Friday, May 31, 2013
MY Story about MILO
I have been working with children ages birth to 3 for the past 20+ years. I started my career off as a special education teacher and then went on for my masters in Speech Language Pathology. I’ve taught early intervention at children’s homes, daycare centers, preschools, one-on-one and in groups such as Mommy & Me programs. I truly love working with this age group!
One, because they are adorable little sponges who love to learn and two, because at this age, I get to work with their parents as well. There is nothing more satisfying to me, than watching a young child make strides through their parents eyes. As a therapist I am always searching for new toys, activities and songs that help keep a child’s attention and that would be easy enough for a parent to carry over and use on their own. I wanted a toy that would encourage a child to make an intentional choice because choice-making is such an important step in language development. Choices give a child a feeling of empowerment and control. Choices also encourage social language (between two people), whether it’s pointing (non-verbal), vocalizing (grunting or sounds), or by using words. This is also known as pragmatics or how language is used to get a want or need met or just to express a thought or feeling. We hear the word “pragmatics” a lot when discussing goals for children with autism, but the reality is, all children need or are required to understand how to use language to better communicate with the people around them.
I had a bag of toys and would give a choice of 2 toys and the young child would always grab for both, or they would just “dive” into my bag head first to get a toy on their own. I found that both of these attempts were lost opportunities for teaching language.
Knowing that young children enjoy “lift-the-flap” types of items, I decided to create a teddy bear that had lift-the flaps with pictures of toys behind each flap. This way the child could lift and look and if they wanted that toy, they would have to point, grunt, and look at me (joint attention) to get that toy. I would then pull the toy out of a backpack and we would start to play.
The bear worked! The children would get excited when they saw him because they knew playtime was about to begin, and they were making intentional choices and using language appropriately. All effective communication skills. What also began to happen was that the children were building memory skills, remembering which flap their favorite toys were under. Beyond the communication and memory development, we found that the MILO kit was also developing and identifying a child’s strengths. The toys /activities that the children were chosing most often, were the ones that they played with the longest and had the most success and creativity with. They were choosing activities that used their strengths!
Over the the years I’ve come to believe that it is not how smart a child is that really matters, it is how the child is smart. I had read about the Theory of Multiple Intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner, and had sat in on conferences about the 8 great strengths we all possess and that at any given time, you can see some of these strengths shine brighter than others. They are: Word Smart (Literacy), Body Smart
(Kinesthetic), Nature Smart, People Smart (Interpersonal), Self Smart (Intrapersonal), Math Smart (Logic), Picture Smart (Spatial), and Music Smart. I learned that if I can see these strengths in these young children, I can use them to work on/build new skills in areas that need improving.
This is our company’s philosophy. Every individual has a set of strengths that need nurturing and developing. Through our products, these strengths can be found. Knowing strengths and using them to grow and develop new skills brings confidence to a child. This confidence creates a desire to learn and try the things that don’t awlays come so easily.
Strength = Confidence = Desire to Learn (even if it’s a challenge)
This has been an amazing way to help parents of children with special needs to see the greatness in their kids. When all the reports and testing say what their child is not doing, MILO can help them see the positive side of their child’s development. It is our hope that parents of special needs children use our product to create meaningful and lasting memories of togetherness and to celebrate the genius in their child.
MA C.C.C./Speech Language Pathologist
President and CEO of MI Toys (The Multiple Intelligence Toy Company)