I recently had the privilege of attending the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Conference in Darwin, NSW/ACT IEU Organiser Lisa James writes. The highlight for me was a keynote presentation and workshop by Maria Aarts, founder of Marte Meo.
Marte Meo was developed initially to give parents the skills to form relationships with their children with additional needs. It was first developed for children under psychiatric care and later ‘deprived’ children after a parent of a child with autism noted that her child was far more responsive to Maria than with the parent herself. The mother turned to Maria and said: “I’ve time, love and energy enough but not the information”.
Marte Meo has been successfully implemented in early childhood settings around the world, and Maria Aarts works in conjunction with KU Children’s Services and has worked with the teachers and educators at KU James Cahill Preschool in Sydney to help them become more developmentally focused.
Marte Meo teaches people to recognise and take action during the contact initiative – the moment when a child is trying to make a connection with an adult. This could be as simple as noticing when the child smiles and the adult smiles back. If the child makes eye contact, does the parent or educator see it, support and confirm the child’s initiative?
Maria noticed that some parents did not attempt to communicate with their infants. She turned to one mother and said: “You can speak to your baby” and the mother replied: “About what? When he speaks to me I will speak to him.”