Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I just watched a new TED video and this one was a talk by young Physicist, Brian Cox speaking on a topic that ordinarily holds no interest for me at all, proton detectors. He was so passionately and cheerfully engaged in his topic that I got caught up in his spell of enthusiasm. I reflected, afterwards why each of us has an affinity for certain aspects of the world around us and how we communicate this with others. I spend time each day with youngsters who are passionate enthusiasts on topics equally as obscure to me. But when I am under the spell of the passionate interests of one of my young friends, I can share his or her affinity for letters, spinning tops, animals, trains, bridges, strings that dangle, or numbers lined up in phone books. I enjoy the insight that this experience offers me and the connection that sharing an emotional and intellectual perspective allows me. I believe that our own affinities anchor us in this infinitely wide universe but sharing the affinities of others is a joyful freeing adventure that no one should miss. Part of my job, as a communication specialist, is to find a way for each child to communicate his or her own affinities with others. The other part of my job is to help each child perceive and enjoy the passionate enthusiasm that others feel about topics that might not yet or ever be a long term shared interest. This is what communication is--the sharing of ideas, emotions, and perspectives.

The professional hazard I face is that I may teach a child the tools of communication, speech and language, without ever helping the child develop the disposition to communicate. I can, in fact, teach communication in such a way that I diminish the child's disposition to communicate. This certainly happened to me with the subject of physics. I took a college level course in Physics and found it difficult and a trigger for high anxiety. While I passed the class (got a solid B) I have avoided physics studiously ever since. Brian Cox managed to engage me in the topic by communicating a playfulness regarding the subject that overcame my anxiety bias. That is the magic of play.

Parents should know that, from my perspectives, three well-articulated systems do focus on building a disposition to communicate while teaching children to communicate. These systems are Floortime, Relationship Development Intervention, and SCERTS. There may be behavioral systems that focus on building the disposition to communicate systematically as well, but I don't know these systems well enough to comment. I am convinced that social play, and playfulness in learning is a key component of any effective system. All three of the intervention systems that I mention above are very good at incorporating play and playfulness into learning.

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