- Darlene Rose DeMaria
A Creative Awakening in Educational Therapy
Educational Therapy doesn’t have to solely be a metric-based therapeutic model. It can also be an illuminating wholistic experience providing exploration into personal self-expression. This uncovered expression can turn on the creative side of the brain and assist in the remediation of processing challenges, transforming weaknesses into strengths. This formula may include cross-crawl and stretching, talking about feelings, brain balancing physical exercises, visual training/tracking and incorporating a simple three-minute meditation.
Recently a developmental pediatrician referred an 11-year-old hearing-impaired patient to my educational therapy practice. This new student presented with a congenital hearing loss, he had been wearing hearing aides since birth. His initial Zoom session opened a formidable relationship and presented for me a creative therapeutic opportunity. During this initial family consultation, I found myself reaching out through the screen like an octopus trying to understand the needs of this new client.
When this 11-year-old boy recovered from a bout with Covid, we met in person. We were masked, awkward, and yet happy to finally meet each other and work in person. We proceeded with in-person therapy and an initial evaluation of receptive and expressive language revealed a deficit in Auditory-Vocal and Auditory-Motor skills.
After working over Zoom for 2.5 years, I no longer looked the same, felt the same nor was I relating or practicing with the same focus. My skills had been deepened and refined during our long Covid Lockdown. My office felt like it belonged to someone else. In my mind, I felt like I was undraping the furniture, the computer center, the puzzles, the toys, the stuffies, the art supplies, the materials and even dusting off the fairies on the roof garden. I was removing the white sheets (in my mind) as if I was returning to a beach house I had abandoned for many seasons.
The Covid containment deepened my awareness of how each student brings to therapy exactly what needs to be transformed. Conscious time must be given to encourage each student’s strengths so a solid foundation may be built. During my sessions with this student, time was allotted for spontaneous creative expression to encourage strengths, which also remediated his weaknesses. My responsibility is to allow space and grace in the therapeutic process for each student’s strengths to be uncovered and expressed.
One of the gifts this new student brought to Edu-Therapy was a palatable gentleness. At the beginning working with him was like holding a soft bunny in my arms as his nervous heart beat loud, fast and furiously. As time went by he became more comfortable and this sensitive anxiety subsided. We began each session with brain balancing activities. We synchronized with deep belly breathing calming brain, heart and belly. These activities immediately put him at ease allowing the anxiety and stress of his outer life to float away making space for therapy to take place.
As sessions progressed his expressive written language began to flow spontaneously. The Mind Boggling Card Trick was introduced and this provided a fun time to develop executive function, visual memory and perceptual alignment skills. He was beginning to break down some of his anxieties, insecurities, doubts and fears.
His tailored Edu-Therapy contract was created:
1. Establish a positive affirmation and commit to say it everyday
2. Set specific goals, recognize their benefits and read them everyday
3. Commit to some fun activities like ART can make me SMART
4. Remember to SMILE (which turns on specific sensory centers in the brain to assist with expressive skills and executive function)
Although this student initially presented with hardly any verbal expression and scant written expression after 3x’s a week for 1.5 - 2-hour sessions, he began to accomplish writing nature haikus, prose poems and short narratives about himself. These written language pieces were also accompanied with vividly colorful and interactive illustrations. He also had never touched a keyboard and now could comfortably without error, play the medley of Heart & Soul including a fun interlude as I played the bass. He began to feel a sense of accomplishment in performing our duet. It was clear to see that while he came to Edu-Therapy to revive his own self-expression, self-regulation and self-esteem he also actually awakened and revived the heart & soul of Edu-Therapy after a long Covid sleep.
© Darlene Rose DeMaria, M.A. BCET