By Gediminas Kordušas
Ingrida's sensitivity and exceptional playfulness fascinates everyone she meets. With her presence, she gently and easily engages and conveys the healing joy of play to both children and adults. Thus today we are talking to Ingrida about play, its gifts and her work with children and adults.
Ingrida, I wonder how your work with children started? Did you know in advance that you wanted to work with children, or was it a happenstance? I ask because I have my personal experience with you. You helped to take care of my daughter Smilte for a while, so I saw your relationship with children firsthand. You’re one of those people who sees children naturally, certainly not everyone sees children this way. I would like to start this conversation from your story.
I was invited to this job. I don’t know if I would have turned to working with kids so quickly without an invitation, so the circumstances were important. I received the invitation while attending a seminar with Susan Aposhyan. It was summer at the time, the first year of studying Bodywork and Movement Therapy was over. During that seminar, one of my now-colleagues approached me and asked if I would like to work with children. At the time, I already had some experience with kids: I volunteered a bit in a kindergarten, and played a lot of music with kids. But at that time I had already planned a trip to Germany, so I was in no hurry to make a decision. When I came back, I called my colleague and said that I would like to try and I accepted the job.
This led to several children, whom I was taking care of, coming to the private practice and at the same time I began to apply Bodywork and Movement Therapy techniques. I was trying to see how much I could apply Bodywork and Movement Therapy methods in practice, checking to see if they work, whether they benefited children and whether it’s right for them. A year later, the first Hero's Journey projects started with schools and classes. And later there was work with children who have developmental disorders. By then I clearly saw how my work and my presence with children, especially those on the autism spectrum, could go a long way. I saw changes.
As far as I know, in your practice you work with both children and adults. Could you tell us how your experience with children differs from your experience of working with adults? How do children accept their bodies? What have you noticed?
The work with children and with adults has a similar goal - we aim to feel the body more through a relationship with another person. For example, children who are on the autism spectrum rarely see or sense their body. They return to their body only through a relationship with me. It’s pretty much the same with adults. Adults can look back at and get to know their body through a relationship with me.
With children, a return to the body, its senses are likely to happen through a game. Not through just any game but through the one that a child creates, the one that is alive in them. So when working with children, my main goal is to find and recognize their unique game. Sometimes it’s a very challenging task, and sometimes I can clearly see what game they’re inviting me into. Sometimes the game is very easy to play, and sometimes it takes time. For example, once with a child on the autism spectrum, it took 20 sessions before I recognized the game I was invited to play. And since the recognition happened, even with a very severe autism, 90% of the whole session we stay in connection. Most of the time, the child plays, doesn’t leave, maintains the relationship, the connection and maintains the game. During play, the child keeps raising his eyes and looking at me, checking where I am. For a child diagnosed with severe autism, this is a great achievement. But recognizing the game the child is inviting me into is sometimes a challenge. Sometimes it’s scary to join. Sometimes being in the not - knowing and following, trusting the child without imposing my own game, just adding to it and mirroring the child is a challenge.
Attunement is just as important when working with adults as it is with children. Maybe the only difference is that with adults I can put more words into what I see and what I feel inside. With children, I respond very much to their body language with my own body language. Often children repeat a certain movement or a certain element of the game. This is especially evident in children who are on the autism spectrum. When working with them, it is important for me that children can understand and can see what they are doing. See their own repetitive movements. But they can only see themselves when I see them. Often in sessions, I move the way that child moves. I mirror their presence. And in doing so, I demonstrate that it is safe to move like this here. Their movements in this space are accepted. It is very important to reflect their presence, when words fail you, it can be done through the body. And adults, of course, come with their own games, only they’re not that obvious.
And the more I work, the more it seems to me that when I interact with adults I play just like I do with kids, only the game itself looks different.
Yes, I agree that we, adults, play in this work as well. This is an integral part of the process. I wonder what you have learned so far in working with children? And at the same time, maybe you could share a little more about play?
It seems hard to even cover how much I have learned, how I changed. And yet only a few years have passed since I began working with children in this somatic field. The Ingrida who came to this job and the Ingrida who is here at the moment are two different people. And, of course, my best teachers have been the children I work with. For example, in recent months, I learned a great deal about boundaries. I didn’t realize so clearly before that limits are just another game, the same as other games. That boundaries are not "allowed or not allowed". They are not static. It is a process that changes every moment. So lately the kids have been teaching me to play this game of boundaries.
The kids also taught me a great deal about what safety is for them. Especially for those children who are very sensitive to various stimuli - sounds and the like.
So these are the nuances here. And about the play itself... While working, I play directly with children. And that, what happens during the sessions, parents call a game. But because I have knowledge, I have an understanding of children’s development through movement, I sometimes see a slightly broader picture. For example, if I know that a child was born during a C-section and I see that he really likes to go into the closet and shut themselves in there, I can guess that this action needs support. I can guess that in this repetitive game the child seeks to discover something new that they have not experienced, perhaps during their birth. So at some point I can try to gently prevent them from slipping out, like blocking the door of the closet with my body. Sometimes such a child, after trying to open the door and experiencing that it does not open, expresses dissatisfaction in various ways but often such child does not even try to push out, to find their strength and get out. But the game goes on and the child develops an inner desire to climb into that closet over and over again. And after a few rounds of dissatisfaction this dissatisfaction is gone and after finding the support, the child also finds their strength. Later, this quality moves to other play. In another play, a new color appears. Sometimes this desire to be in an enclosed space, can be related to the search for security, which I can support just as well.
So this play is both, games and at the same time more than games. Play shows our movement patterns, our early experiences. And maybe these experiences need some kind of support to be completed or we discover a different form, quality, experience that we lack.
It is really very interesting. Does your work include working with parents? Are parents involved in these processes? And if so, in what way?
Yes, working with parents is included. I appreciate when parents attend together with the kids in the first sessions. It’s also important for them to see and begin to trust how I act, how I play when their child is with me. And in those first sessions I learn more about the family, the child, their story. During the first sessions, we play a lot and observe a lot, trying to figure out what kind of game the child is creating. Each child brings their own game. During my practice, I haven’t come across two identical games that kids would invite me to. These are unique ways of being.
Later, after several sessions (sometimes already after the first one), I stay alone with the child. We work, we play. After the sessions, I talk very briefly with the parents, we joke, we connect and maintain the relationship. We do not discuss the process itself in front of the child. That is very important to me. But every time we meet we maintain a connection. And at the same time, during these short meetings after the sessions, parents can see what methods I use, how I help the child to leave the space if he or she is having some difficulty in that process. Thus sharing our knowledge, practical observing like that also happens.
After five to ten sessions, there are meetings with parents, caregivers, or one of them, where we talk about what is going on and dedicate a whole full session to that. And during this time, if the parents agree, we try to find ways together in which they, the parents, could maintain their inner stability in front of the children in certain extreme situations. We try to find ways to ground ourselves, to be with the feelings that arise.
Sometimes I invite parents to be with the children in the processes that are already further ahead, but that happens based on the need or desire. It also depends a lot on the age of the child.
So parents are involved in the process. And perhaps here lie both the difference and the similarity of children’ and adults’ therapy. Adults also bring their parents to therapy, but those parents are the inner parents. When working with children, I can usually see the parents, I can talk to them.
What can you tell us about your own connection to your inner child?
Yes, my connection to my inner child is inseparable from me. For me, this connection is a gift that I have. My child self and my adult self are very strongly connected. But at the same time, I have an understanding of when I take on the role of an adult and when I can be a child. What I’m learning in this process is to create as much security as possible for my inner child. For me, this is a big and important process. Since my inner child also comes with me to therapeutic processes with children and especially with parents, this little girl finds herself in front of parents again and again. In those moments, it is very important to me that she is always safe.
And to say more, of course, is - to play, to find a place for play in the everyday. This is the best way to stay in touch with your inner child. This game can also be business or a creative expression. And games like basketball or volleyball work just as well. It’s exactly the very game that allows a child to be expressive and create.
Thank you for the conversation.
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