To visualize means to imagine something or to create a positive mental picture of something. Visualization can be difficult for adults and I have always thought it to be particularly tricky for many of the kids I work with. These children are in-the-moment kids. They blurt out comments without thinking, switch the topic of conversation without realizing what they’ve done, and have an enormously difficult time taking the perspective of another person. While these kids seem quite good at following the train of their own thoughts to imagine something or create an image; their difficulty following along with the thoughts or agendas of others left me thinking that visualization was not easy. One day, with the help of Lori Lite’s Stress Free Kids Curriuculum, I decided to try visualization with a group of 2nd and 3rd graders.
After a particularly rousing group we asked the kids to lie down or sit with their heads on the desks. They were instructed to make themselves comfortable, keep their bodies away from other children, keep their eyes closed, be a good friend by not distracting others, and listen. We then played the 7 ½ minute CD story of A Boy and a Turtle. Some kids became still instantly, some watched their friends for awhile and some tickled or poked others. But when the CD ended, all 6 kids were able to get up, go to the door calmly and return to their classroom with much less support than they normally would have needed.
Here is the best part…our friend who tends to talk non-stop, who constantly interrupts, who expresses his own ideas in response to the sharing of others, who works incessantly to make his friends laugh at his silliness, who pokes and prods other children unceasingly…THIS is the friend who benefited the most from the visualization exercise! He put 2 chairs together and draped his body across them, lying on his back with his arms hanging limply at his side. He closed his eyes and didn’t move a muscle until the story ended. He breathed in the colors deeply and released his breath slowly as described in the story. Now, this child exists in a state of high arousal. If he can use visualization to achieve a state of relaxation intermittently throughout his day, will his friendships improve? Will he listen and learn with greater ease? Will he feel and be more successful in all of life? I hope so. I have learned (once again) that it is important to try a variety of strategies even if conventional wisdom and experience tells me not to. These little, and sometimes big surprises, keep us going and growing.
Check out all of Lori Lite’s CDs, books, lesson plans, and other resources at www.stressfreekids.com.
by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L
photo by Rebecca L. Daily
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