The young child is wide open to the world – everything and everyone he encounters are taken in and literally make an impression on him, right into his little body and his organs. Just watch a baby at his mother’s breast – he tastes the milk in his whole body, even his tiny toes are curling and uncurling in pleasure!
He does not yet possess the capacity to observe and evaluate what comes towards him; he has no barriers but like a sponge he takes it in and incorporates it right into himself. Then he will imitate it, for good or ill, as all parents will ruefully attest! Gradually this capacity diminishes as the child grows, until by age six or seven when he is ready for school and for learning.
Just this openness and malleability render the child open for therapy – the younger the better, that the therapy be most effective and most beneficial. There are windows of opportunity which alter as the child gets older – the younger the child, the more effective and far-reaching may the therapy be.
The baby and young child are still deeply connected to the mother, and it is most helpful if she or a familiar and committed caregiver be present at the session, participating in and sharing it with him, so to speak. The sessions have a playful and fun quality, thus the little one can best imitate as best he can and so absorb the therapy.
Here in Camphill Special School, the therapies are prescribed by the school doctor – a wide range is available: music therapy, art therapy, therapeutic eurythmy (a form of expressive movement), colored shadow therapy, massage, and oil dispersion baths, as well as the more conventional and familiar occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy which are typically part of the IEP.
In our new Meadowsweet Early Childhood program there is a designated room for therapies, thus the little one can remain in familiar surroundings and experience the therapy as a natural part of his school program.
By Gillian Schoemaker