Podcast Episode 44. To truly learn, it has to be caught rather than taught is the mantra of this week’s podcast with Diane King, author, and special needs teacher. One way to do this and at the same time develop childrens’ self-worth is through storytelling and creativity.

We start with Diane’s own journey which has been an interesting one. As a child Diane was a selective mute and struggled to communicate with the world; that was until her sister introduced her to the magic of storytelling. Diane found that through storytelling she could release the built-up emotions she had kept hidden. She also decided quite young she would become a teacher and help children who were struggling as she had.

Over her years as a teacher working with children with additional needs, she noticed that the vast majority of children had speech and language issues which limited their ability to communicate impacting on their confidence. After working with speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and educational psychologists she realized the importance of the relationship between rhyme and alliteration in stories, and how this could be used to help children learn easier and, through that, feel better about themselves.

Using this knowledge and from her own experiences as a child, Diane has written a number of children’s books, including Ruby Red which uses rhyming and alliteration. Ruby Red is a story about a young girl with additional needs and how she is constantly learning how to deal with her emotions, how to articulate her thoughts and how to communicate with the people around her. It is also about the inner struggles young people with additional needs have as they try and understand a world that for them can sometimes be a very scary place. The stories are intended for younger children but could also be used as a tool to teach anyone more about the struggles children with additional needs often face.

Diane talked quite a lot about the importance of allowing children to express their feelings. If a child isn’t allowed to express their emotions, it’s like a dam that’s ready to burst. She believes, as parents, we should always encourage children to express their emotions and make sure we model to them the best ways to cope with and release these emotions.

Diane acknowledges that there will be times when it will be difficult for parents to find the time and space to deal with their children’s emotional releases, so she offers some ideas as to ways that we can help our children manage their emotions. She talks also about the different ways everyone learns and how some children are oral learners, others visual learners and others are kinesthetic (learning by doing) learners. Diane is a strong advocate for providing as many kinesthetic experiences as possible because these, she argues, will enable children to manage their emotions better in the long term. She uses her own journey as a parent to illustrate what she means, and how she would encourage her children to express their emotions and the kinesthetic experiences that worked for her children to develop their sense of self.

Diane also talked about how even young adults can benefit from storytelling and other creative activities. These can provide them with spaces to express themselves, understand and manage their own emotions and through all of that develop the confidence to become more independent because of their increased feelings of self-worth.