“What two colors do you love, Mr. Raj?” inquired a curious first grader on my speech therapy caseload. “I want to draw you a picture of a dinosaur, but I want to make sure you love the colors.”
“I’m a fan of red and blue,” I happily responded to the little Pablo Picasso.
Have you ever received a work of art from a speech therapy kiddo?
Chances are, you have. In fact, I’m willing to bet that over time, you have been given dozens and dozens (if not hundreds and hundreds) of drawings that were created by your students.
What do you do with those works of art?
You might hang them up in your speech therapy room for a certain amount of time for everyone to admire. Then, after a few weeks or so, the work of art might transition to another place. That place might be a folder that holds numerous pieces or art, or that place might even be . . . the trash.
I’m about to share with you one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. Remember that first grader who drew me the red and blue dinosaur? Well, during my lunch break a few years back while he was a student of mine, I decided to do some spring cleaning to organize my overflowing filing cabinet. While I was clearing away papers, I came across a bunch of dinosaur pictures that the first grader drew me earlier in the school year. I saved my favorite one, and then proceeded to gently put the others in the trash right next to my desk. No big deal, right?
As luck would have it, that student was on my schedule right after my lunch break. He entered my speech therapy room with the same enthusiastic smile, but just like that, his smile turned to a frown and tears starting pouring out of his eyes. I immediately knew why he was crying. He saw that his old dinosaur drawings were lying inside of the trash, in broad daylight.
My heart sank.
“Why would you throw out the pictures I made for you?” he genuinely asked me.
I quickly ran to the trash, grabbed the dinosaur drawings and told him that it was a blunder on my part. I explained to him that I was spring cleaning and I accidentally threw his dinosaur papers out. I put the works of art right into my book bag and thanked him for helping me to realize my error. (He then gave me a big hug and all was well. Phew!)
He taught me a very important lesson that afternoon.
I have since learned that a child’s art is so much more than drawings on a piece of paper. It’s an expression of who they are; the pictures they choose to use express their thoughts, feelings, dreams and imagination. So please do me a favor, never throw things like that out in your speech therapy room. Never ever. If you feel the need to recycle something that a student has made for you, you MUST promise me that you take it home with you and do it there. The likelihood that your student might see his/her art in the trash is high, and we, as kind and caring SLPs, we should never expose them to something like what I did. I made a mistake, but I’m delighted to announce that I’ve learned from my mistake and I’ll never let it happen again.