I remember Elle quite well because she wouldn’t come into the classroom on her first day here. After spending 50 minutes with her during her first session, I discovered that she suffered from high anxiety and insecurity although she was only 5 years old. She hardly made eye contact with me and sat rigidly most of the session. Of course, her mother had already mentioned some of her symptoms during our pre-session phone call. She said that Elle wouldn’t eat nor drink at school, nor would she go to the bathroom. The teacher often complained that Elle’s participation level in class was low, and she often interacted with her peers in a violent way such as pushing their glasses off. Her mother was also worried about her diagnosis of speech delay at the hospital where Elle has been getting treatment for a while. The mother came to KickStart because she wanted faster progress for her child.
Not only did she have high anxiety, her adaptability needed help as well. She would burst into tears from nervousness if anyone moved or made a sound in the classroom. She disliked changing body position, often remaining in her usual sitting pose, slightly curled and rigid, with at least one hand on her mother. It took her 20-30 minutes to warm up to each different exercise planned in the session, and transitions between exercises were difficult to process. She found it strenuous to express herself or understand speech. She was reluctant to take off her socks and jacket, and only made eye contact with me after half an hour. To effectively target her symptoms, I planned sensory and auditory exercises to help improve her sensory regulation skills.
After a week of therapy, Elle was less frightened by environmental noises such as the classroom bell. Instead, she showed curiosity in it like a regular child would. After a month of therapy, Elle’s emotions became more stable. She adapted to change better and began to show interest in interacting with others. Her mother also reported that her sleep quality has improved. In the following weeks, I added facial massage and oral muscle development exercises into her sessions. Her speech became clearer, she began imitating sounds and had a wider vocabulary. She was also willing to try textured food.
A child should have a carefree childhood. However, a year ago, the word “carefree” was as far from Elle as possible. Seeing both her and her mother’s toil, I wanted to help them from the bottom of my heart. After a year of therapy and home program, Elle finally became the happy and carefree child she should be. Every time I think of her, I can still vividly remember her smiling face, and how she would take my hand shyly to thank me. It’s a great feeling to give a child her childhood back.
Photo credit: shutterstock.com