In 1962 a woman named Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring.
It was an alarm call for taking a hard look at the serious consequences that were happening from the rampant and common practice of spraying toxic chemicals. It may seem obvious now that killing the plants and pests might also kill the birds, animals, and ourselves. But back then, it wasn’t obvious.
Rachel Carson sounded an alarm that took nearly 60 years for many people to hear.
I recently re-read Silent Spring and stopped and cried when I read this line:
“How will we tell the children that the birds are disappearing?”
My tears were for a different reason than what worried Ms. Carson.
Rewind to my life ten and a half years prior. I stood in my backyard and said out loud:
“I can do anything for five years.”
My kids were 9 and 12 and I chose to take a job I didn’t like. Our family had suffered the death of my intimate partner and I needed to stabilize us. Seven years after I took the job I was still there, a whole two years past its expiration date.
When the girls are older. When things get easier. When life slows down.
I heard myself saying all these things. Life kept going.
Then one day, I went to the job, ‘occupational therapist at a public school.’
I did what I always did\; took the children on my caseload outside for therapy. On this day I asked each of the 7 children who I worked with (individually) the same questions:
“Point to the nearest bird you see,” and each child did the same thing. They stopped, looked and then said:
“There are no birds.”
I then asked: “Point to the nearest bird you hear.” they closed their eyes and listened and then said
“There are no birds.”
Then I asked, as each one stood in the center of dozens of Dandelions: “Point to the nearest Dandelion.”
They said: “What’s a Dandelion?”
When I got home that day, I realized my kids kept getting older. Life wasn’t slowing down.
That is the day I vowed to sound an alarm for the children and the birds, and for my future grandchildren.
When I read Ms. Carson’s question I cried because today, her worry is almost a mute point.
Many children do not see the birds. Many do not hear the birds.
“Birds don’t matter,” a young child recently told me.
Children don’t pick Dandelion heads, or lay in the grass daydreaming into clouds.
Science tells us that children are losing their senses. This is not a coincidence.
One in five children is diagnosed with a developmental disorder.
As we lose species, habitat and birds, the children are losing their senses. One is deeply tied to the other. The senses are the pathway to healthy development. The senses are our pathway to connecting with nature. Tug on one end, and the other unravels.
Children are unravelling, but, it is not too late. Science reminds us that children are wired to connect and those ancient wirings are still running their neurological systems! They are designed for excellence.
Aaaannnnd, they are resilient.
With so many kids struggling, and almost every parent I talk with challenged by some difficult or curious behavior their child is expressing, we need nature more than ever. The thing is, behavior is a symptom of an underlying skill deficit. These deficits are often unseen developmental needs and nature knows how to help.