Most parents do not think of themselves, as their children’s teachers. In one way we all are, of course. We are supposed to set a good example, raise our children to good citizens, who know right from wrong. We are supposed to help them become independent individuals, ready to look after themselves. But that is not entirely what this post is about. When I discovered, years ago, that my youngest son’s speech was very late, I realized that I could not just sit and let it slowly develop by itself. He needed more encouragement than other children. But it is not an easy task to undertake. You can’t sit down with a three year-old and have a regular school lesson. Nor am I an educated speech therapist.
The problem is that when you go to a speech therapist in Sweden, you go there either once a year or if you are lucky, once every six months. You go there, not to be taught how to teach your child speak, but you go there to have your child tested. They test the child and then stick an A-4 paper in your hand, pointing out all the things your child can not say or pronounce. This has happened with my three youngest sons, with the middle one of them, the A4 did not even contain everything he had done wrong. He made so many mistakes that the speech therapist gave up on documenting them. With three children, I have walked home with the A4 paper and not known what I, as a parent, am supposed to do with it? What is the point of telling me what my boys can not say, when I already know that, as a parent who see them daily?
When my dad fell down at work and hit his head so bad, he almost died, one of the side effects became aphasia. He could no longer speak. For three years, he went to a speech therapist, and when I say that, I really mean it. He went there every week. Not just once every six months to ascertain how bad his speech still was. That is what I as a parent thought would happen, when I started to take “Kitty” to a speech therapist. But I soon learned differently. We all know that it is pointless to go there, all of us who are sent there by the local health clinic nurses, who check up on our children’s developmental progress. No, as a parent, you have to come up with other ways of helping your child, with speech development and as in my case, with other development as well, since my youngest son has been diagnosed with autism. In his case, I feel more than ever, that he has to have stimulation and be occupied with worthwhile things. It is starting to run up a bill, but I have come to reason, that it is worth it and believe it or not, all the things that I buy for him, are greatly appreciated by his siblings as well. Either they beg to use them OR even better, they start interacting with their brother, instead of just looking at him as a “baby”. And boy has he waited for this day! He loves their attention and getting to be part of the social interaction!
Perhaps this will sound contradictory, when I just stated that he needs worthwhile occupation. But bear with me through the entire reasoning: “Gubby” loves to watch TV and DVDs. And you could say, that sitting still watching a screen is bad. But he actually learns a lot from watching DVDs. Both words, concepts and songs. But this is also where I come in as a parent. I have never felt comfortable parking my children in front of a TV screen. For various reasons. I don’t like the way, children’s programs have developed. Many have lost their innocence. Many are full of swearing, a language I do not want my children to hear. But many are also having scary elements in them or aspects of life that my children do not understand. Ever since I had my first child, I have been sitting with my children watching TV. And sitting with them as much as I can, when they watch DVDs, even if we have seen them fifty times over. Especially, with “Gubby” is has become important to do all this. He gets scared easily. He has thousands of questions. He talks a lot about what he has seen, so if you have not seen it as well, it might be difficult to connect. (One of the problems, 60-something special ed teacher L. had at BUP. She had watched nothing of what he had watched nor read what he had read, her being stuck on Winnie the Pooh, so she had a difficult time to relate.) If you sit with your child, it can become a worthwhile activity. And the best of all is, that if you see something you do not like, you have the remote control and the power to turn things off completely.
I am trying to buy “toys” and items that are meaningful to him. Toys that will teach him something. Things that will make him talk, that will start a discussion or inspire the imagination. For Christmas, I added Duplo train tracks, to the Brio wooden ones, we already had lots of. Why? To get variation. And the Duplo toys are easier for small hands. Plus the “electric” train for Duplo, is of better quality than the wooden ones. My older boys have had battery operated trains, but they have never lasted more than about a month. Then it has not mattered how many times we have changed battery or battery brand, they have been dead. And a dead wooden battery-locomotive doesn’t drive as well as plain ones. Nor has the wooden battery locomotives been able to carry all the cars that my boys have wanted to attach. The motor was never strong enough.
Why is this a fun and meaningful toy? Well, the railway changes looks every time. But also, train tracks are not easy to put together in to a railway, that will be funny to drive your train on. It takes some work to get it all together. “Gubby” can not do it by himself, which encourages interaction. His brothers love to help him out. Especially D. is good at building interesting ways for the trains to go. He’s an absolute whiz with the Brio tracks. And when he or “Kitty” builds, then “Gubby” tries to help out and discusses what they are doing and creating.
This might seem far-fetched thing to bring in to this post, but I have invested in dishes that make him happy, since they make him start talking about a character he likes a lot: Alfons Åberg. This particular set I found on sale, which was perfect. And it makes him and D. bond as well, since this character always has been a favourite of D.’s. “Gubby” loves the books and the DVDs, just as much as D. always did. And it happens quite often, that his 19-year-old brother sits down and watches them with us! Really!!!
I try to borrow a lot of books at the library. But some books become such favourites with “Gubby” that he can barely part with them, when we are forced to return them. Those are always books about things that he can relate to and loves, like: Celebrating a Birthday. Baking cakes and cookies. Celebrate Christmas. Singing songs, especially songs which have movements. Books about counting. Or books with characters he recognises from TV or films. One of the cutest books I have acquired lately, which we just love to read together, is a book from the series about cutie “Belle” and her adorable bunny “Boo”. This is as lovely as it can get, as cute and innocent that I love children’s books to be. In English the book is called “Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise”. My British penfriend has been writing to me on Belle & Boo stationary for years. Not until some weeks ago, did I go search for them on the internet and discovered that the characters actually come from books! Along with TV and DVDs, this is really the way to go, when it comes to be your child’s speech therapist. To cuddle up under a blanket, on the sofa, (I do have a faulty thyroid remember, so I am always cold) and read, is the best there is.
When Johannes was a baby, the rage in the US, or in our church congregation at least, was quiet books. People made them themselves, in order for their children to remain as quiet as possible during church. Three hours of church can be a holy nightmare for both parents and children, the latter being bored to tears and the previous, not knowing how to keep their children happy but as quiet as possible, to not disturb those, who come to church to actually learn something and have a spiritual experience. I made two quiet books for Johannes, but he was never interested in anything of the sort. He has always been allergic to books, even as a baby. One of the books was made of a strange kind of fabric, that has reacted with age. So that one was put in to storage very soon, since the white pages went yellow and looked oily. But the other one has been laying around and Johannes’ siblings have used it for one thing only, loosing all the moveable parts. Which is really sad, because when “Gubby” found it upstairs, in a box, he wanted to use it and play with it. So, I have decided to try to re-create the book for him. It has fun activities on every page, using zipper, buttons, … But till I get that massive job done, I invested in a book I found on sale HERE
kept “Gubby” entertained two Sundays in a row, during the sacrament hour and I have more or less decided that it is to be a Sunday book. Then it is new every Sunday, while if you let the child play with it every day at home, it will soon grow old and no longer hold the fascination. (Number seven is supposed to be crayons and they do all go in to the “box”, and it takes some work for the child to put them in rows so they all fit in well!)
From an early age, “Gubby” has loved puzzles. His favourites were for the longest time, ones with Disney’s “Cars” and “Thomas the Tank Engine” motifs. But he is more open-minded now, and on a visit to the village library, I could not make him leave the children’s section, till the library closed. He had found a puzzle he just loved puzzling. For months, I have not really thought too much about it, even though he sometimes begs me to take him to the library and the funny “skeleton” puzzle. A week ago, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps one could find one for us, over the internet. It would be another great thing to bring to church, in order to make him and “Boo” sit still instead of just wanting to go outside and run around. I actually found a place in Sweden that carried the puzzle, but the girl version of it, and for some reason, I thought my boys would find a boy puzzle funnier since they are boys? The shop called “lek é livet” (life is a game), said they were sold out and did not know if they would ever get boy ones in again. So I surfed the web and Amazon.co.uk have them. Buying from them actually made it cheaper than it would have been, if I had bought it from the Swedish shop. And then I count in shipping from England and the Swedish sales tax, which amazon put on their items. Today, I fetched the puzzle from the “post office” i.e. supermarket, and “Gubby” has had fun with it all afternoon. The puzzle really does what it promises on the back: Develops the ability to match and combine, develops powers of imagination and develops concentration and inner calm! I can highly recommend this funny puzzle. Just check it out below! Who wouldn’t love it.
My suggestions above for helpful items, are the ones that my little boy loves. That are meaningful for him. I often think about how I must count my many blessings. Well, it is easy to do so, when I hear him sit and sing along with “Hello Dolly”, when I see him dance with “the Wiggles”, when I hear him laugh at “Shaun the Sheep”. It is easy when I see his smile, when Alfons starts appearing under his porridge, in his bowl. And when he cries out “is it the bunny’s Birthday?” at the end of his newest book and he starts telling me how much he loves Birthday cake and is it someone’s Birthday soon? And to hear him sit and count on the loo or sit and watch him puzzle his body puzzle in different ways, over and over again, truly warms my heart.