In education and in therapy, they often say “Play is a child’s work”. It’s a way for kids to learn new skills, process fears, and learn social roles. Learning how to play teaches children how to interact with the world around them.
Gabriel was two years old when his mother, Maria, was worried that he rarely spoke. “His older sister is developmentally delayed. She doesn’t speak often so we thought maybe he wasn’t hearing enough or picking up enough, like other kids with siblings,” she shared. His pediatrician recommended that he participate in Early Intervention (EI) through Innovative Services NW, which would provide Gabriel the opportunity to work with a therapist and an educator in their family’s home. Gabriel’s older sister was in therapy at Innovative several years ago. “I was happy to know that we were going back because I knew it was a great program. They really helped my daughter,” Maria said.
Gabriel has been receiving Early Intervention services since April. He has been working with EI Specialist, Jennifer Stepken, and Occupational Therapy Assistant, Melodie Sherer. Both Jennifer and Melodie have been working with Gabriel and his family on strategies to expand his play and communication skills. Additionally, Melodie has been focusing on adaptive skills, such as dressing and learning how to feed himself with utensils. She also provides sensory supports to help Gabriel organize his body so he can play and interact with his family in meaningful, purposeful ways. To make learning fun and engaging, they focus their sessions around play activities like blowing bubbles, racing, climbing, and playing games.
“The first time I saw Gabriel, he had poor self-regulation,” Melodie said. “He had a hard time playing and interacting with me, and his family, because he was busy climbing on the furniture, bumping into his mom, and running about to help him meet his sensory needs.” Melodie felt that it was important to help Gabriel focus his energy and include more purposeful play in his routine. “I gave his family some suggestions of exercises they could do to help him regulate his body, and each time I see him, he’s more focused.”
Some of his other goals include learning to take turns, making eye contact, feeding himself, drinking out of a cup, following adult-lead activities, and problem solving; all skills that he’ll need when he enters preschool next year. He’s already shown outstanding progress in his language abilities just in the last few weeks, uttering two and three word phrases as he and Melodie play together. After only four visits, and the dedication of his family to continue practicing with him between appointments, Gabriel was able to play with his mom for twenty minutes as they had a tea party to learn how to drink from a cup. “He had never had that much sustained joint attention,” Melodie said. “His parents have great follow-through. They are so willing to do the exercises and activities we suggest.”
Maria is grateful for the support of Gabriel’s EI team. “As he grows up I would love for him to try his hardest and be dedicated in whatever he’s doing,” she shared. “I just want for him to play, to be a little bit more coordinated, and to have fun.”