H is for Heart – The ABC of Early Years Education
In the context of early years childcare, heart is about providing a supportive and enabling environment for all children in which they can develop and thrive in their learning.
There’s no denying that the entire early years sector has heart, but in relation to supporting children who are neurodivergent specifically, it’s not only the sector, but society as a whole, that isn’t quite as advanced as it should be.
Children with diverse needs face additional stresses and exhibit nuances in the way they learn and interact with others. And this needs to be understood.
For all our children, what we do needs to come from a place of empathy, compassion, and a genuine acceptance for difference.
To move forward, we need to educate ourselves about the behaviours that are linked with neurodivergence, and instead of requiring our children with diverse needs to modify their behaviour, the mirror sometimes needs to be turned towards ourselves.
We need to challenge our expectations and one place to start is to look at what we can change in the setting environment.
Is the space too noisy, too quiet, too stimulating, or are there too many demands placed on them?
The most important thing is to be aware of this and let it cross our minds. Only then can we truly accept where these children are coming from and recognise their triggered responses to certain stimuli.
Settings must be inclusive in their approach and create a space where all children can flourish.
We may find that our current resources for assessing development are primarily based on neurotypical children, so it’s our job to challenge them – supporting and approaching child development unique to each individual.
Early years professionals need to have a real understanding and acceptance for difference – being advocates of SEND children and their families.
And this needs to happen not because policy, good practice, or societal expectation tells us to, it has to come from the heart.