My visitors today

Tuesday 8 January 2013



A supplement to something that I wrote last year about the joy of success –

Learning and development

How pedagogic specifics bear upon upbringing developments

Spreading joy

In that earlier posting I wrote about the joy of a little girl learning to do up the button at the top of her trousers. This joy spread throughout the group, at home and over many days. This success had a domino effect and started a renewed spiralling in all our lives.

Later I thought about that child’s future and about what changes that resolved problem will make to how she lives her life. Having a button to do up without turned to the trusty Velcro, and therefore having learnt to do it up by herself, means that as an adult she will be able to choose freely what trousers, skirts shirts and jackets she can buy. She will not always have to pay someone to alter her clothes. Hopefully she will never have to change buttons to Velcro and rarely have to compromise on her choice because of a lack of motor skills.

We could have asked her mother to use Velcro or to buy her trousers with an elastic waistband but we did not. Many of the non-disabled children in the Kindergarten have buttons and they all run and ask us at some time during the day for help to undo them or do them up, until they solve the problem with our help.

I have often considered things that have occurred to me since that previous posting. One question that I have asked is why alter her trousers now when she is only five-years old and learning fast? Why lay down a need to alter them in the future when we can encourage her to learn something now, something that she can achieve, and in the process of learning this develop so much more? Why should we miss out of this valuable step in a wider learning equation?

This is not specifically a question of a button on the trousers but of something more general and more important, the personal change in this child, her motivation to learn, the relationship that she is building up with me and other conductors as she blossoms, and about all the other new things that she can now do in her joy of learning and achieving.

I have considered all the skills that have that have developed since, that need her to concentrate and to look. Because she has now learned this very difficult task of buttoning her trousers, she looks more often at her hands, she uses her left hand more and she is so happy because she has learnt something that she wanted to do it. She continues to learn things through life and play each and every day, affording her more independence and bringing her such joy. Far, far more than doing up a button, this little girl is blossoming, and this is in itself also a part of huge developments at this stage in her upbringing. She listens and talks and helps others and smiles a lot.

That is the biggest behavioural change: she now smiles a lot.

A paragraph from a life

There may be good reasons why a child is not given alternative means, not given an easier option, like an elastic waistband instead for example. If we as conductors thought that she could not achieve, or it was psychologically harmful for her to try, then we would not try to teach her.

This little girl is very young, she will be going out into the world disability one less signal disability. In the future she will not need to have her clothes altered because we did not teach her to do up a button. That button is just a paragraph, not the whole story.

Other children

How important it is for this little girl to be like the other children in the Kindergarten and have a button on her trousers, and be able to do it up. Of course, if she were fifteen and could still not do it up, that would perhaps be different, and need to be rethought and approached differently. Now at five, though, she does not feel any different in her group, there are non-disabled four- and five-year olds who still ask for help with their clothes. Now through her success she feels very special, just as her peers do in their turn.

The whole group has celebrated with her. This gives her far more than taking half a year longer to do up a button takes away from her. It also gives her the opportunity to do so many other things now that she has learnt it, all with the knock-on effect of more praise from us and more acknowledgement from the disabled and the non-disabled children that she is doing so well.

She really is a very happy little girl at the moment. Giving her an elastic waist or Velcro fastenings on her trousers would have removed many of the moments that are making her happy, because there would be many things that she still could not do.
Since learning this skill she is much more conscious of her hands, she has to look at her hands to achieve this success. Learning to direct her eyes on something means that she is now able to look at us when she speaks to us and at her friends and at their toys while they play.
Has there been a 'price' for of not being able to do up a button till now? She is still just five. There are four- year-olds in the Kindergarten have had elastic trousers until recently who also ask for help with the button. They are not hemiplegic and have no motor disorder, they just have not been taught. Nobody comments that they take long or wonder why they cannot use scissors or a knife and fork. They will learn when they are taught. Do we ask what price they pay for having to ask us to do up the button? I always consider the gain for these littlies from the contact and the learning experience in those few seconds it takes to help, not of any price paid.

And by the way, using Velcro can be difficult too in my experience and does not always encourage hand-eye coordination and two-handed movements. Elastic-waist trousers present more difficulty when tucking in vests and shirts. All these are skills to learn, all appropriate clothes and fastenings in their place but not as a replacement for learning to do up a button when that skill is learnable.


An older client of mine has tried Velcro but he does not want his lovely trendy jeans messed about with, he does not wish to be different. He wants to do up his buttons so we continue learning it. He is twenty-two years old now and sometimes he manages it and is as thrilled with this as the five-year-old is. (When he cannot manage it he discretely asks someone to do it for him. He has a belt that he can always do up himself so he is secure in the knowledge that his trousers will not fall down if the button is left open.)

Where there is a will there is a way. These happy souls continue learning.

...and younger

My own little niece is nearly three. She cannot do up a button on her trousers yet. She will be able to before school I expect, because she will want to do so, so she does not have to ask someone, just like our little girl wanted to learn so she no longer needed to ask and it was important to give her that opportunity.

What a happy little button-girl we have in our group, it is no wonder with so many hugs and so much praise.

I myself was already at school when had to find out the hard way. I remember it well. I had to go to the toilet, in the cold outside (the last time, I think, that I ever went to the toilet at school), I was about four or so. The teacher said she would come and help me but she did not come, I expect she forgot. I remember wandering around in the half-covered area in the dreary autumn cold, lost. When the teacher eventually arrived I had by then done my clothes up myself. No praise received for that success, just a telling-off because I was lost. I probably did not even say anything at home about that huge step in my upbringing. I would have been too afraid to but it would have been noticed, I am sure.
I am sure that we do better than that.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Buttons. Such little things on the whole – at least as objects of conscious adult consideration. Things of childhood. And in the UK, somebody jolly in Christmas pantomimes. As adults most of us may think of them rarely. Their use is wholly internalised, and therefore 'automatic'. Search back in our memories, however, and there they are.

But when a button 'goes' how disproportionate the effects!

Like you I have been thinking of the implications of that earlier posting of yours. Quite out of proportion to those innocent little objects, taking me(again) all the way to Pribram, Koestler and holonomy. Deep water!

I an trying to sort this, and may try and lay some of it out tidily on Conductive World. Buttons are not as trivial as they look!