The Repetition Game

Photo Courtesy elPadawan/flickr

Photo Courtesy elPadawan/flickr

Things I love about my profession include getting to hear a child’s first word, seeing the “light bulb moment” when a child has figured out how to do something that was really difficult for them, or being able to dismiss a child because they have mastered all goals (even though it makes me sad at the same time). These are all things that I have experienced. These are all things that I love.

But in order to get to experience these things, I have to do something I don’t love. Repetition. Repetition of games, repetition of words, repetition of play routines… Sometimes I get tired of doing the same activities. Sometimes I get tired of the same outcomes. Some days, I’m just itching for something new because I don’t think I can do this activity one more time without going crazy!

Haven’t we done this same activity a thousand times?

It feels like it. My first reaction is to pick a different activity because I’m bored or because I’m over it. It’s tempting to forget that I’m the therapist and it isn’t about me. I don’t put the child into my comfort box. I have to get into their comfort box and work my way out from there. It doesn’t matter if I’m bored or if I’m tired. It matters how the child is doing.

Repetition of activities is the way a lot of kids learn.

I know that, but it is easy to forget. If you have never tried an apple, can you describe the way it tastes? You can’t. In a similar way, we can’t expect kids to use language when they have no idea what’s in front of them! By repeating an activity over and over, we provide them with experience, vocabulary, and appropriate play models. Each time they do the same activity, they have more information to pull from and the demand placed on them gradually becomes less and less.

I was reminded of this recently when one of my patients did something that he has never done before. He looked at me and tried to engage me in play. He wanted me to play with him. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but when you are trying to play with a kid and, frankly, he always seemed annoyed that you were there disrupting him, it is a BIG deal. He was listening to me all of the other times we were doing the same activity – the activity I almost didn’t do (again!) because I was getting bored – but on this day, everything clicked. I am grateful for reminders like these that help me remember some of the basics of my profession. It’s easy to get caught up in other ideas, but when it comes down to it, repetition is something both therapists and parents should always remember to do.

Jessie Nelson Willis, M.Ed., CCC-SLP

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