I am always honored and humbled when a family meets me at their door and welcomes me in. I pop in with a smile and a small box of essentials; a small game, notebook and pen and of course my hand sanitizer. I consider the home based therapy session such a privilege. There is something so personal about meeting a family in their most secure and comfortable setting. It reveals a deeper level of trust for all parties involved which doesn’t always happen in clinics and waiting rooms.
Without fail parents apologize for the mess, the noisy siblings, the chaos of a lived in home. And I always smile. I’ve been into a wide variety of homes. I’ve done therapy in back yards, driveways, tents, kitchen tables, couches and everywhere in between. I expect to see a home that is lived in, filled with sticky walls, dishes from meals provided and piles of books. It actually brings me great joy to see families in homes that look “lived in”. I always tell my own kids that a mess is usually a sign that some fun was had. But among the day to day living, don’t compare your home to the Joanna Gaines Instagram account (I’m guilty of this one). Our homes are our living space, meant to be played in, explored, touched, disorganized and reorganized. And for a time your home might be a learning center or therapy site. Actually, your home will always be your language learning center.
Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of talk they hear from birth through age 3. Hart and Risley, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. A picture perfect home rarely has something interesting for our children to talk about.
Parents, feel free to dismiss the pang of guilt you feel when your list of household chores just doesn’t get done. Or if you’ve reached the end of the day and things visibly look worse than they did this morning. Your home is your child’s classroom, science lab, refuge, clinic and favorite place. Let it be. Plates in the kitchen tell me your child is eating well and exploring a variety of foods. Chunks of playdoh under the table tell me your child is exploring their sensory development. The scattered books around the couch tell me you’re working on your child’s literacy development through reading, listening and describing pictures. The crayons, paint and paper tell me you’re encouraging your child to explore and express themselves through art. Let your home look like people live, work, learn and play there.
Of course for all of our sanity as parents we need to get everything back in its place and tidy up to help ourselves feel organized and ready. It is your classroom, lab, refuge, clinic and favorite place as well. Find the balance that fits for you and your family. But as the Speech Language Pathologist who goes into your home and plays on your floors. The massive shoe pile by the door does not bother me and I don’t think twice about the cheerios on the carpet. I see piles of artwork made with love. I see a home filled with opportunity and language. I see parents and families who are opening their home and I am truly appreciative. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.