Early Days 5 – Do not be downcast

A few years back, Junior repeated his school year in his special education class. [translation = retained?] The Pre-K teacher was a speech pathologist by profession and had more than 30 years experience with little chaps and chapesses of my son's ilk. Tiny modest benchmarks were recorded on his IEP chart. Whilst there was a little tick here and there, other elements seemed to have vanished. Carefully acquired skills had slipped from our grasp. For me, his new achievements were over-shadowed by the thought of the ones that we seemed to have carelessly mislaid somewhere.

I think I was in the 'generalization' phase. In case you are unfamiliar with this term, for current purposes, it means that when a child learns a new skill, such as tolerating sand at the beach, in theory, they should also tolerate sand in other situations, such as school, a sand pit in the garden, a washing up bowl full of sand and preferred toys etc. If the tolerance of sand, remains solely at the beach, then he has 'failed' to generalize. It felt like a double whammie, not only did he suffer from “tactile defensiveness,” but any progress we theoretically made, remained strictly in the geographical location where he first acquired it. He also has a parent whirlizting away on yet another campaign.

At that time, junior's failure to generalize just about anything, was a cause of deep frustration for me. He learned to eat bananas, but only at home, that is to say, not in the car, not in the garden, [of course] not at school nor the park. I believe I read “Green Eggs and Ham,” until I was the same colour as the eggs, and every bit as cheesed off as that rotting food stuff.

He would hunker down on his favourite, [translation = only chair] whilst I forked slices of banana into his open baby bird mouth. He would not 'bite' into the banana and shock his teeth. His hands could not tolerate touching the banana with the skin and the idea of contact with a naked banana would send him into an apopleptic fit. He would not chew the banana but swallowed the lumps whole, as his mastication abilities were as feeble as my own. “No fork, no eat,” were his watch words.

It takes a long time for fork a whole banana into a three and a half year old, three times a day. The time factor features heavily if you are also obliged to spoon feed the five year old his different dinner, at the same time. The combination of the tactile/oral defensive small one, and the sequencing/ co-ordination/fine and gross motor challenged older one, resulted in an ambidextrous mother with very dirty clothes. But “neophobic” was yet to be part of my vocabulary.

His teacher, in her professional capacity, was a remarkably conservative woman for an American. Other parents complained about her enigmatic aura. I am rarely intimidated by other people, mainly because of my inability to recognize or admit to their superiority. As a result, I tend to just plough ahead regardless, as I have discovered that life is just far too short, to be messing about with too many niceties. As she finished off her assessment of his progress, I launched in with my size tens, to quiz her about the losses. Where were they? Where had they gone and why?

Miss E removed he spectacles and pinched the bridge of her nose, as she composed herself. I awaited enlightenment from this stalwart of the teaching profession, universally admired by all her colleagues. She told me, that in her view, children, especially our children, developed in their own unique way. It was her observation, over the years, that growth and progress could be viewed like a corkscrew at a angle – the child seems to be on the up, learning new things, blossoming, happier. Then, for some unaccountable reason, they seemed to spiral down again, slipping over the curve in the corkscrew. She suggested, that when they’re in the ‘dip,’ curling around loop, they are really re-grouping their skills, filing them away, making them secure, a consolidation if you will, until they emerge and rise up the curve again, ready for the next cycle.

I don’t know if it’s true, certainly not very scientific, but it’s a visual that helps me. Not everything has to be 'true' to be 'helpful,' does it?

I hope this isn’t too irritating. I think I would find it irritating, but I find a lot of things annoying. My pal, “Jerry Grasso,” suggested it, so we’ll blame him instead, or at least I will. If you have not visited this blog before, do not be disorientated by the photograph of the lovely, smiling blond woman. That is not Jerry, as he is the dad, but he’s still a jolly good egg.

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