So we moved Finn from his crib to a twin bed over winter break. I know – he’s four and a half! What was the delay, right? Well, there were various reasons we put it off, among them: he’s small (30ish pounds at this point), so it’s not like he had outgrown the crib; things have been sort of in flux since Scarlett was born, as we weren’t sure where she was going to end up sleeping (we thought it might be with Finn in his room, but that hasn’t come to pass); and, not the least, to contain him. I had a sneaking suspicion that as soon as we moved him to a regular bed, he’d be up wandering the house at all hours. Winter break seemed like a good time to make the change – I really expected him to have difficulty giving up the familiar surroundings of his crib, and if we were going to be dealing with bedtime tantrums, I wanted it to at least be when we didn’t all have to get up at the crack of dawn for school.
So a few days after Christmas, Michael dismantled the crib.
It was bittersweet; I got this crib brand spankin’ new when I was pregnant with Kevin over 16 years ago, and all of my babies except Scarlett slept in it. (Kevin also feels a very sentimental attachment to it and has made us promise to save it for his kids.)
And he put together Finn’s new twin bed.
I was pleasantly surprised when, on the first night, Finn made no protest about getting into his new bed. “Wow, this is going to be easy!” I thought.
Not so easy, as it turns out. While he still has not made a peep of protest almost two weeks later, that whole concern about keeping him contained has become reality. The kid won’t stay in his bed. He gets up at all hours and bangs around in his room. If he can still hear us up and about, he’ll just repeatedly come out of his room – I finally put one of those childproof doorknob covers on the inside of his door just to prevent him from exiting his room, and I also make a point of unscrewing the lightbulb from his lamp because he likes to get up and turn the light on and off. It’s gotten to the point where he won’t go to sleep until Michael or I lay down on his bed with him until he falls asleep – and I really don’t want that to become the routine.
Last night we heard a thud from our room and Michael went into Finn’s room and found him on the floor, his nose and mouth bloody. By the time I extricated Scarlett from me and went in to Finn’s room, he was doing that hiccuping-sobbing thing. As it turns out, he didn’t fall out of his bed, he did a face plant on the hardwood floor from the rocking chair in his room. Because he had gotten out of bed. Again.
I went to Babies R Us today and bought one of those safety rails for his bed. I’m hoping that, although it won’t prevent him from getting out of bed if he really wants to, that it will mimic his crib in some way and at least discourage him from getting out of bed.
We shall see.
I was going to do things differently when Scarlett was born. I was going to make her a little more independent, a little sooner. I was going to start pumping right away and get her on a bottle, imagining the relative freedom I would have if she easily went back and forth between breast and bottle. I was going to let her sleep with me only during the immediate postpartum period, while I recovered from giving birth. After a week or two of sleeping with me, I imagined, I would then have her sleep in her bassinet, and from there, she would easily transition to a crib after a few months (I imagined).
But things didn’t go as I planned. She turned out to be a temperamental baby, and I had a much rougher time after she was born – physically and emotionally – than I had planned for. I never did start pumping; it just ended up being a task that I didn’t feel able to add to my already overflowing plate. Consequently, she’s never taken a bottle and I can’t be away from her for more than two or three hours at a stretch. Although for a short time as an infant she did nap in her bassinet, I never did try to make her sleep there at night; six+ months later, she’s still sleeping with me every night. She’ll only nap in her swing now, and her bassinet sits in our bedroom, a convenient place to toss her blankets.
I don’t regret it, though. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes get frustrated – it would be nice to get up and go (like Michael can) without having to carefully plan my outings to coincide with when Scarlett will most likely sleep for a couple of hours (or, alternatively, taking her with me, which can put a damper on dinner out with my girlfriends, for instance). But I find myself so attached to her – this beautiful gift that I never expected.
There is something about curling up with her in bed, her warm little body snuggled up against mine. She nuzzles me and latches on and grunts and hums in delirious contentment, and I stroke her head and murmur silly sweet nothings to her. I want her to feel how much she is loved in every fiber of her being. I want her to know how cherished she is.
Sometimes I wonder what a difference that would have made for me.
They say that when we are infants and babies, the quality of our attachments will impact us for the rest of our lives. Babies who do not experience love and tender nurturing will suffer because of that all their lives with trouble forming and maintaining loving relationships, difficulty with trust and letting their guard down, and poor self-esteem. My mother didn’t want me. I don’t have any memories of a deprived infancy, but I grew up being told by my mother that she didn’t want me when I was born, and it wasn’t until an incident when I was two years old and when she stopped herself from putting her hands around my throat to strangle me that she accepted me and realized that she loved me. I know it was difficult for her – I came a mere ten and a half months after my brother, I was apparently a very temperamental baby, and she was only 21 when I was born, already in an abusive, difficult marriage. I get it, although what I’ve never understood is her need to tell me things I would have been better off not knowing about. I suppose in her way, she was conveying to me that somehow she managed to rise above some really difficult circumstances and actually love her child.
And so I am mindful. Which is not to say that I don’t screw up with my own kids, or even that they won’t one day find themselves in a therapist’s office pouring out anger, disappointment and hurt over my motherly failings. But I often think that my own longing for children for all those years was rooted in a wish to rewrite my own story. To give the unadulterated love I didn’t receive, to show what that could do, the difference it could make.
And so I coddle Scarlett, I love her unabashedly and purposefully, as I have all my babies, wholly and completely.
I had to cut Annabelle’s hair again. Well, had to? I guess it is a choice I make. For her. For me? I don’t know. She twirls and pulls until it’s so ragged and uneven that it doesn’t feel like there’s much choice but to cut it all to even it out. But she hates it when I cut it. It’s always a scene involving a lot of crying. I hate it, and I admit that I’m not sure that it’s the right thing for me to do. I feel like either way, she’s screwed: leave it alone and it looks terrible because of what she does to it, or cut it in a very short pixie cut (which looks adorable, for what it’s worth – but that’s not the point, I guess) and leave her feeling angry and powerless.
Just that day – after I cut it – she told me that the dad of a neighbor girl she was playing with that day asked her why her hair is short. I’ve seen it happen myself – grownups asking her to her face why her hair is short, or asking me right in front of her why her hair is short. It seems incredibly rude and nosy to me; you would never ask another grownup why their hair is a certain way. What the fuck do they think? What do they think she’s going to tell them? Why do they care?
And yes, she’s been mistaken for a boy. I was mistaken for a boy when I was a kid on occasion when I had my Dorothy Hamill haircut, so I know how much that hurts. I know how it made me want to just curl up and disappear from the shame of it.
We’ve been dealing with Annabelle’s hair-pulling for about five years now. It hasn’t gotten any easier. We’ve tried fidget toys, band-aids on her fingers, gloves, rewards, and ignoring the behavior. Everything works for a while, and then she’s back at it.
Someone sent this article to me recently: N-acetylcysteine For Trichotillomania, Skin Picking, and Nail Biting. I’ve actually read about N-acetylcysteine (NAC) being used to treat trich a number of times over the last couple of years. Rather than redirecting or preventing the behavior, it’s supposed to somehow work on brain chemistry to control the impulse to pull. I’m generally not a fan of medicating, but I’ve decided to give this a try – mainly because I’m sort of desperate, and because, technically, this isn’t really a drug, but rather an amino acid that can be purchased at any vitamin or health food store. (No, I have not consulted with our pediatrician, as he is clueless about trich, as are most doctors, I think.)
It comes in capsule form, and since Annabelle is not yet swallowing pills, I have to open the capsule and mix the contents with juice and have her drink it (we’re starting at 500 mg/day split up into two doses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon). I thought about sneaking it on her and then decided to just be up front with her. The first thing I did was tell her, “Did you know that there are lots and lots of other people who pull their hair like you do?” She looked at me suspiciously; her hair-pulling is a point of stress and contention between us, so she doesn’t like talking about it. “Yep,” I told her. “There’s actually a name for what you do.” “There is?” she asked. “Yes, it’s called trichotillomania.” Her eyes got big – awed, I guess, by the size of the word to describe what she does. We said it slowly together a few times until she could pronounce it. Then I told her that there is a special vitamin that might help her not want to pull her hair anymore. “But I already don’t want to pull my hair, Mommy,” she said. “I know, but it’s hard not to, right? This vitamin might make it easier. Can we try it?” She said yes.
A couple of hours after the first dose, she said to me, “Mommy, I think it’s working.” Bless her heart.
We shall see. I think it’s going to be weeks – months even – before we can tell if it makes a difference, since her pulling tends to go in cycles anyway. In any event, I don’t believe this will be a cure – I’m convinced that this is something she’s going to struggle with forever. But maybe this will help.
I undecorated the Christmas tree this afternoon and felt sad. I’m usually something of a humbug – I find the holiday season mostly stressful and am totally over it and ready to kick the tree to the curb by December 26, but this year was different. It really felt this year like Christmas came and went too quickly, and I wasn’t in any hurry to take the tree down, but alas, it was mostly dead and dropping needles everywhere. I can’t tell you why this year felt different, because I don’t know myself. Maybe I’m going soft in my old age.
I spent a week baking up a storm, and then gave boxes of treats away to neighbors. I got all my shopping done with little fuss, and didn’t mind being up late wrapping after the kids went to bed. Even the Elf was good for some laughs! The hustle and bustle seemed cheerful instead of stressful. And Christmas day . . . being awakened in the cold, barely light morning, the kids all wound up with anticipation, the sea of wrapping paper that grew in the living room as the kids tore open their gifts . . . and the food: gooey cinnamon rolls, sausage, and eggs for breakfast, and steak and fondue for dinner – all of us gathered around the table together, loud and rowdy.
Our tree is decorated each year with a hodgepodge of ornaments – some store-bought, some handmade. As I took them off the tree today and wrapped them in tissue paper and packed them away, memories of Christmases past filled me with nostalgia. There are plaster ornaments that I painstakingly painted way before I ever had kids, filled with hope and visions of future Christmases that would include children scampering about. There are numerous “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments from the kids’ first Christmases, and ornaments with their names and later dates marked on them from subsequent Christmases. So many of the ornaments hold particular memories – if not of that specific Christmas, then memorable events from that particular year – like bookmarks in the past. A slideshow of images parades through my head: chubby hands . . . round cheeks . . . warm fuzzy jammies and a sleep-creased face . . . eyes lighting up over a Brio train . . . early mornings watching Bob the Builder . . . soft, damp curls glowing by nightlight as I reach into the crib.
And that’s the thing, I guess – when you’re in the moment, it’s hard to fathom how precious the memory of it will one day be. I think the older my kids get, the more sentimental I become over my memories of their childhoods. I look back with my mind’s eye and want to hold all those moments in my heart forever, vivid and cherished. It’s all so fleeting, gone in an instant.
I swear it seems like we were just saying goodbye to 2011, and here we are, another year behind us. Time certainly marches on, doesn’t it?
2012 was a somewhat bumpy, somewhat eventful year for us. The highlights:
We got a new baby . . .
. . . who, over the course of the year, grew into this:
Scout’s a good dog. So much energy, though! And at 80+ pounds, she’s under the impression that she’s still a little lap puppy.
Michael went to Washington DC and appeared before the United States Supreme Court. Very exciting; most attorneys never get to do this.
Back in January, Michael had another brief hospital stay, which, looking back, I did not handle too well. Granted I was pregnant, moody, tired, and overwhelmed, but I still feel a little ashamed and wish I were more the stoic type. In any event, since then, Michael has enjoyed good health, and his annual scan a few weeks ago revealed that he’s still cancer-free. He now has three and half years of remission behind him, and the memories of his cancer, treatment, and the onslaught of resultant medical issues are beginning to take on a hazy quality.
Joey played another season of Little League, and his passion for baseball lives on. Watching him play is one of the highlights of my life as a mom. He also shocked all of us recently by scoring one of the lead roles in his school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie; he has been cast as Albert Peterson and will give five performances at the end of February! He turned 10 over the summer, and we took him to San Francisco to celebrate.
Kevin turned 15 (and is now about to turn 16!), got his braces off after nearly five years, started shaving, got a girlfriend, and dyed his hair. Adolescence has been bumpy, but so far not the nightmare I’ve feared. He’s a good kid, and I feel fortunate to have a close relationship with him.
Finn turned 4 in July and started preschool in September. He attends a typical preschool
with typical peers and is absolutely thriving there. We are so grateful that the opportunity for him to attend this program fell into our laps, that they have been so welcoming of him and see him as a whole, valuable child.
As for me, I got published in Literary Mama and Mamalode this year, both prestigious publications. One of them I will actually be getting paid for – peanuts, but still, it’s my first paid writing gig. Writing remains my passion, and I still dream of making it big, or at least bigger. I’m still trying to find a balance between the demands of mothering a slew of kids, maintaining a house, and carving out time for writing. Every year I begin the year hoping that this will be the year that I write something important and meaningful and that it finds an audience; I know it’s really up to me.
After the shock of finding myself pregnant again at the ripe old age of 44 wore off, I enjoyed a smooth, mostly uneventful pregnancy. I savored it, feeling that, although very unexpected, it was a gift. In June, Scarlett Rose entered the world, a beautiful home birth after a labor of approximately 45 minutes! It was probably my easiest birth, and a beautiful note on which to end my childbearing career. I had a rough go of things for a while after she was born, but eventually found my feet back on steady ground.
Scarlett has stolen all of our hearts, and six months after she was born, it’s hard to remember our family without her in it.
I capped of the year with some new ink representing me and Michael (the vines) and our brood.
I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions, but I have hopes for 2013: that I live purposefully and in gratitude, that my kids feel safe and loved, that my marriage is peaceful, and my friendships flourishing.
So long, 2012.
I was looking forward to Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation after reading Cristina Nehring’s article, Loving a Child on the Fringe, and Alison Piepmeier’s initial reaction to the book on her blog, Baxter Sez: “My Early Thoughts on Far From the Tree.” The book is generating quite a lot of buzz in the Down syndrome parenting community, and at 702 pages (not counting bibliography, notes, acknowledgments, and index, which comprise another couple hundred pages), it’s quite a tome.
To date, I’ve read the first four chapters, and I’ve been trying to sort through my thoughts and feelings. I wanted to get some of my thoughts down specifically on Solomon’s chapter on Down syndrome while it’s still fresh in my mind.
The first chapter introduces us to the concept of “horizontal identity” – that is, the fact that some of us in the human family have something that is so fundamentally different about us that we must seek out peer groups who share the same fundamental differences outside of our families (from whom we receive our “vertical identity”) for a sense of belonging. The second chapter is on deafness; the third is on dwarfism, and the fourth is on Down syndrome – all examples of “horizontal identity.”
I have mixed feelings about his presentation of Down syndrome. Solomon is a gifted writer, and this book was obviously an extremely time-intensive labor, as it’s comprised of extensive research and interviews that span years and years. I think it’s important to keep in mind, however, that this book is not intended to be a piece of advocacy for the specific “horizontal identities” which are discussed. I think as a whole, Solomon’s book is meant as a sociological study, and to that end, it’s fascinating – an exploration of the human condition through a lens of fundamental differences, and I guess as far as advocacy goes, it’s perhaps meant to advocate for diversity in general. As for each topic the author writes about, I’m not sure how or why he hand-picked the specific topics he did. In any case, I’m pretty certain that he didn’t choose them because he has a soft spot for all or even any of them.
As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, it’s always a little awkward and uncomfortable for me to hear or read an “outsider’s” take on what it means to have Down syndrome, or what it means to love someone who has Down syndrome. A person can study Down syndrome in books, they can interview people who have Down syndrome and their families, they can enter a career that will bring them face to face with Down syndrome five days a week, but unless you live Down syndrome – and by that, I mean either have it yourself or experience the highs and lows, day in and day out by having an intimate relationship with someone with Down syndrome – you don’t really know Down syndrome. So as a parent, I always hope the “outsiders” will get it right, but they inevitably, even with the best of intentions, get it at least partly wrong, and their perceptions are colored by their own biases.
And I have no doubt that the same can be said of all the other horizontal identities out there as well.
There were a few things that struck me as I read Solomon’s chapter on Down syndrome. First of all, it has a generally grim tone. While he does touch on the joy and fulfillment most families with a child with Down syndrome experience, overall, he seems more intent on discussing the down side of having a child with Down syndrome – or of having Down syndrome: the medical issues, the loneliness, the battles with school districts, the agony of parents trying to figure out what to do with their adult children with Down syndrome. And while these are certainly all very real issues, they are no more real or important than the joy and fulfillment the vast majority of families in the Down syndrome community experience. I guess what I’m saying is, if Solomon intends with this book to promote the idea that diversity enriches humanity, a more balanced picture would be called for.
I got the feeling that Solomon actually didn’t delve into the Down syndrome community nearly as deeply as he did the deaf community or the dwarf community. He immersed himself in Deaf culture – to the extent possible as a hearing person – and even traveled to a remote third-world community where deafness is prevalent in order to explore deafness outside of America. He became intimately familiar with dwarfs and families of dwarfs and attended numerous dwarf conventions. His exploration of Down syndrome, on the other hand, appears to be based solely on academic research and extensive interviews. He mentions Buddy Walks, but there is no indication that he actually attended a Buddy Walk, or a Down syndrome convention, which are held annually and have been for years. He doesn’t make any mention of the online Down syndrome community through blogs and forums, which are booming and absolutely integral parts of the Down syndrome community as a whole.
Further, all of the families he interviewed seem to reside in New York, and they all have adult children with Down syndrome. I believe this is important because the face of Down syndrome changes with each generation, or even half-generation; the lives of children born today with Down syndrome look very different from those of children born with Down syndrome even ten years ago – certainly twenty years ago. I watch Finn with his iPad and am in complete awe at how technology is enabling him to teach himself so much through interactive play, and it nearly blows my mind to think how different it was even five years ago when there was no such thing as an iPad.
Solomon is off in his word usage, as well. The chapter is peppered with “Downs kids” and “Down’s.” “Down’s” is not considered appropriate here in the US (although it is in Europe), and “Downs kids” is frowned upon here. From a completely objective standpoint, the fact that Solomon completely missed the People First Language movement – which is a huge hot button issue in the Down syndrome community – is a red flag. Additionally, he uses the term “mentally retarded” pretty liberally. It honestly didn’t offend me; I can handle it when it’s used in the clinical sense (it’s only been done away with in the clinical sense because it became a casual and ubiquitous pejorative; had it retained only its clinical meaning, it never would have come to be seen as offensive, and I still maintain that regardless of what we demand the terminology be changed to, it will eventually be flung around as an insult – attitudes have to change before language can really be changed), but the fact that he seems unaware that “mentally retarded” just isn’t used any longer indicates that he hasn’t done his homework as thoroughly as perhaps he should have. It’s also indicative, I think, of the fact that he only seems to have spent time with families of adult children with Down syndrome; some of the insights he gained from them are simply outdated.
The chapter does discuss the issue of prenatal testing for Down syndrome and the implications of it, and he does a good job with this discussion. Prenatal testing, especially in light of the new, “better” tests available to expectant mothers now, is another hot button topic in the Down syndrome community. He remains neutral, discussing the perceived benefits of testing and the impact on society by likely reducing the number of babies born with Down syndrome, and therefore also reducing funding for research and services for people already living with Down syndrome.
In his chapters on deafness and dwarfism, Solomon discusses the fine line that exists between affirming and helping those with the conditions, and trying to improve or change them – as with cochlear implants for the deaf, and limb-lengthening surgery on those with dwarfism. Both of those procedures have ignited passionate debate in their respective communities, with some parents being adamantly in favor of doing whatever it takes to give their children every tool available to help them fit into a society that is not naturally equipped to accommodate them, and some parents righteously indignant at the suggestion that their children should be “normalized” to fit an arbitrary convention. These are extremely important issues, and I wish Solomon had carried this idea into his exploration of Down syndrome; indeed, I wish it were more a topic of discussion in the Down syndrome community. Solomon discusses Early Intervention for children with Down syndrome, but only in terms of obviously that’s what parents do for their poor Downs kids nowadays, and boy, are they lucky to have it – not like in the old days. No discussion of the implications of Early Intervention – how it’s possibly the equivalent of the cochlear implant or limb-lengthening: an effort to normalize children with Down syndrome to the extent possible rather than accepting and embracing them as they are (do I have you riled yet? Don’t you think this is worthy of discussion at least? I do.).
The chapter left me feeling a little sad. I lay awake in the quiet darkness of my bedroom on more than one night after reading it pondering . . . pondering Down syndrome, our family, Finn, Finn’s future, worrying over all the things that parents who have a child with Down syndrome worry about. Solomon’s presentation of Down syndrome dug up feelings I thought I had put to rest a long time ago, and that’s unsettling.
Nevertheless, I’ve never believed that it’s honest to insist on focusing only on the positive, and doing so does a disservice, I think, to those affected by Down syndrome. I certainly don’t see Finn’s life as bleak or grim, nor do I see our life with him in it as bleak or grim. It’s mostly just life – full of ups and down, and yes, with a unique set of challenges where Finn is concerned. It is worth it? An unqualified yes.
I’ve set aside Far From the Tree for the time being, as I’m reading my book club’s current selection, but I plan to get back to it in the next couple of weeks.
On Christmas Eve, Michael and I waited until the kids were sound asleep (or so we thought) to bring up all the gifts that had been wrapped and hidden in the garage.
Let me just stop right there and ponder this whole Santa thing for a minute. It seems that every family does Santa differently – and I only realized this after we had been long stuck in our own tradition, which I basically took from my own childhood (Michael is Jewish and, although his family apparently celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas – at least the presents part – to some degree, he doesn’t seem to have more than vague recollections of it), and that is, Santa wraps all his presents and leaves them under the tree Christmas Even night after the kids are asleep. Come to find out later that in some families, Santa does not wrap his gifts, only the gifts from Mom and Dad are wrapped; and in some families, Santa only fills the stockings. I could have saved myself a lot of work all these years! Here I am, wrapping every damn thing every year, setting aside special Santa paper so the kids won’t say “Hey, Santa uses the same paper you use, Mommy!”, using special gift tags that are from Santa, and trying to disguise my writing! And to think, all this time, I could have just been throwing a few unwrapped gifts under the tree from Santa!
There needs to be a manual about this sort of thing.
Anyhoo, so Michael and I are bringing the Christmas haul upstairs from the garage, tiptoeing and being as stealthy as we can, and suddenly the girls’ bedroom door pops open and there’s Annabelle. “Presents?” she says. “PRESENTS?!” Thinking quickly, I say, “Um, we’re just helping Santa out, rearranging some things. You’re dreaming. Go back to bed now.”
They got us up at the crack of dawn yesterday morning.
Annabelle came into our room and said, “Mommy, did you leave cookies out for Santa?” Shit. Fail. “No, honey, I guess I forgot. But I’m sure Santa had plenty of cookies from other families.” “WHO CARES?!?!” She shouted. “LET’S OPEN PRESENTS! CAN WE OPEN PRESENTS NOW?!?!”
And so began Christmas Day, 2012.
Everyone was happy with their bounty.
Our traditional Christmas dinner is filet mignon and cheese fondue, and then a chocolate fondue for dessert.
This year I made The Melting Pot’s Wisconsin Trio cheese fondue (substituting provolone for butterkase, as the latter was impossible to find anywhere); it was delicious.
And Chocolate Cream Pie fondue* for dessert –
Every year, the pictures look the same; the kids just keep getting bigger.
Chocolate Cream Pie Fondue
8 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped (you can use milk chocolate chips)
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler set over simmering water, stirring constantly. Add the milk, cream cheese and vanilla, and continue to stir until completely dissolved and blended. Transfer to a warm fondue pot over low heat. For dipping, sliced bananas, large marshmallows, cubed pound cake, and graham crackers are all good!
A half a year!! And it’s hard to remember life before Scarlett.
Was there a time when this sweet little face wasn’t a part of our family?
At six months, Scarlett rolls quite a bit (in fact, she took her first . . . and second . . . tumbles from our bed. Which means, she’s been duly initiated), and she babbles “mamamamamama” all the live long day. She also blows raspberries and is generous with her baby slobber. She’s working on a couple of teeth, I think, but none have made an appearance yet.
I can’t resist her. She’s temperamental and demanding, but she has my heart on a string, this girl. She exhausts me, and yet, I miss her when I’m away from her for more than a couple of hours. Motherlove is a curious thing; it’s strange to think that the shock of my pregnancy with her was so upsetting to me, and it’s resulted in this little person who fills my heart.
It’s hard to believe that in the next month or two, she’s likely to start sitting up by herself, and then crawling, and eating food that doesn’t come from me. Sometimes I wish I could stop time and keep her a little baby. This time is so fleeting.
Finn plays with the iPad a lot. So much so, in fact, that we actually invested in a second iPad (for me) because he and I were basically, well, fighting over it. I’d be reading a book on it, and he’d be raising hell because he wanted to play on it. Although we’re certainly not parents who give in to their kids’ every demand or buy all the latest gadgets their kids want (we’re one of the only families I know that doesn’t have a Wii, or even a flat-screen TV), the iPad is a different story. More and more, it’s being utilized in classrooms, and even Finn’s speech therapist sometimes uses one with him and her other students. It engages him, it’s interactive (rather than passive, like watching television), and he’s learning from it. More so, in fact, than I realized.
I was shocked to discover recently that he recognizes most of his letters. I did not teach him this – I’ve never been a flashcard-wielding parent with any of my kids, it’s just not me. And he’s not learning this in preschool, either – the preschool he attends is not academic, but rather, developmental.
Do you know what this means? If he can learn his letters, he can eventually learn to read. And before you say, “Of course he’ll learn to read,” let me just say that while many, many kids with Down syndrome do learn to read nowadays, some do not. I try to maintain reasonable and healthy levels of optimism and realism with regard to Finn’s capabilities. Even so, I was surprised at how much this surprised me. Maybe because it happened without any person’s intervention – it was just him and the iPad.
But wait, there’s more!
Not only can he identify letters, he can match those letters up with words that begin with letters he is presented with! I won’t go so far as to say that this is reading or even pre-reading, but it’s certainly a step towards pre-reading.
I’m suddenly feeling very, very fortunate that Finn was born when he was. There is so much educational technology now, it’s relatively easy to access, and the benefits are undeniable. It’s hard to say what studies will show in ten or twenty years, looking back and comparing the educating of kids with intellectual disabilities in this age of technology versus educating them just a half a generation prior, before the technology explosion, but I imagine there will be notable differences.
Here are some of Finn’s favorite iPad apps:
iTot Alphabet (this is the app he’s using in the first clip above)
National Geographic Look and Learn Animals (this is the app he’s using in the second clip above)
Let me know if you have any apps you’d like to suggest!