Humans are wired for stories. The ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, knew this, and his simple fables have captivated children around the world for centuries upon centuries. Here, we take a closer look at some of Aesop’s fables, and convey how you can connect each of them to your practice of school-based speech therapy.
Aesop’s Fable: The Thirsty Pigeon
A pigeon, oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water painted on a signboard. Not supposing it to be only a picture, she flew towards it with a loud whir and unwittingly dashed against the signboard, jarring herself terribly. Having broken her wings by the blow, she fell to the ground, and was caught by one of the bystanders.
Aesop’s Moral: Zeal should not outrun discretion.
Speech Therapy Takeaway: Like the familiar “look before you leap” fable, this story indicates that when we’re desperate for solutions – when SLPs want to help children for whom there is limited progress – enthusiasm, coupled with notions of new solutions – can backfire. It’s prudent to tap into the wisdom gained by fellow SLPs, while realizing a one-size-fits all approach rarely works.
Always be discerning of the right treatment for each student individually, and refrain from rushing solutions.
Aesop’s Fable: The Boy and the Filberts
A boy put his hand into a pitcher full of filberts. He grasped as many as he could possibly hold, but when he tried to pull out his hand, he was prevented from doing so by the neck of the pitcher. Unwilling to lose his filberts, and yet unable to withdraw his hand, he burst into tears and bitterly lamented his disappointment. A bystander said to him, “Be satisfied with half the quantity, and you will readily draw out your hand.”
Aesop’s Moral: Do not attempt too much at once.
Speech Therapy Takeaway: Traditionally, this fable cautions about greed. There are many types of greed, and “greed for results” can be just as detrimental as greed for material things. Sometimes, if disappointed or frustrated by a limited amount of progress a student makes, SLPs can be susceptible to self-blame, dissatisfaction and impatience. In those moments, it’s helpful for SLPs in school-based jobs to remember the adage “a little goes a long way” and that measured therapeutic progress is the kind that sticks
Be satisfied with any amount of progress as you work to achieve students’ goals – and build on the successes already achieved at the proper time.
Aesop’s Fable: The Oak and the Reeds
A very large Oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.” They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.”
Aesop’s Moral: Stoop to conquer.
Speech Therapy Takeaway:
We are all familiar with the adage, “pride goes before a fall,” but there is wisdom in humility. The root word of humility is “humus,” meaning “of the earth.” It’s said that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of yourself less. In our performance-oriented society, it’s easy for SLPs to measure themselves against how successful they’ve been.
Whether you’re new or experienced in your SLP job, you don’t have to give in to the performance mentality – instead, you focus wholly on your students. SLPs who take a student-centric approach can stay “grounded” – and more relaxed!
Aesop’s Fable: The Crow and the Pitcher
A Crow perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life.
Aesop’s Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention.
Speech Therapy Takeaway:
Isn’t it wonderful how many speech therapy resources exist in the United States? There are speech therapy blogs, apps for SLPs and speech therapy games galore – all of which help make your therapy sessions more effective and engaging. Still, there are cases in which, as an SLP, you need to tap into your creativity. For example, what do you do when a child is experiencing severe word retrieval challenges, and apps, games and flashcards aren’t working as well as you thought? There are many activities you could do to facilitate growth in word retrieval – but that depends on the situation, and the student.
This fable shows that persistence and applied creativity can help change a seemingly impossible situation.
If the crow can tap into creativity to solve a difficult issue – how much more can you, a person? Always seek new ways of helping children with speech impairments succeed.
Aesop’s Fable: The Raven and the Swan
A Raven saw a Swan and desired to secure for himself the same beautiful plumage. Supposing that the Swan’s splendid white color arose from his washing in the water in which he swam, the Raven left the altars in the neighborhood where he picked up his living, and took up residence in the lakes and pools. But cleansing his feathers as often as he would, he could not change their color, while through want of food he perished.
Aesop’s Moral: Change of habit cannot alter nature.
Speech Therapy Takeaway:
As the saying goes, a leopard doesn’t change its spots. What in the world does that have to do with speech therapy, when progress and positive change is the goal for every student? The answer is simple: the meaning of the adage refers to a being itself, not its behavior. A leopard will always be a leopard, even if someone thinks it is a cheetah because it runs as fast – but a child needing speech therapy will always be a human, period. A person is not defined by their disability, and speech impairments can be overcome with the help of good SLPs.
Speech is a learned behavior, so there is hope for every student to overcome impairments.
Is there an inspiring story or adage YOU would like to share? If so, please comment below!