Every little thing counts in a crisis.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook is the second book by author’s duo Rapley and Murkett, designed to help parents who already follow the Baby-Led method with nutritious recipes to bring variety to the table.
The authors undertook the ambitious projects of writing a cookbook which would be attractive or at least adaptable for any diet, and succeeds at that attempt. There are recipes that would appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and even paleo-dieters like us.
The recipes draw from many different cultures and will give your child a rich and varied mealtime experience.
Yet, as with the original Baby Led Weaning book, being on the paleo diet makes us disagree with much of the dietary information and ideas about healthy meals that are given in the book.
One should not expect bland and dull recipes we see in other cookbooks about first solids, but rather exciting flavor combinations from all over the globe, spiked with delicious spices and herbs. The book avoids purees and cereals, to favor a shared mealtime experience for the entire family, from the first solids your baby samples onwards.
The book starts with a quick recap of what Baby-Led Weaning is all about and how to bring it to your kitchen, offering tips for food safety and storage, and making mealtimes not only a pleasant experience, but one that doesn’t cling you to the stove for long hours beforehand.
For parents who are following the Baby Led method, or interested in trying it, and are lost when it comes to recipes, this book will bring thrilling mealtime experiences to the whole family. It also offers more than adequate information for parents who are familiar with the method and want to learn more about it. An experienced chef will not find in this book a cooking bible, since most of the recipes do remain quite basic.
I received a free copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. You can buy the book through my astore.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Even when a child is raped, we most often refer to it as sexual abuse or molestation. Although these are legal definitions, it is revealing of our culture that we don't use the same powerful words when children are violated that we use when adults are.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
- How Will You Teach XYZ? Another one of those dreaded questions an alternative schooler gets every once in a while. A reply on Magic and Mayhem (and check out the magnificent photography by 13 year old Victoria!).
- Find other unschooling blogs and websites on this list by An Unschooling Life
- Psychology Today tells us exactly why pushing babies and toddlers to read with 'educational' DVD's is a bad idea.
- Wendy Priesnitz writes about the 'First Day of School'-Myth
- A natural parent's birth registry is quite different from the ones you'll find online or in baby magazines, but what exactly do you need? Code Name Mama guides us through the essentials and gives us original registry suggestions.
- Some more information about the Pelvic Floor and the negative effects of Kegels.
- An elaborate explanation about the issue 'failure to progress' on Bellies and Babies
- New study finds an explosive rise in sexualized images, specifically those of women.
- "Independence is a myth that justifies defending ourselves against actually connecting with others and from facing more hurt inflicted by those who say they love us." The human being is first and foremost a social being, great article about the Myth of Independence by Consciously Parenting.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Pregnancy is one of the most wonderful periods in a woman's life. Yet it can come with a bitter aftertaste in the shape of stretch marks. Once they are installed there is very little to be done, so your main focus should be on prevention. Of course, everyone is different and no method is foolproof, but at least with the following tips, you will be able to keep the occurence of stretch marks to a minimum.
- The key to stretch mark prevention is moisturizing. You should really take the time to moisturize every morning, evening and everytime you shower or take a bath. Make a little ritual out of it, light a scented candle in the bedroom (if they don't make you nauseaus) and let your hubby give you a soft massage every evening.
- Drink a lot of water or herbal teas. You want to moisturize yourself from within as well as from the outside.
- In the morning: apply a natural oil. Argan oil, Almond oil or coconut oil can work miracles. Natural oils penetrate the skin rapidly, so you can get dressed quickly after without staining your clothes.
- In the evening you can benefit from the hours of sleep to give your body the royal treatment. Use a rich product, like natural shea butter. By morning your skin will be soft and supple.
- After showering or baths a body lotion is the best product to use.
- Use bath oil when you want to soak for a while. They prevent your skin from dehydration.
- Wash yourself with moisturizing showergel or cream. Everything to keep the epedermis moisturized is a plus.
- Apply these products to hips, belly, breasts, thighs, back and behind, these are the regions that are most affected by stretching. (Even though some women also stretch at the arms... again, it all depends on your skin and how much weight you gain, every person is different.)
- Keep up this routine after giving birth. Not only does it force you to take a minute for yourself, your body will keep changing after your baby comes.
- Special stretch mark creams and ointments are nothing more than these raw ingredients, with a heap of other things added. They don't work the miracles they promise.
Friday, August 26, 2011
My daughter used to love baths, and showers, and playing with water, to the extent that she sat in a large tub for at least a couple of hours a day (aside her showering and hand washing etc), suddenly that has changed. While she still likes to be in the water and play with water, the actual getting started with it has proven an issue.
So I decided to compose a list of tips that will catch their interest in getting washed up, for others out there who have a little dirt monster on their hands (I often find myself thinking: “oh, you’re that color” when she does wash up).
- First of all, it’s important not to make too big of an issue out of it. Generally, in the western world, we tend to wash ourselves all too much, and it takes a while before dirtiness really poses a health risk. Maybe the biggest challenge will be for you to relax a little.
- A little goes a long way: even if they just wash their hands, or feet, or face, it may not be what you desired, but at least parts got clean, so relish that and try again later.
- As with everything with small children, if it’s not fun, it’s not done. It’s up to you to make it fun for them, if they are reluctant to get in the tub. Nowadays, there are so many ways to make washing yourself fun that this is hardly an issue. We have colored soaps for our daughter that ‘paint’ her skin before the rinse. She can play for hours with them. Another great idea - which I have seen on Etsy - are soap stacking blocks. There’s also a multitude of fun bath toys out there.
- If the need is really high, you can offer an incentive: get out a little bath toy they haven’t seen before, or a new soap. It’s best not to have everything lying around all at once, and take out some of the stuff to reintroduce later.
- Maybe your child is just bored in the bathroom and prefers to play somewhere else? Why not put a tub or basin in the garden? Rinse her under the sprinkler? Wash her feet in the sink... Offering a different setting can spark their interest in water play and have them going for an hour, so even if they’re not washing intentionally, they are getting clean.
- Find out what it is your child doesn’t like about getting washed up. Maybe the soap is stingy or they don’t like the shower. There are always solutions to a problem. My daughter doesn’t particularly like the shower, so we got her a big tub, she can have a bath in the shower.
- Starting family rituals can also get the kids involved in washing: collective shower on Sunday, washing hands around a small basin on the floor before lunch and dinner, feet washing in the evening... If they see the whole family is involved, they’ll probably want to join in.
- Involve them when you are washing: maybe you can ask them to wash your hair, your feet...
- Make an effort to note important hygiene rituals: “mommy washes her hands after she goes to the bathroom, otherwise, she would be carrying around bacteria that can make us all very ill”. “Before we eat, it’s important to wash our hands, or all the dirt from our hands gets in our mouth.” Just noticing the small things you do throughout the day, having them witness them and telling them what they’re about, makes them aware of the importance of hygiene.
- Always remember that the world is big compared to your toddler. Maybe washing their hands at the sink isn’t interesting, because they simply can’t see the sink, and using it is too much of an effort. Keep little steps close to the sinks or buy a toddler one (which you can attach to the rim of the bathtub), you can also have little basins on a stool or table, to have a ‘sink’ at their height.
|Image: Marcel Nijhuis on Flickr|
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Recently, numerous studies have shown that feeding your child when they want and how much they want has many virtues.
A child whose eating is controlled in some way by her parents loses her ability to self-regulate, and her desire for the “forbidden food” increases.
When my daughter was 5 months, she got all excited when she saw us eat a papaya. There was no way beyond letting her suckle it for a while. That’s how her free food journey started.
Purees were never her thing, and eating on our timetable either, so we ended up doing something like Baby Led Weaning, without knowing such a thing actually existed. By the time she was one, she was happily munching away at the foods she picked out herself. And this has set her course for the rest of her little life until now.
When she was a little older, I read about free range or unschooled food, and even though we had never been very restrictive, it made me rethink some of my attitudes towards food, especially unhealthy foods. So we gave it a go and had an open fridge (and cupboards) for the little one, and stocked up on the things she would occasionally ask for, like cookies or candy.
|Image: Beatrice Killam on Dreamstime|
There are days when she seems to eat a lot of cookies, but then again, there are days where she binges on bananas or tomatoes.
Not only has this free food been liberating and has made us rethink the way we feel about food, it has made for a happy, well nourished child. We never have any food struggles at our house, not about the times she eats, where she eats or what she is eating, because we trust that she knows her body best to make the right decisions.
For family meals we eat paleo, which she most often joins in eagerly, and most of our food is free range, organic or homegrown.
She is known to amaze us when we are in the store, declining grandmother’s offer for a chocolate croissant and choosing mushrooms instead (which indeed have to be eaten as breakfast).
So how do you do it?
- The most important thing is to change your knee-jerk reactions to food issues. Define where your problems lie? Is eat eating healthy? Finishing food? Eating together or in a specific room? Try to pin point these objections and release them. Many of the eating problems that affect children and their families have their roots in issues of control. (Rapley, G. Murkell, T. 2010)
- If they are little, the best way to start is Baby Led Weaning (or Baby Led Solids), have the child initiate the journey into solid foods, allow them to decide what they eat and how much of it they eat. Prepare your meals with them in mind and have them join in as much as possible.
- Take your child to the store and have them choose. If they have been fairly restricted food-wise, you should not be surprised if what they choose is everything you disagree with. Stop disagreeing, when they find out that the world is their oyster, they will moderate bad eating habits and regulate themselves to what their bodies need.
- Do not place emotion into foods. Don’t speak of food as bad, or use it as reward or as an emotional fix. This does not mean that you can’t discuss the quality and nutritious benefits of some foods over others. Just don’t demonize certain foods.
- Leave your cupboards and fridge open to your children, place food at their level, make it known that they are to eat whatever and whenever they like.
- Have a variety of snacks at home, both salty, sweet and healthy ones.
- Involve them in your cooking and grocery shopping (growing) process.
- Don’t be afraid of bingeing, these happen. When you introduce free foods, this may simply be a reaction of disbelief (get it while we can), and later on, they may binge on foods because they get to know them, because they haven’t had them for a while, or because they contain a nutrient their body is in search of at that specific moment. These flares of interest pass.
Parenting for Social Change, Teresa Graham Brett (2011)
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods - and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater, Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett (2010)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
“I contend that panting, pushing, and pain are not natural at all. There is another way of giving birth. One has only to observe the average house cat in labor to see true natural childbirth in action.”
Article first published as Book Review: Baby Led Weaning by Gil Rapley and Tracey Murrey on Blogcritics.
I received a copy of “Baby-Led Weaning. The Essential Guide to Introducting Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.” by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murrey for review. You can find more information about the book by visiting www.babyledweaning.theexperimentpublishing.com
Now, I am not a big fan of books that call themselves the essential anything, since the world and its people are too vast and different to have just one standard for for all. ANd indeed, little to my surprise, for people - like my family - who are on the paleo diet, lots of the dietary information is wrong.
With our daughter, we did a kind of Baby Led Weaning, before we knew such a thing existed, and we were planning on doing the same for our upcoming little one, so I was exited to read the book and maybe find out things I didn’t know yet.
Since I was already familiar with Baby Led Weaning, and have read and written about the topic extensively, many of the concepts in the book were already familiar to me. The authors keep rehashing the same concepts, which at times, makes it somewhat redundant.
However, for someone who is new to the concept, this is a very thorough book, that explains in depth everything you ever needed to know about Baby Led Weaning. There are even real-life stories, to help you see how it spins out in daily life, and how people handle a self-feeding baby.
The book guides the novice through the theory and the benefits of the practice, gives some guidelines and tips and tackles frequently asked questions.
The theory of Baby Led Weaning was laid out by author Gill Rapley, a public health nurse, but has been in use for ages, in some form or other, and in many culture. If you are not familiar with Baby Led Weaning, I suggest you pick up a copy. The baby led method is truly the best way to avoid food struggles and set your child on a healthy dietary path for the rest of his life.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I finished reading Laura Kaplan Shanley’s book Unassisted Childbirth, and as many of these books, it has worked as a catalyst for some ideas that had been in my mind, unformulated. This time, one of the ideas that formed was this: are alternative birth practices, the ones that promote ‘natural’ birth deceiving us? Are they putting a wheel before our eyes and leading us from the main goal.
Techniques like hypnobirthing and waterbirth and the like, they may well help a woman through labor, but what if we need not be helped?
What if we have the power in ourselves, without needing to resort to all these techniques and magic tricks? What if it is just in our beliefs.
If you choose waterbirth, in seek of relaxation during labor and birth, it means that you accept and anticipate stress. What if you were to accept and anticipate relaxation instead? The birth tub wouldn’t be needed.
If you turn to hypnobirthing, you are anticipating that you will not reach a meditative state without such training. Why would this state of mind not be innate?
The same can be said for aromatherapy, birth playlists, birth balls... They are all just clutter distracting us from the real issue. We still fear birth. We do not trust ourselves to birth normally. We need to resort to trick and tools to distract our minds from the fear and anxiety. It’s that fear that creates the stress in our body that eventually leads us to pain.
What if we were to tackle that fear instead, prior to birth. What if we were to just accept our body’s ability to birth, belief in the beauty and elation of birth, instead of creating an image of pain and anxiety.
A positive image of birth is the cornerstone of a safe, happy birth experience. If you believe your body is meant to give birth efficiently, naturally, and without complications and that birth is a joyful event, you are more than halfway to a safe, natural birth. Positive beliefs and attitudes contribute to a happy birth experience, enabling the mother to labor more efficiently and to open for her baby with less effort.
|Image: Dizznbonn on Flickr|
It is in our power to make birth not only tolerable, but pleasant, joyous, orgasmic. But we need to avoid the decoys that make us admit defeat in advance.
Monday, August 22, 2011
This post is part of my "Approved for Girls"-series, find inspiration for movies for little girls in this post. If you want to contribute to this blog by writing your own "Approved for Girls" post, email me mamapoekie at yahoo dot com.
|Image: Victoria White on Flickr|
Again, during my search, I have found that I like a lot of these songs myself, and certainly found lots of inspiration and like-mindedness in them when I was a misunderstood teen, feeling alone at the edge of the world.
So here it is, my list of inspirational songs for girls:
- Amel Bent - Compliquée (A 20 Ans)
- Amel Bent - A 20 Ans (A 20 Ans)
- Neneh Cherry - Woman
- Alicia Keys - Superwoman (As I am)
- Alicia Keys - The Life (Songs in A Minor)
- Anngun - In Your Mind (Luminescence)
- Anngun - Something Sublime (Luminescence)
- Anouk - Jerusalem (Hotel New York)
- Anouk - Nobody’s Wife (Together Alone)
- Anouk - The Other Side of Me (Together Alone)
- Anouk - My Life (Together Alone)
- Babyface - How Come, How Long
- Avril Lavigne - How Does It Feel (Under My Skin)
- Avril Lavigne - Nobody’s Home (Under My Skin)
- Ciara - Like a Boy
- Billy Joel - She’s Always a Woman
- Ciara - Goodies
- Destiny’s Child - Survivor
- Destiny’s Child - Girl
- Dido - Life for Rent
- Dolly Parton - Just Because I’m a Woman
- Dolly Parton - Working Girl
- Janet Jackson - Special (Velvet Rope)
- Pussycat Dolls - Beep (PCD)
- Pussycat Dolls - I Don’t Need a Man (PCD)
- Mariah Carey - Looking in (Daydream)
- Spooks - Things I’ve Seen
- Sia - Breathe Me
- Janet Jackson - What About (Velvet Rope)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - Breaking the Girl
- Madonna - What it Feels Like For a Girl (Music)
- Pink - Lonely Girl (Missundastood)
- Whitney Houston - I’m Every Woman (The Bodyguard)
- Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive
- Britney SPears - Stronger
- Bjork - Army of Me (Post)
- Garbage - Queer
- Bon Jovi - Runaway
And a couple of albums that are a collection of powerful songs for girls:
- Christina Aguilera - Stripped
- Anouk - Together Alone
- Avril Lavigne - The Best Damn Thing
- Cindy Lauper - She’s so Unusual
- Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors
- Evanescence - Fallen
- Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
- Lilly Allen - Alright, Still
- Skunk Anansie - Stoosh
- Lilly Allen - It’s Not Me, It’s You
- No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom
- Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
- Hole - Celebrity Skin
- Evanescence - The Open Door
- K’s Choice - Almost Happy
- K’s Choice - Believe
- K’s Choice - Paradise in Me
- Nelly Furtado - Folklore
I deliberately did not include songs like “Stupid Girl” from Pink or “Nasty Girl” from Destiny’s child, because I don’t think that we can empower women by trashing other women. If you have some suggestions to add to this list, please add them below, and I will check them out.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
- "10 Tips for Raising an Open-Gender Child". Great article on NPN that describes quite a similar approach to what we're doing.
- "How to Talk to Little Girls" in HuffingtonPost asks us to reconsider the stereotypical looks and beauty based icebreakers we use when approaching little girls, and instead focus on their interests.
- A very complete article about breech and what your options are, on Bellies and Babies
Visit the newest Sunday Surfers: Tmuffin, Love Notes Mama, Becoming Crunchy, Adventures of a Thrifty Mama and Touchstonez. If you want to find out who else is surfing, go to the Sunday Surf page.
Friday, August 19, 2011
This post was written as a submission to the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism. Find out more about the carnival here.
Children are amazing when it comes to languages. You put a small child next to another small child from another culture, who speaks another language they themselves don’t understand, and after about 15 minutes, they’ll end up understanding each other. Put these kids together regularly and yours will come home uttering words in a different language. Continue this relationship and they’ll retain this knowledge.
When I was a baby, we lived first in Greece, and then in Italy. My brother even went to kindergarten in Italy and spoke Italian fluently with his little toddler voice. We moved there when I was two and my brother was almost 5. He lost all his knowledge of Italian. However, both he and I have always been instinctively language savvy, ad when my brother decided to move to Mallorca for 9 months, he spoke fluent Spanish after a few months.
Safe this short total immersion, we did grow up in a very multilingual house. Even though we were brought up monolingual, with both parents speaking Dutch, we were in contact with so many French and English speakers, and heard conversations in these languages so often that even at the age of six, the both of us were fluent in both English, French and Dutch.
The best way children pick up a language is through immersion. If this is not possible, the second best is to be in contact regularly with the language.
We can achieve this by using media and books, partly, but the best learning opportunity is to be presented with real conversation in that second (third...) language.
How can you assure this contact when you live in a monolingual family?
- seek friends with whom you as a parent speak in a different language.
- seek friends with children who speak another language as a family
- Travel! Travel and expatriation are the best ways to immerse oneself in another culture and another language. Of course I am not talking about the kind of organized travel where you have a guide in your own language, but self guided travel, where you have to struggle to explain yourself.
- Find hubs of foreign language speakers in your surroundings. You can find them through community centers or language schools. Probably some of them would be delighted to have the double exchange of language learning
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I have been out for too much time to mention, and of course my blog has suffered. For the first time in over one and half year, I have not published anything for days in end, and not for lack of inspiration.
The truth is I was without internet, again, because a bird flew into the electricity network and there were no spare parts to get things fixed. that’s life in the African jungle for you.
I have had a very hard time coping without internet, feeling very much alone and isolated. I am now the only expat woman on site, my daughter the only expat child. And while my daughter still has friends in the local town, that leaves me all alone on my mountain.
A positive note to the information blackout is that I got to write lots, so you’ll be having plenty of new content coming at you.
On a personal level, we’re still living in the small flat we moved into after leaving the community house. We have prospects of a larger house in some distant future, who knows when. The flat is getting a little crowded, with only one bedroom and a toddler who needs more and more space, and my ever growing belly, one of us often ends up sleeping on the couch. We still don’t have enough wardrobe space to unpack everything, so lots of things remain in suitcases. My clothes have been banned to the pantry, for lack of cupboard.
Pregnancy wise, I’m doing great. I’ve got a very active little one in there, that already makes my belly jump up when (s)he kicks.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
A while back I read an article on Babble entitled just this. I was appalled to find that more than half of her pregnancy savers were either junk food or medication, both are things which your baby doesn’t need during gestation. Even though I'm not very fond of the title, since it makes pregnancy sound like the plague, I decided to write my own.
Though I must admit I do take the occasional antacid, as I have had serious reflux with my first pregnancy, and this time around had it from the moment of conception. I am still looking for natural alternatives (if you have any, please add them in the comments below), but so far no luck.
On this point, I agree with the Babble author: pillows are a great way to create a comfortable sleeping and even sitting arrangement. I have one under the head of my mattress (against the reflux), and use a nursing pillow between my legs. Towards the end of my previous pregnancy, I had another one behind my back, and one under the back of the mattress, to battle heavy legs and fluid retention.
2. My special morning sickness brew
The first few months of this pregnancy I was attached to the hip to my teapot and special brew. First thing in the morning, my husband would concoct a ginger and lemongrass infusion, fresh from the garden. I would then drink the first two cups warm and the rest of it cold.
This is the recipe
an inch of ginger, cut in pieces - for the morning sickness
one stem of lemongrass, rolled up - this calms the nervous system, and at that time I was dealing with a lot of anger and frustration, plus it is super yummy.
Just pour boiling water over the lot and drink hot or cold
You can add some honey for taste
Some days I added the juice of one lime, for the vitamins
Dried prunes or prune juice help really well when you are constipated, which is a common symptom of the hormones and later the pressure of your bowel. Always keep some handy. They make a delicious snack. You could also make compote from dried prunes, by stewing a cup of prunes and a cup of water, mix or mash, as desired.
|Image: Gromgull on Flickr|
I try to listen to my body and rest as much as possible. This is not always easy with a three year old around the house, but I arrange it so I either nap with her, or someone is around to take care of her during a nap. If I am really low energy, I will take a quick cat nap while she’s watching a movie.
Right now I am doing Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga, and so far it has really helped me control my back issues. I feel replenished and relaxed after a session and my daughter loves to join. I don’t do it as much as I like, but end up doing the whole session at least twice a week.
7. Positive Thinking
Probably the most important thing in pregnancy is your thoughts. It is in your power to control them, and turn around negative thought. Pregnancy should be a time of contemplation, where you benefit from dealing with and healing your grievances, in order to be radiant and ready when that little bubble arrives.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Written by Danielle
Recently my friend and I have had discussions about how to educate her daughter, who is confined to a wheelchair. My friend is wary of sending her handicapped child into the school system and is considering homeschooling instead. When she told me this, I agreed that public school could be a terrible thing, and I encouraged her to actually consider unschooling instead of homeschooling.
The educational system right now is a bad place for handicapped children because it, paradoxically, is too harsh on them and coddles them too much, both at the same time.
Bullying and Teasing
First, school is a harsh and often emotionally-abusive place for all kids, but especially for handicapped kids. Other children are often cruel and insensitive, and teasing and bullying are unfortunately ever-present features of the classroom. Being uncouth and rude to people who are different seems like an inherent quality of children.
But the bluntness of children gets sharpened into something more malicious through the artificial influence of the school system. In school, children are stuck together in large unhappy groups, and it allows a pack mentality to develop, where hierarchies form and then the kids at the top attack the kids at the bottom, and everyone else joins in.
The alphas (bullies) usually choose students who are different as the top targets to pick on. Students who are minorities or homosexuals, students who look or dress differently, or students with obvious disabilities are all disproportionately victimized by bullying and teasing.
Handicapped students are often grouped together in classes, which just makes it all-the-easier for bullies to know who to pick on. Children stop being viewed as individuals and start being viewed as one group. They stopped being viewed as people who happen to have disabilities and start being characterized entirely by their disabilities.
Coddling and Patronizing
While peers are usually too hard on handicapped students, teachers are usually too soft on them. Teachers are sensitive to students’ handicaps and they often try to work around these handicaps by not giving the children tasks that are too difficult for them. By trying to be too sensitive to and considerate of students’ handicaps, however, teachers just reinforce their problems.
The Russian Psychologist Lev Vygotsky studied children with learning disabilities and found that grouping them together and giving them tasks “at their level,” like concrete tasks, actually served to stilt the children’s development. On the other hand, if you mixed the children with disabilities with all other children and you asked the disabled children to perform the same higher-level tasks as other children, the disabled children actually could achieve higher-level thinking.
Teachers are often too fatalistic about learning disabilities, when in fact students can achieve more than is expected of them with the proper time, motivation, and resources. While Vygotsky was concerned with mental development, the same lesson applies to physical disabilities.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling my friend or any other parents of disabled children to sell their handicapped vans. You can’t expect a wheelchair-bound person to learn to suddenly gain the ability to walk, but you can at least encourage disabled and differently-abled people to fend for themselves and become more independent rather than fatalistically accepting their limitations.
My step-sister has achondroplasia, the bone disorder most commonly behind dwarfism, and obviously it is was hard for her to reach high places as a child, especially since she was also intermittently having surgery on her legs and hips. But her mother did not make life easy for her by putting step stools everywhere and moving everything down onto lower shelves. Instead her mother let her figure out how to climb up on things and get what she wanted. My step-sister is now an energetic and unashamed climber, and she has never lets her stature stop her from reaching something she wants.
If you treat a handicapped child like a “normal” child rather than catering to them, you might be surprised how much they can adapt and find ways to make it on their own. Let them find this strength in themselves early on, because they will need it once they get into the “real world.”
In the same way that our society infantilizes youth, it infantilizes the handicapped. If you treat them as helpless, you perpetuate their helplessness. If you stop patronizing them, you’d be surprised what they can accomplish.
Danielle is a free spirit who tries to consider Mother Nature in all decisions she makes. From eating organics to rigorous recycling habits, Danielle offers advice and tips for healthy living on eatbreatheblog