Celebrating children’s individuality

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In a world of standardised testing and cookie cutter expectations, it is hard to fit into the mold when you don’t have the same skill set as others. It was a fantastic thing when the early childhood sector in Australia moved from deficit to positive wording. Instead of talking about what Julie can’t do, we talk about what Julie can do and what she is developing skills in.

The language goes a long way to changing perceptions of children, but it hasn’t changed how some educators still see the children that need more help. It isn’t fair to compare children with each other, especially not when they are so young. But it seems to be what society expects. We weigh babies and say what percentile they are in. We measure children’s skills based on the average of their peers. School is all about tests and where children sit on the bell curve.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could measure a child’s development against where they were last week, last month, last year? If this was the only measure of a young child’s development that mattered? Would it help educators better process the developmental differences and individual journeys each child is on? Would it help families see their child as a competent and successful individual?

Often the children that stand out are on the lower end of the curve, the more “challenging” children. These children often have so much going on it is impossible for them to learn at the same level as their peers. The “challenge” of these children comes not from their behaviours, but from our ability to connect with them.

I love this quote because it is true…

Whether it be a neglectful or stressful home environment, a health condition that makes them tired or irritable all the time, a sensory processing disorder that makes focusing difficult, or a diagnosis like ADHD or Autism that provides a different view of the world. Each of these children will need additional support in a way that makes it unfair and irresponsible to compare them against other children.

Families do the best they can do with the resources that they have. Not all of them are equipped to cope with a “challenging” child. Not all have the finances or time to commit to months or years of therapy and intervention. Placing a child in an education and care service is sometimes the only resource a family might have. It is not fair that educators then judge these families instead of supporting them. A bit of empathy goes a long way.

By supporting children to be themselves, and finding a way to develop children’s confidence and self-esteem, rather than tearing it down by comparing them to others, all children have an opportunity to shine. It is something that needs to be done in very close partnership with families, who then gain an understanding of their individual child’s unique genius. Focus on how far their child has come, and what fantastic progress they have made, shift the lens with which a child is seen and you can shift the outcomes for that child.

I’d love to hear your success stories in how you have managed to connect with children who are struggling and what impact it has had on their overall development.

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