy to make tons of academic things connect to a special interest. And for something as general as “handwriting” or “fine motor activities”? That’s not even a little bit hard.
Why are we even teaching children handwriting if it’s not to be able to write about what they love??