Interim reflections on a Travelling Fellowship

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The report from my Travelling Fellowship to NZ is due by December.  On typing up the interview transcripts I found myself reflecting on my overall impressions of the Champion Centre and the people who had worked so hard to welcome me in New Zealand but also on the usefulness of travelling to the other side of the world.  These are my reflections.

First of all sincere thanks to Dr. Susan Foster-Cohen for organising a comprehensive research programme, to all of the staff for welcoming me and accommodating me, to parents and children for allowing me to observe their sessions.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Champion Centre (and Christchurch) and was really well looked after. Also sincere thanks to Jane Thistlethwaite of Positive Path International for showing me some of the amazing special schools in NZ.

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The Champion Centre

The evidence and argument for relational pedagogy is robust internationally, especially in early childhood. The relational approach in the Champion Centre Model is the most consistent thread throughout the programme and observable in therapy sessions, in conversations between professionals, between professionals and families, professionals and children and extends to visiting researchers. Outstanding and distinctive features (that are different to previously observed early childhood education/intervention models and worth travelling to the other side of the world to see) include:

  • The range of therapeutic /educational approaches (the inclusion of music and intensive computer time especially) and the delivery of these all under one roof with parents as full and equal participants, sometimes following therapists, sometimes leading therapists alongside their child;
  • The integration of these different approaches to the extent that sometimes they are jointly delivered where this is perceived to be beneficial for the child/family/particular target, This means that there is a consistent approach whereby there is a common culture/language whilst individual specialisms are respected and maintained;
  • The natural conversations during everyday communications and interactions between staff of different disciplines and with families that are beneficial for consistency of delivery and continuation of the programme within the home setting;
  • The respectful and reflective approaches from professionals towards each other, to children, families;
  • The time given in therapy/education sessions for parents to talk and be listened to, this was especially important in the monitoring programme for children born prematurely where the Psychologist intuitively knew to allow silent moments and time for parents to think about what they wanted to say;
  • Dedication and enthusiasm of staff for the programme that goes beyond a desire to work with young children and extends to caring about the long term sustainability of family structures and processes;
  • Feedback from parents in interview has been extremely positive and reflects all of the above comments as well as respect for the highly skilled professionals who have shared their journey/about to share their journey, the baby programme that helps parents start their journey and the transition programme are especially valued by parents.

Overall, an adventure that I enjoyed, and as many people have said before me, an inspirational experience.