Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Case You Thought I Was Nuts...

I'm reading more from Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems today. And I'm finally at the part where it describes things parents should do to prevent learning problems, or to lessen their impact on a child already genetically predisposed toward them.

I'm happy to say that we've been pretty diligent about most of this stuff, right from the start. There are advantages to starting out your parenting life while in a graduate program in Developmental Psychobiology. Disadvantages also... but advantages.

Starting with avoiding environmental toxins. Before, during and after the baby is born.

Moving on to breastfeeding. Which I did for 3-5 YEARS with each child.

Early nurturing - holding, bonding, soothing... essentially, attachment parenting.

Brain-friendly nutrition. Healthy, additive-free food, in as close to its natural state as possible. Also, being aware of the role food allergies and intolerances play in ADHD and autistic-spectrum disorders and seeking to identify them.

Quality sleep.

Limiting screen time. We have no game systems, we have no cable TV. No TV on in the background, and computers and facebook are locked and require parental permission and monitoring.

Explicitly teaching self-regulation and other executive functioning skills.

Avoiding overstimulating environments (like crowded classrooms).

Allowing skills to develop on their own timetable - not forcing things before they are ready; not holding them back if they're bored.

Promoting LOTS of exercise, especially outdoors, in nature, and lots of unstructured free time to play.

While Dr. Healy is an educational psychologist and most comfortable in the traditional school environment, she has a lot of positive things to say about homeschooling, and in particular, unschooling, based on the experiences she's had with people who were allowed to develop at their own pace, rather than be forced into the school's timetable and then be labeled and discouraged when their individual pattern of development did not fit there. She couldn't deny the definite advantages of taking this path if the parents are willing and able.

Several times in this most recent book, she talks about how hard it is to be the kind of parent who goes against the societal norm, reads labels and refuses to feed her kids the typical "American" diet, questions the one-size-fits all school system, limits her children's screen time and media exposure, seeks out alternative educational methods, etc. It really isn't easy, and we don't do it just to be weird or because we think we're better than anyone else - we do it because we know what the research says and we're doing our very best to help our non-neurotypical kids develop as well as they can.

Reading books like this one help remind me that we really have been doing our best to control the things over which we still have control, and help me realize that things really could have been a lot worse had we not been vigilant (sometimes annoyingly so) about these practices.

So I will continue to say no to chemicals in the food, no to commercial TV and game systems, no to overstructuring and under-exercising developing minds and bodies.

Let the chips fall where they may. I will tell them I did my best.

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