Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Circle Time vs. Circus Time

For many children in early education, circle time is an enjoyable time to sit on the floor for stories, music, puppets, calendar, weather time, and a whole host of other activities. If you are a teacher in primary grades, you have probably been trained to put a fair amount of emphasis on circle time. Important things happen at circle time!!

As a parent of a child with SPD, I groan when I hear a teacher mention circle time. This area has long been one of Jennica's weaknesses, which is very typical to her type of disability. The close proximity of other bodies all seated so close on the rug, the visual input of the constant small movements around her, the auditory input of the teacher and the rustle of wiggling kids, and the rules.......keep your hands in your lap, raise your hand, listen, eyes forward...........UGH!

We have tried a bazillion different sensory tools to get Jennica through circle time--all with mixed success. Active seating disks, which allow her to "wiggle" without disturbing her neighbors, work intermittently. When they work.........they work. When they don't......they are great objects for testing aerodynamics. (There's nothing quite like a green core disk flying across the room in the middle of circle time to get the teacher's attention.....which has now accomplished two goals! Aerodynamics AND attention!) We have used chewy tools to occupy her mouth, we've tried weighted snakes (these also had good aerodynamics), we've tried a variety of fidgets........we've even tried just flat-out good old discipline. (Sit there! Or else!) Nothing has worked with any consistency.

So, with the first week of kindergarten behind us and scrambling to get the kinks ironed out, this weekend I asked for some online advice from other parents of SPD kids. The response I got seemed pretty ordinary at first, and almost disappointing. The first line read something like, "Maybe she's not ready........" That's it? That's all you've got for me?

But that line has nagged me over and over and over in the past day. "Maybe she's not ready." For a parent that has approached Sensory Processing Disorder with the assumption that, with enough treatment, we CAN make our daughter "typical", that is a really difficult statement for me to absorb and accept. But it has nagged at me. And I have stepped back and taken a hard look at the situation, and realized that the response, although not what I wanted to hear, is probably right on. That doesn't mean that we don't continue to try to increase Jen's tolerance of circle time, but rather than looking for the "magic tool" that is going to make it all better, maybe we just need to keep putting her back in that environment in doses that she can handle, and give her sensory system the time it needs to mature. She is making HUGE strides. Why have we decided that she has to do this now?

So.......I've had a great reminder from a fellow SPD parent that we need to keep our eye on the ball. Is sitting all the way through circle time each and every day really that important at this point in time? She'll do it when she's ready. Or.......she'll outgrow circle time around 3rd grade anyway. Either way.......is it worth stressing over? She is participating with the class! She is learning!

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