These past few weeks I have been trying my hand at gardening. My mum has a green thumb (see above pic), so I've been wondering if it was in the genes. I bought a subscription to Martha Stewart Magazine and my everyday vocabulary is now filled with words such as seedlings, trellis and all sorts of "garden related" terms. My vegetable garden has started with beans, snow peas, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, and red onions. Every morning I'm out in my garden, admiring the half inch of growth since the previous day, pulling the one weed that's trying to grow up, showing my neighbours and anyone who passes by. I show parents when they come to sessions and have pictures in my phone to show anyone who will listen to my garden stories (and humour me). Yes, I'm a proud mama!
While talking to my plants each day I've been doing some thinking about plant growth and making comparisons to children's language development. Now I've been making parents look through the window at my up and coming gardens for a new reason. It's a really nice visual to provide parents with an analogy on children's language.
I planted all of my seeds on the same day, but as you might be able to see in the pic below, some of them sprouted and grew before the others. The beans sprouted quickly and were up in the air in no time, while I was just staring hopefully at empty beds for a while before I saw even a glimpse of coriander or peppers. Even amongst the beans som
e were growing faster than others. They were receiving the same conditions, nurtured in the same environment, but growing at different rates.
When we look at children's language development, we may have a group of children who are the same age, who have similar nurturing environments, however some may be developing language quickly, whereas for whatever reason some may have delayed language. Som
e plants, like my red onions, may need a bit of a push, or some extra help (e.g fertiliser/plant food) getting them to where we want them to be, wh
ile in the same way parents may need to provide more focused language input or bring them to us friendly, lovable speech therapists, who provide that extra 'nurturing'.
Sometimes we need to ask an expert about what is typical or atypical for growth and development. We may need some assurance that everything is following its natural course of development and just requires time, or someone to highlight the red flags to show that something might be wrong and more needs to be done.
My mum has been my expert gardener, and after dragging her out to my garden yesterday in despair, she shared something with me that I had to share with a parent today. She told me:
"All plants are different; you need to stop comparing them to the other plants and look at what is happening to each individual one. You were so busy focusing on how tall the beans were growing past the others, that you didn't even realise that the cilantro plants have sent out new leaves"
This was true, I had failed to realise that the seedlings which initially looked like little weeds, were now starting to push out new leaves in the middl
e that actually looked like real cilantro leaves. My mothers words reminded me of what I tell parents constantly. Stop focusing on what John and Jane are doing, and look at your child's individual gains, look at his strengths and what he is now able to do that he could not do 2 months ago. You may miss out on some of the most important communication achievements. Words from my garden :)
The last analogy came to me this afternoon, when I looked outside and saw all of my pea plants almost lying on the ground.
I dragged mum outside again (yea she's getting very tired of me and this garden) who showed me that they were not dying to get back at me for talking to the beans more, but actually searching for a support system. In this case our neighbour's fence was the closest thing so they were headed for that. She noted that some plants, although they were growing, needed some type of device to help support their growth and to help them flourish. This evening we made a makeshift trellis or augmentative device to help with their growth. The acronym AAC was going off in my head as she told me this, as we can use these devices to supplement and enhance language development in children. Definitely another one to share with parents.
So there you have my 'little garden that could' and my speech and language therapy ramblings as I pretend to be Martha Stewart. Now to find a way to use it in direct therapy!