Respectful Intervention: Reframing 'Wants Something Time.'

When we think of the concept Magda Gerber referred to as wants nothing time, whether in a parent infant class or when dealing with a child at home, we register moments of non-assumptive observation, the visual referencing and refueling for both parties during the play time that is child-chosen activity - in essence, a time for allowing. When we think about what Magda referred to as wants something time, we register the adult orchestrating a relational dyad - the adult and child embarking on the task at hand. This might include diapering, feeding or a time for initiating another type of activity together.

In the almost two decades of my providing Early Intervention sessions to clients, parents have shared their stories with me after the difficult realization of discovering that their child may have developmental issues. Not only do they have concerns about the present behavior or delay, but the not knowing of what the future may hold can bring on understandable bouts of sorrow, depression, anxiety, fear, confusion, frustration and eventually, exhaustion.

I see clients in the natural environment of the child - usually in their own homes. I have also had the opportunity to make many 'buddy visits' with other practitioners of the children in my care. During these visits I am allowed to go into the office spaces of Developmental Pediatricians, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech/Language Pathologists and other practitioners. My job during these visits is to bear quiet witness to their session and take my own notes. I am the 'fly on the wall.' At times I get to ask questions, or questions are asked of me, as Early Intervention can act like the 'glue that holds it all together' for the families in which the child has been offered multiple services.

In my own practice, I require a bit of wants nothing time initially, so I can see the origin of the skill sets the child currently holds. During the period of intervention, wants something time is required, as there are goals being addressed. And again, afterward, a need for more wants nothing time to notice some of the effects of the practice for that day.

To ease the discomfort of taking children raised within the philosophy of the Educaring® approach to various therapeutic professionals, we can reframe our child’s sessions with these practitioners as an extension of wants something time. While these practitioners have had many years of schooling in order to hone their craft, they may hold a different or less specific idea from the mindful Educaring® approach model in regards to respectful interaction with children in their care. The practitioner has a series of tasks they would like to share, to help your child reach their full potential developmentally, generated by the goals you have mutually agreed upon during the assessment phase. In order to get the best the therapist has to offer, at the same time ensuring it is a match to your own child-rearing skills, there are some simple points of interest to share about how you are raising your child.

Here are some basic key components you can share with practitioners who are new to your family. The practitioners may be unfamiliar with some of these mindful concepts that you already utilize and want them to comprehend. It is not necessary to go into a full description of the methodology, or even call it by name. There is no need to show a formal list, but, in your initial conversation with the practitioner, be prepared to offer points that you relate to most strongly from the concepts below. In subsequent conversations and sessions with the practitioner, you can reiterate and reinforce the concepts as you both focus on the needs of your child.

We are choosing to raise our child with conscious respect. We would like you to be consistent with our wishes when you deal with him/her,too. He/she will be more able to take in new information by using the the following ideas:

Your skilled observation is important to us. And we ask, please root your findings in the true, non-assumptive observation of our child. We see our child as a capable, unique individual.

Please let him/her know with voice, gesture and eye contact what you are going to do before you begin.

Give him/her a moment of processing time before each step, and another moment afterward to integrate that step.

Please use calm narration and a pause before moving our child's body or transitioning from one activity to another. This will help him/her with body awareness, spatial awareness, language acquisition, auditory focus, social awareness, and overall orientation and regulation.

As much as possible, only place our child in physical positions he/she can get into and out of by him/herself.

As much as possible, allow our child to have choices. (ex: choice between 2 activities that work with the same skill set, muscle group, etc.)

As much as possible, move slowly and go at our child's pace during the session.

Please avoid random entertaining behavior so our child can focus, process and integrate new information.

While working with our child, please relate to his/her developmental level along the concept continuum, rather than his/her chronological age.

Please recognize and respect our family choices- i.e. lifestyle choices - (ex.- a child raised in a vegan household will not have experience with pieces of meat in a play kitchen set-up), or TV choices – (ex.- a child who is not exposed to television will not recognize the characters of 'Barney' or 'Elmo,' but may understand the colors of 'purple toy' and 'red toy' when you make a request), etc. (Allow the practitioner awareness of lifestyle choices specific to your own family.)

Thank you for sharing your skills with us. We appreciate your helping us to learn and integrate what you have to offer into our life with our child.

Parents are considered the engine of the train in the eyes of the law. This means that parents start the process of requesting assessment, leading to possible diagnosis, and are responsible for the follow-through in choosing practitioners that are aligned with their concerns, goals, schedule and lifestyle. Know that you have the right to diplomatically discuss your wishes with practitioners. Notice what the practitioner is showing you, as well as how they are showing your child new information. For example, is the practitioner giving you all the voice, gesture and eye contact without giving your child appropriate transitional forewarning prior to the next activity? You are your child's advocate and the one to notice, and be keenly aware of, what your child may be experiencing during all procedures.

After the session of wants something time with the practitioner, you may choose to offer some wants nothing time to your child as a way to re-regulate back into your daily home routine.

The structure has been set by our diligence to the mindful Educaring® approach which holds the space for entering the child/adult dance together. So now this must also be extended to this new set of adults in the life of your child. Your own modeling is paramount to them understanding and learning the ways you wish them to handle and speak to your child.

Just as you do for your infant, you need to give practitioners time to understand and process the ways and means by which you are raising your child. You need to help them understand the important contributions that unbiased observation, moving slowly, speaking prior to moving his/her body and avoiding entertainment have given you, regarding being part of a respectful, relationship based dyad.

Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Be sure to frequently 'catch people doing something right.' Let practitioners know when you are pleased with their actions and inclinations toward your child, just as they will notice and commend you for practicing what they have taught you at home in between sessions. Success breeds success in relationship based learning.

With regards to respectful intervention, we can work together to understand the gifts of the wants something time of initiating, the wants nothing time of allowing, along with holding the space between.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there...” –Rumi

________________________________________________________________________________This document was originally published in Resources for Infant Educarers Educaring® newsletter (Volume 37, No.3, Fall 2017).

RIE® Associate Bio: Karla Lee Kuester has been working with young children and families since 1977. She has worked as a Certified Montessori Preschool Teacher, a RIE® (Resources for Infant Educarers) Associate, an Infant Specialist / Program Coordinator (in a Reggio Emilia / RIE Program), and as a Behavior, Social Skills and Early Interventionist. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education / Developmental Psychology / Fine Art. Karla currently works for the Step By Step EDU-TheraPlay Child Dev. Program in Santa Monica, CA. She also sees private clients for Behavior Intervention and Early Intervention. Since 2003, Karla has taught Infants & Toddlers: A Class for Caregivers at UC Irvine each year. Karla has also worked in the capacity of the in-house Child Development Specialist at the UCLA Krieger Center (2009-2015). She has served as a private tutor since 1988. Karla was invited to sit on the Executive Committee of the Association of Child Development Specialists (ACDS), Los Angeles in 2017. She is a published author, presenter and consultant. Ms. Kuester can be reached at: