A Focus on Strength or Strengths?

Physical therapists are trained to identify all of the things that are atypical, limited, restricted, weak, ineffective and abnormal.  Once all of these problems are identified we develop a plan to knock down all of the things that are wrong.  Our goal? To help someone accomplish something new or to regain a lost skill.

What happens if we flip that on its head?  I work with children so that is my frame of reference.  Let’s focus on what the child CAN do.  What skill or movement pattern do they have that is typical, strong, or effective?  How can you position or create an opportunity for the child to use that skill or movement pattern MORE.  Can you turn it into a skill, a movement experience, a learning experience?

By flipping the paradigm on its head we are able to teach a child what they CAN do and CAN control.  When a child learns that they can make change with their actions, they will seek out more change.  This reinforces the skills and breeds more skill and exploration of new skills.  If we practice something that is difficult in the most challenging way possible, we are reinforcing to a child’s brain what they cannot do.  You may think, well, learning a new thing, like playing tennis, take practice.  This is true.  In a neurologically intact brain that has chosen to take up the sport, the person will be motivated to take on the challenge.  However, this novice tennis player will learn using their dominant arm to learn to swing the racquet.  They will use their strengths, ie dominant arm, not their weaknesses, ie non-dominant arm, to develop this new skill.  We need to apply the same idea to children.  Children of all ages do this all the time.  They roll to a preferred side first, walk up stairs with a preferred leg first and hop on a preferred leg first.  As the skill becomes more developed and refined the child will roll both directions, walk up and down stairs reciprocally and hop on either foot.

When a child has movement challenges, flood the child’s brain with positive movement experiences, enjoyable and varied sensory input and build off of their strengths.  Let the child have fun and have fun with them.  They will learn more effectively and will surpass expectations.

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