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Wednesday 27 April 2011

Easter observations with Aimee

"A host of Easter blooms"

by Susie Mallett 22 April 2011

I was answering Norman Perrin’s comment and the story just got longer and longer so I will post it here instead.

Thank you Norman for the motivation.

Norman, I thought of you as I posted this link. I remembered that you once posted something on your blog about observing your grandchildren as they developed. I knew as I prepared the posting that I would soon be playing with the new addition to my family and loving every minute.

Easter Sunday with Aimee

I watched and interacted with my thirteen-month old great-niece once again on Easter Sunday.
First of all I wondered at the fact that she seemed to remember me. Or did she?

It is nearly three months since I last saw her but she certainly did not behave as if she was with a stranger. Perhaps it was because I was with all of my immediate family and because I was not treated by them as someone special, as foreign or as a guest; this little girl did not see any reason to do so either. It is nice that she has accepted me as a popping-in-now-and-then-part-of-life, just as the rest of my family always has done. She is only following the behaviour of those around her.

Whatever the reason for my acceptance, accepted I was and that meant I was free to play with my little great-niece and observe her to my heart’s content. I also gave her, one by one, a bowl of halved grapes and tiny pieces of strawberry that, despite their slipperiness, stayed in her tiny pincer grip.

My learning curve was, I think, almost as steep as hers is in this early stage of her life.
What impress me most was that she did not want to crawl on grass, she does not yet like the feel of it yet. She was really clever deciding what to do in achieving her goal and patience was the key!

Once I had helped to wash and put together the new, but second-hand, Wendy House and it had been fitted with a ground sheet and a blanket in she went and stayed there and played for what seemed like hours with her little toys, out of the sun. Before the ground sheet and blanket were fitted she would not budge. No amount of motivation would make her move.

Of course as in everything about this little girl I related my observations to my work,
I realised that how right I had been to have ordered the new matting for the group-room in Germany. Even I prefer to move about on it and it is obvious that the children enjoy the feel of it and are much more active than they were on a carpet. It is warmer, it is smoother and it leaves no red marks of elbows and knees!

It has the look of a deep-blue sea, inspiring many adventures. We don snorkels and flippers, pretend ones at the moment, even a tank for deep sea diving, and off we go through the depths exploring for whales, crabs, sharks, mermaids and sunken wrecks with treasure.

On other days we dream of bright blue skies with birds and planes, hot-air balloons and fluffy white clouds floating by.

Our old drab carpet could not inspire such fantasies however much it tried.

It is not only the colour of our mat that inspires movement and activity, it is also the texture of its surface and the density of it.

Just as it is the texture of the grass, and maybe its temperature, that does not inspire Aimee to move, perhaps our old carpets and rugs had the same affect on our children.

Our fantasy-inspiring mat is very solid, not giving under the pressure of a foot-step. It gives our learners the confidence to take that extra step because they know that taking a fall will not hurt.

They know that their foot will not snag on the rough carpet.

The children living a conductive life-style often come across such obstacles as the decision whether to crawl on damp, cold and itchy grass, later on in their lives than thirteen-month Aimee has. The children with a movement disorder perhaps could not make that decision themselves at that young age because they could not crawl or roll to get there to experience it. Maybe they never felt it themselves or perhaps they were put onto the grass by someone reacting with a scream because they did not like it. As these children develop and are able to move under their own steam they also become able to make their own decisions such as whether they enjoy the feel of grass under their skin.

My observing of Aimee at play has reinforced in me the importance of helping children with a movement disorder to experience all that non-disabled children just stubble on in daily living. It has reinforced for me the importance of giving them the experience of deciding if they like grass or not as early on in life as possible. There is such a knock on affect, a spiral of actions and reactions that are so important in the learning process.

Aimee did not like the Wendy-house being on the grass so she waited. She was happy with her toys on the picnic rug. She smiled and looked at us, gave us a dolly and then a rabbit to pass back to her. She knew that if she edged forwards and back enough times that sooner or later someone would make it possible for her to go in and just as important that she would make us laugh by doing so.

It worked.

What a lot of interaction there was going on between all her family members as she motivated us into action so she could get into action. And what a lot of experiences are missing from the lives of those children who cannot do what Aimee did. Not only the crawling but the smiling and the passing here and there of toys all part of her spiral of learning and mine too.

Yes, conductive upbringing is hard work, but it is worth it. As I experienced last week with the Littlie on the swing and her shoes, her new white shoes, becoming red with the dust from the ground as walked backwards to give herself a good start to the swing. When I noticed the dirty shoes her reaction was: “So what!”

How right she was. At seven-years old and at last able to swing all on her own she was allowed to get her new summer shoes dirty, in fact we rejoiced in it.

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