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Cillian and Adam


Tuesday 24 July 2018

At Creative Kids & Co., we build our curriculum around the children.  We base it on their interests and on what emerges from our observations within the group.  Sometimes this leads to learning about dance, sometimes dinosaurs or buildings. Sometimes the children’s interests can take us on a journey that lasts weeks, or on occasion we only need an hour to finish with a topic.

When we document these moments of learning, we do it in many ways.  We use many forms of media. Pictures adorn our walls with the children’s words accompanying them, we write notes in the children's personal journals, we have even documented in poetry! However, our favourite method is the learning story.  Learning stories give us the chance to reflect on what has occurred for all of the children involved. 

They give us the opportunity to really show the learning, the moment, in a way that is accessible to all stakeholders.  Professionals, parents and children alike can all relate to and engage with the learning story. When shared in this story form, the learning is visible, it's undeniable and reading it is engaging. 

Recently, I was lucky enough to have been witness to the most special of moments.  It was a moment that has become very special to us all at Creative Kids Walkinstown, and it is one that on a personal level, I will never forget.  Through the learning story, the ECCE professionals, parents and children all shared in this beautiful moment.  The following learning story is entitled “Cillian’s Journey” and I hope that you can see what a truly special moment this was.


The learning story

This week something happened in our classroom that amazed us and we were so excited and proud that we would like to share it with you. Just to give you a little background on Cillian, he has been with us for 14 months. Cillian has a diagnosis of autism and is nonverbal and is one of the most beautiful children that you could imagine. We are always conscious when working with Cillian that his communication skills are a challenge for him and we need to work hard on tuning into Cillian’s own nonverbal signals, and what they mean. All the time we are looking to Aistear and we were always trying to link Cillian’s nonverbal actions back to Communicating.

Cillian, today you showed me a side to you and your personality that you hadn’t shown me before. This morning we brought in the light table. We dimmed the lights and let the table be the only source of light. The rainbow blocks work so well with the light table that we left them laid out on top for you all to explore. Cillian, you started your day the same as you do most days, you spent some time exploring the room, you usually camp out at the sink for a while as you love to play with water. You also had a little play in the kitchen area, you really like the real plates and I watched you as you were stacking them and unstacking them. Around 09:45 the light table caught your eye. It had been very busy in that corner of the room for the first 45 mins of the session, so you had stayed away from it. When you went over, it was quiet.

There were only two other children at the light table and you joined the table on the opposite side to them. I sat down at the table at the end and just watched. This is when you blew me away! For the first few minutes you played alone. You were manipulating the blocks and you were looking at the colors that shone through them from the table. It was after a couple of minutes I noticed that your attention turned away from the blocks and you noticed what was happening across the other side of the table.  Cillian you looked at your friend Adam, who at the time was building a tower and Adam hadn’t noticed that you were trying to get his attention. This didn’t deter you Cillian, which didn’t surprise me, we all know that if you set your mind on something that you will make it happen! You waited patiently until Adam made eye contact with you. You both held this gaze for a few seconds and then you began to smile Cillian. It was at this point that something new happened. You had actively sought out Adams attention! This was new for you Cillian. You have, on many occasions sought people’s attention, but up until now this has always been directed to the adults in the group. This was the first time that you had sought the attention of one of your peers.

Your body language obviously got your message across to Adam who responded to you with a massive smile and he said “hello Cillian” to which you responded with a giggle. You both smiled at each other and looked directly into each other’s eyes for an extended period.  Cillian, you decided that now was a good a time as any to play with Adam. You handed him some blocks and Adam arranged them in order. Adam also pushed some of them back to you which made you laugh. Cillian you were having so much fun that you decided to walk around to Adam. When you got there, you placed your hands on Adams shoulders and smiled.  The tower that Adam had made fell down at this point. Adam got up and walked off to get something to fix the tower. Cillian, you walked after Adam and when he turned around you placed your hands on his shoulders again and laughed. When Adam went to walk away again you gently took him by the hand and led him back to his chair.  You played together for another minute before heading your separate ways. Cillian, this was an amazing moment for us to witness. It was the first time you had actively sought out one of your peers. It was the first time you had engaged in independent play with any of the children and for you to display such gentleness and affection towards Adam was beautiful to see! We are all so proud of you.

Looking at Aistear we can really see the development of and the importance of the communicating theme, specifically Aim1, Children will use nonverbal communication skills. Specifically learning goals 1,2,3,4 and 5. We can also see some of Siolta’s principals, namely,

  1. The value of early childhood.
  2. Children First (rights of the child)
  3. Equality
  4. Diversity
  5. Play.

According to the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion charter and guidelines for early childhood care and education “inclusion is being part of their peer group, not being apart”. This quote is at the heart of our practice here at Creative Kids and, we think, also at the heart of this story 


The unpredictably of emergent based learning certainly keeps us on our toes and we truly value our observations of the children for this reason.  However sometimes our observations led us down a path we never expect.  Sometimes, they give us an insight into a personality and even rarer, they allow us to share a moment such as the one I was a part of with Cillian and Adam. 



David graduated from AMI Dublin with a diploma in Montessori Education 2.5-6. He later went on to complete a 6-9 Montessori diploma with MEC Dublin and also holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Sheffield. David has held teaching positions in 3-6 & 6-9 Montessori environments and currently is a room leader at Creative Kids & Co, an award winning Reggio inspired/play based service in Dublin 12.

David delivered part-time and blended learning ECCE & ECCE with Montessori courses at level 6 for the College of Progressive Education. David is also an admin for the community of practice Montessori and Early Childhood Professionals Ireland. He is hugely passionate about early years education, play, documentation and is a strong advocate for male involvement in ECCE in Ireland.

4 comments Comments

4 Responses

  1. Orlagh McCrory says:

    David, I totally agree with you that this was a magic moment. You describe it so beautifully that I could clearly picture the scene but the video truly touched me. What is so beautiful about it is the other boy’s delight is getting a reaction from Cillian. I could hear Adam saying with delight “he said yes” and his body language was so welcoming that it was no wonder Cillian responded to him. Wonderful example of how accepting children are. I have found the same in my own preschool where the other children take such pride in the progress and response of children with different challenges. You have reminded me of the delights in the middle of all the challenges of working with children with additional needs. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Bronagh Mooney says:

    Hi Orlagh
    Thank you so much for your lovely comment.


  3. Breda McManus says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. With your permission, I would like to share it with my students in AIT. The simplicity and depth bring ‘tuning in’ to children to life.

    Anna Rose

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