Highway to the Danger Zone



I spent four days last week chaperoning the 6th grade camping trip.  I was there as a parent, and it was great fun to see my son’s classmates in action as well as spend time with a number of educators both from our school and those from Inside Out who specialize in environmental studies and team building.

I had never participated in something like this before and, despite the accommodations being rather…rustic for my tastes, it was fascinating—the lessons themselves as well as having the chance to sit back and observe a large group of children at both structured and free play.

While my day group was waiting their turn on the low ropes, the instructor gave the kids tips for both safety and completing the course.  The he added this (I’m paraphrasing):

Lots of times we tend to operate in our comfort zone.  This comfort bubble is like sitting on the couch and eating ice cream while you watch TV.  It might be enjoyable, but not much is really taking place.

Ninety percent of our learning comes from moving outside of this bubble into our “challenge zone.”  That’s what I want you to do here—challenge yourself to do a little more than you think you can.

But……outside of our challenge zone is the danger zone.  In this realm, our fear is too intense for any learning to happen—we’re just trying to survive.  So, if at any time you move into your danger zone—STOP.  We won’t tease or try to cajole you into going further.  Just STOP.

Then, all the little monkeys started to shimmy up the cables in a way I’m pretty sure my muscles no longer allow.  But it got me thinking about that “danger zone” idea.  Do we push that sometimes?

I had a little guy last year that need to work on carryover, but he adamantly refused to practice speech outside the therapy room.  It wasn’t easy, but I tried to work around it.  Perhaps the possibility of being seen with a speech therapist by his friends was too daunting.  Perhaps he was too self-conscious to have others (potentially) hear his struggles in the hallway.

Our fluency clients are certainly a group to consider this with as well.  For a child who is uncomfortable with speaking, being sent to a speaking room must be terrifying.  Until, of course, we show them that it is a zone without judgment, where they can trust.

What about you?  Are you a “danger zone” for any clients?  And how did/do you handle it?



The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.