The Pandora’s Box of Summer Camps

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Contemplating the plethora of summer camps for our children this summer can be daunting with choices from vividly adventurous outdoor pursuits to assemblies of academic activities ranging in settings the world over from the mountains of Colorado, busy city of London, the world over is spilling out a realm of entertaining pastimes to keep our children busy and us as parents happily guilt-free. Here I will outline the benefits of camps, what to look out for and how to prepare our special needs child for camp this summer.

Why do I believe a quality camp is a brain enhancing and therefore a developmentally progressive option?

I as a parent and a camp organiser,I have seen the enormous benefits a camp can instill into children of all ages. My own children have attended various camps which have included performing arts and music camp, family oriented camp with lots of nature visits, and they have attended  the A.R.R.O.W. camp which I organised and they all have fond memories of all the camps many years later expressing how they loved, loved loved them. Whilst running the A.R.R.O.W. camp in Trinidad, I could see the development of the children as the weeks progressed. My own children who attended enjoyed the social aspect. The development of the campers’ self-esteem was evident after only a short time using the A.R.R.O.W. programme and this was further developed during the various enriching activities. And many of the same children come back year after year.

It is important to remember that not all children want to go to a camp, but keeping your child’s brain active with plenty of diverse activities is the best way to go. This means not overloading on academics but especially for those who may be struggling at school, this should be scheduled into their regular day. Stimulating their brain with the learning they have been doing during the rest of the year should be a small portion compared to outdoor energetic play, imaginative play, social play, quiet reflection and free time which could include making choices between music, art,creating, reading writing and journal ling.

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Some interesting research was conducted on what common pursuits high performing scientists had and here are the results :

  1. They were also musicians
  2. they were highly artistic
  3. they wrote exceptionally well       (Barron 1969; Bachtold and Werner 1970)

Given these research results, it is clear that these are areas we should allow our children to have the opportunity to explore with pleasure and develop without judgement or pressure.

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Planning a Summer Camp for your Special Needs Child

As with all children, we need to determine our child’s interests, age and personality. We also need to seriously consider what activities will support his/her learning and general development as well as for school.

Prepare

Arrange a pre-visit without and then with your child to the camp to meet the staff and explore the area.

Prepare your child with discussions about the camp and you could use pictures

Ensure the caring support that your child needs are going to be met and that they know his/her likes and dislikes.

Ensure the staff are trained and experienced

Opt for a shorter day option if it means your child will retain the enthusiasm, rather than tire her out completely and the end of each day becomes too strenuous.

Help prepare your child if it is a residential camp by asking necessary questions to develop their logical frontal lobe part of the brain by fostering self-understanding. Such questions should help them to think of solutions. Following is an example of what you could say;

“Do you expect to feel homesick?”

“How do you think you will cope with this?”

“If you feel homesick, what could you do to feel better?”

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What Else Should we Look out for?

I asked several friends who are teaching staff at a Primary School in the UK what their priority needs were when looking for a camp for their own children. The results were very similar with trained staff coming out on top. Also CRB checks (Police checks) completed, first-aiders, quality camp equipment and a variety of activities were among the priorities they expressed. Now these may be different to other parents’ checklists. My friends in the Caribbean may have very different wants. One friend responded by saying  “Building blocks, art or any kinetic movement activities to keep my busy bees happy and engaged.” Another Canadian friend who lives in the UK said “Something fun and educational, that would appeal to children who are shy and wary of leaving home! I’d love a Robotics camp, or advanced computer camp to create an app.” Another friend mentioned peace and happiness… thank you guys, I love these.

Our diverse children in many countries of the world offer camps to suit nearly every taste and budget. Exploring camps from the green slopes of Japan to the Caribbean, USA to Europe, I am hoping to arrive with you to a place where we can pick out the best ideas from these places and find a setting for our children based on what they love and what we love for them.

Mountains of Japan

Hakuba International school project. This camp is situated in the natural alps of Northern Japan. Set in open plan classrooms, Hakuba International’s main aim is to provide a first class educational institution with overnight facilities in a stunning valley. It offers hiking, rafting, mountain biking and wake-boarding for outdoor activities while also allowing children indoor time with visual arts, digital communication and music.

Italy

Arte Al Sole is based in Florence. This camp offers international children a week long stay with session of art, culture and national science of Tuscany.

 

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Best Summer Camps in USA (residential)

  1. An adventure outdoor camp offering horseback riding , hiking , archery and riflery set in the Colorado mountains.
  2. An outdoor camp offering sailing, singing , playing music, art , building fires and play.
  3. Youth conservation corps. They prepare meals, perform chores and provide environmental education with adventure programming. They call themselves sewerdship programmes as opposed to a summer camp. and have the participants work occassionally in mud surrounded by mosquitoes.
  4. Located near mountains this camp also offers water sports, creative arts, horseback riding and additional outdoor activities.
  5. The Roller Coaster Camp visits a variety of amusement parks  in different cities with the campers experiencing thrills from rollers coasters and staying at top well known hotel chains while travelling in luxury buses.

 

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Caribbean

A.R.R.O.W. (day camp)

This is a camp situated in the busy capital, Port of Spain, on the island of Trinidad. It offers the unique A.R.R.O.W. programme and thus caters for children who may be struggling at school with their literacy, concentration, self-esteem or listening skills. This programme is used every morning and afternoons are spent on art projects, outdoor games, music, yoga and a variety of excursions around the town, exploring both city and natural environments. Breakfast is provided and all staff are fully trained and experienced. (see http://www.arrowtt.com)

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The United Kingdom (day camps)

  1. Best for academics. The Oxford Summer Academy which provides an academic based setting  for 16-19 year old. Campers are lectured by Oxford graduates who can help them to excel in their desired field. There are cultural and historical excursions around and outside of the city.
  2. Best for all-round. Location: London. This offers specialized camp experiences for 3-17 year olds. Their three main focuses are sport, art and drama. Being cosy, welcoming, fun,convenient for parents and above-all, safe.
  3. Best for adventure (residential) Location: Scotland. Setting: The Lord of the Rings type. They offer canoeing, hiking, climbing, beach art, fashion shows, karaoke and quiz nights.
  4. Best for cultural experience. Location: Yorkshire. Half of the campers are from abroad and therefore the children are able to socialize from others from all over the world. They offer various outdoor activities. Safety and welfare is their main concern. Caring staff are chosen for their ability to work with children.

Alot to think about? Yes, but I hope you find the right camp for your child(ren), and if they don’t want to go, that’s fine as well. By all means, all we want for our children this summer as always is peace and happiness!

Making Maths Magical for JB this Summer

Teaching maths is easier and more fun when learned through other mediums, such as through the environment and through stories and poems. When we allow children to learn early maths skills and concepts this way, we are allowing a joyful experience that makes long-term neural connections because it is accompanied with positive emotions, fun language and play.

Stories with maths make a useful structure for extending play. During the summer break, JB will have lots of containers to use to fill, transfer and empty in a variety of shapes and sizes. I know he will do this because he enjoys doing it and therefore he needs it. This activity is extremely absorbing and teaches weight and measure. Language used will include ‘full’, ’empty’, ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘bigger’, ‘smaller’ etc.

Size can also be reinforced by playing with boxes of various sizes. Organising treasure boxes to discover and to make, ensures wonder and discovery is mixed in. An activity that I will enjoy with JB will involve collecting treasures we find outside; in the park, at the beach and fill the boxes with them such as leaves, twigs, small stones, and flowers. The objects collected will reflect the size of the box they will go in.

The language used will make essential links between the experience children get from the world and mathematics. Askew (1999).

Counting and the Outdoors

The ability to count with accuracy is the fundamental math skill to calculating and quantifying. The skills and concepts involved include reciting number names in order, counting objects as well as remembering which object we started with, understanding that any tangible or non-tangible thing can be counted and that zero represents nothing.

Games and Activities

Football Goals

After lining up 10 footballs, ask your child to kick each ball into the goal one by one. At the end, count how many balls went into the goal and how many did not. Vocabulary used here include, ‘aim’, ‘kick goal’, ‘miss’, numbers to 10, ‘count’, ‘how many’, ‘more’, ‘less’.

Find the Creatures

Bury a variety of plastic bugs in the soil or sand. Play with your child asking ‘lets see how many creatures we can find’, providing a small container to put them in. This can be followed up by categorising the creatures if you have a few of each spiders, beetles and frogs for examples as well as counting each category and counting them in total.

Let Your Child Lead You

For most of the day, I will allow JB lead the play with a short period of adult initiated activities. I find for JB that first thing in the morning and last thing at night are the best times. Before bedtime I would use fiction and non-fiction books.

If we know what our child needs to master, we can organise the activities beforehand and have the options available for our children to choose. For specific games and activities outside, I will plan to carry these out during the earlier part of the day when I know JB will most likely respond and be engaged. Children in general are happier when they have chosen their activity (as many reception teachers have realised and are now practising this) and as such, learning is more effective again, because positive emotions are being tapped into.

Sensory Play

Sand offers a multiplicity of learning opportunities, especially when teamed with other materials.

  1. Metal and wooden containers provide extra-sensory experiences and invites plenty of maths language
  2. We can add larger versions of buckets and spades, reinforcing more weight and quantity maths concepts. Making mud food is and improvement of the old mud pies which also encourages children to move around whilst learning.
  3. using measuring cups and scales, we can develop fun imaginative play in a play kitchen which can set up outside and talk about weights and measures

Other Maths Activities

Apart from the abovementioned forms of play, there are other activities that I will use with JB. I have listed these in categories.

Visual and Auditory

A.R.R.O.W. | Doman dot flash cards | Mandala patterns | Face reading | Sign Language

Tactile Sensory

Building with blocks | Printing with blocks | Playing with pebbles | Sand paper numbers | Sand, soil and water play

Discussion Activities

Sand and water play | Transferring | Mandala Patterns | Cooking | Cogs | Games | Imaginative play

Practical Life

Transferring | Sweeping | Cleaning windows, tables etc. (Spatial Awareness) | Cooking | Role play

Outings

Pointing out numbers | Counting objects in environments | Pointing out large and small objects in environments | Talking about objects that are the same or different (ie size, colour, shape etc.) | Running in different sized spaces (playing ‘tag’, encourages spatial awareness) |Singing number songs in transit | Talking about fast and slow

Specific Places to Visit

Historic places | Theme parks | Beaches | Animal Parks/Zoos | Museums | Live music performances | Theatre | Parks and playgrounds | Forests and walks | Art galleries

Focused one to one Activities

Puzzles | Sand paper numbers | Classification | Mandala Patterns | Maths language flash cards

Using the Arts for Maths

Using instruments | Listening and dancing to music | Counting beats | Singing number songs with actions | Painting | Printing numbers and shapes

Books

Rhymes and songs | Stories and factual to introduce and reinforce a visit or experience | Reinforce maths concepts of quantity, shapes, classification , same and different

Maths Resources

I will use most of these ideas for much our summer. There are however many more activities to do to address other areas of development but maths remains one of my priorities. I hope we all have a lot of fun with our children as we teach them and my hope is also to take care of ourselves and have some relaxation after each exhausting day! Look out for my next blog on summer activities to addrress Fine Motor Skills.

Cornelia xx

The Early Years Foundation Stage & How JB Fits Into It

The EYFS simply described is a set of developmental stages for the under 5’s that outlines specific educational and developmental milestones for each early years age group that each child is expected to reach. It is a compulsory framework for almost all under 5 providers in England who are expected to provide opportunities planned around each child’s needs and interests which need regular reviews and assessments.

It was of course no surprise to me when I received JB’s first report based on the EYFS. Areas involving working relationships, speech and listening and attention were meeting much younger age groups developmentally. So based on his levels, I have devised a thorough work plan for him to help him reach the expected levels whilst progressing at his own pace. Progress here is the key word, small steps or large isn’t the issue.

MAINSTREAMIMG

I didn’t want JB mainstreamed expecting him to overnight meet all the expected levels. I’m mainstreaming him to give him the opportunities and exposure of everyday language from his peers, high expectations from teaching staff, behaviour and modelling to emulate, goals to reach and accepted and loved for who he is. We have been shown time after time that children with Down Syndrome do better in mainstream schools, so giving it a good go makes complete sense.

USING THE EYFS TO JB’S ADVANTAGE

As much as the EYFS is criticised for its overly prescriptive and overly assessment demands, I see its point. I think it is particularly useful for parents and teachers of children who have special educational needs. I am using this framework to know which areas of development I need to concentrate on for JB in activities both after school and especially during the upcoming summer holidays. This is to prepare him as best as possible using a variety of activities which repeat a same learning concept in different and creative ways whilst and keeping it flexible.

So at JB’s last assessment combined with my own knowledge of where he is at developmentally and educationally, I have planned a timetable for him which I will share. Firstly, lets look at the EYFS. The EYFS is divided into 7 areas of development which are:

The Prime Areas;

  1. Communication and Language
  2. Physical Development
  3. Personal, social and emotional development

The Secondary areas;

  1. Literacy
  2. Maths
  3. Understanding the world
  4. Expressive arts and design

 

BREAKING IT DOWN THE EYFS WAY!

These are the specific areas broken down and where JB is at present. These are approximations:

Moving and handling                           22-36mths

Health and self-care                             22-36mths

Speaking                                                    16-26mths

Understanding                                        30-50mths

Listening and attention                       30-50mths

Managing feelings and behaviour    22-36mths

Self-confidence and awareness        30-50mths

Making relationships                           22-36mths

Exploring and using Media                 22-36mths

Being Imaginative                                 22-36mths

People and communities                     30-50mths

The world                                                  22-36mths

Technology                                               30-50mths

Numbers                                                    22-36mths

Shape, space and measure                   22-36mths

Reading                                                       30-50mths

Writing                                                        22-36mths

 

THE SUMMER PLAN

As well as JB’s day to day topics schedule detailed below, outings will address many of the topics and experiences that JB needs, and these will comprise a bulk of the summer. Music is included daily because JB cannot live without it! He shows a great interest in music and this therefore translates into a great need. Books will help to address and reinforce reading, the world, people and communities, numbers, listening and attention, understanding and speaking. Trips to the park, swimming and other forms of exercise will also be incorporated into his daily routine.

Monday

Music and movement

Reading and speech (flash cards)

Maths

Tactile sensory

Managing feelings

Writing and fine motor

Reading

Tuesday

Music and movement

Imaginative play

Maths

ARROW

Speech

Reading

Wednesday

music and movement

writing and fine motor

maths

tactile sensory

managing feelings and behaviour

The world

Language

Speech

Thursday

Music and movement

Imaginative play

Maths

ARROW

Language

Speech

Reading

Friday

Music and movement

Writing and fine motor

Maths

The world

Language

Speech

Reading

Saturday

Music

Gross motor

Maths

ARROW

Tactile sensory

Speech

Reading

This is JB’s plan, designed for him. What I am encouraging is that each of us keeps taking our children a step forward each day, waking them up a little more each hour by being aware of what they need. It is also important to know that they need ‘down time’, meaning after some energetic learning (and all concentrated and experiential learning requires a lot of energy for the brain), we must give our children at least five minutes to relax to let everything process. This goes for typical children as well and this is important to know. Ideally a relaxing walk will help with this, but just letting go is key.

Recommended websites

http://www.silkysteps.com/2014-eyfs-early-years-foundation-stage-

http://www.foundationyears.org.uk/files/2012/03/Early_Years_Outcomes.pdf

GOING DEEPER

In my next few blogs, I will detail the activities that I will use with JB for each topic each day. I will include details of resources, techniques and further sources of information for each topic.  My next post will cover maths which includes shapes, space and measure as well as numbers. If there is any really good information I am missing, please let me know.

It’s been fun so far, let’s keep moving our children forward together with fun.

Thanks, Cornelia xx

 

If I’m Happy, JB is Happy. But What Makes Me Happy?

In my last blog I talked about the importance of positive emotions on children’s learning and how I manage to keep JB happy. But given the demands of parenting a child with special needs, how do I manage to stay emotionally positive to ensure this works? As I happened on some literature, simultaneously experiencing fluctuating levels of happiness since I had JB, I thought writing about how I have managed to keep emotionally content and arriving at a more consistent ‘happy’.

Undoubtedly, having a child under 5  who in addition has special needs is no easy feat for any mother. I say mother not to out rule fathers, but more often than not, it is the mother who spends the most time in bringing up the children. I know there are many fathers out there who take on that role for various reasons and hats off to you. So here I was thinking when my third and last child (so I thought) became a teenager, that I was free from mothering young children forever, when – ok then, hello little one!

So, after the shock x 2, no 3, I settle into my new role, new life I start to wonder more deeply, what helps to make mothers consistently happy to ensure their children are happy, settled and secure? The consensus certainly seems to be that unhappy mothers cannot fully and convincingly provide what it takes to produce emotionally happy children.

2016 sees a time of more demands on a mother than any other time in history. Mothers need to not only nurture and love their children (which is the easy part), but educate, teach, nurse, organise extra activities as well as take them and pick them up, buying and providing nourishing meals, ensuring homework is completed, and the home is organised and clean. In addition, if you have a child with special needs there are hospital visits, therapy appointments, equipment hauling, behaviour management, extra time management, extra lessons and extra laundry! An exhausting life, but is it a happy one? Surveys show that in 2010, a mother spent an average of 4 extra hours per week with her children than one in 1965. A university graduate mother spent an extra 9 hours per week with her children whilst more likely additionally working outside the home.

After reading recently a book entitled The Pursuit of happiness by Ruth Whippman (for Netmums) I concluded as she did, that there are simply just a few answers (and quite obvious ones) to the dilemma we as mothers and mothers of children with special needs periodically ask ourselves; how do I keep happily afloat in the midst of a seemingly never-ending obligation of  super-mothering a child with special needs? I say ‘super-mothering’ because keeping our children emotionally happy and learning is no easy feat.

John Medina in his book Brain Rules for Baby, also clearly explains the ways a child can suffer of we as mothers are not holding our emotional thing together. And gladly gives similar evidence and clarifications as Whippman does in her book. Medina explains a conference he was presenting at when a father asked him ‘how do I get my child into Harvard? Medina responded by saying something like, go home and love your wife!

My previous blog on emotions briefly illustrated the consequences of violence and aggression towards children. This also applies when such acts are displayed in front of children. According to Medina and his research, if there is emotional upset between parents, the child’s developing brain will be influenced negatively. However, if we think of the main causes of marital conflict, we can start to break down those causes which are: social isolation, unequal workload, depression and sleep loss.

For example, a typical stay-at-home-mum could easily work up to 94.4 hours per week which outside the home would earn around £80,000 per year. Most men do not spend 94.4 hours per week at work and most men earn less than £80,000 per year.

Once couples are aware of the main causes of marital conflict and they prepare for them, the effects are much diminished.

So what are some of the counter practices that can help marriages and our children’s emotional and cognitive stability and development?

EMPATHY

When we argue relating to the abovementioned issues, we are thinking asymmetrically. I am right, you are wrong! Empathy however creates symmetry and therefore produces less hostility. The behaviorist John Gottman could predict divorce probabilities with accuracy nearing 90%. In his studies, he revealed that a marriage was pretty much divorce proof if the wife felt her husband was listening to her enough to influence his behaviour. Empathy is powerful and works well because it only requires understanding. This works for all members of the family; when each person practices empathy , relationships naturally flourish.

With regards to parenting, “empathy” Gottman said “not only matters; it is the foundation of effective parenting.”

SELF-EVALUATION

Mothers need to ask themselves some honest questions:

  1. Do I have many friends?
  2. What social groups do I and my husband belong to?
  3. How diverse are my friends?

Social isolation can lead to clinical depression which can also increase the risk of heart disease, infectious diseases and overall health.Belonging to social groups is the antidote to isolation and it is important that we seek out friendships and make the effort to maintain them. Since I was 19, I have moved to very different areas and essentially had to ‘start again’ with regards to my social circles. In each new place I lived, I encountered quite different experiences as each stage of my life was different. Belonging to a church however has made this much much easier where neighbourly love and friendship is encouraged and provided.

The Grant Study is a thorough research of the study of happiness that spanned nearly 75 years on 268 Harvard undergraduates, and intricately investigated every aspect of their lives. George Vaillant was the psychologist that lead this study and in answer to the question of what makes a good life, what makes us happy? revealed; ‘The only thing that really matters in life (is) your relationships to other people.’

Whippman interestingly talks somewhat about social media interactions. From researchers Kross, Ethan et al., it reveals that ‘Facebook use predicts decline in subjective well-being in young adults.’

Intense parenting itself has suggested through research that mothers (who give parenting an intense approach) are more likely to be unhappy with higher risk of depression; three times higher than the overall population. (Journal of Child and Family Studies).

I met an interesting couple on the train recently, with 2 of their 7 children. As we talked , the mother revealed that their 4 sons all had ASD. Both parents explained the difficulties that they had to cope with on a daily basis. As I scrutinised her unflawed, beautifully made up face, I silently wondered how she could look so unfrazzlled and well.As if she could read my thoughts she then said that there are too many demands made on mothers and gave a strong impression that she does not bow to these demands.

How do I manage to stay a happy mummy?

  1. Give my family priority time, phone calls mostly although skyping gets used almost daily.
  2. Visit and keep in touch with family and old and new friends. (I still have some way to go with this though).
  3. practice empathy as much as possible.
  4. give myself some ‘me’ time.
  5. exercise (mostly yoga and walking in the fresh air!)
  6. eat well to stay healthy (There’s nothing worse than feeling unwell).
  7. Relax! That means, I try not to take every detail seriously but have fun whilst doing my motherly duties.
  8. Ultimately it’s about love.. for God, my children, myself and the world around me.

Love you guys too!

Cornelia xx

 

 

 

 

 

JB’s Emotions and Why They’re My Priority

You may well think, why write about emotions?

Life with a lively young boy with Down’s Syndrome peppered with stubbornness and a good dose of physical strength makes for re-strategising on how to manage his behaviour, both of our emotions and ultimately maintain a happy and healthy relationship.

I believe that learning should take place all the time, even when JB is relaxing, I know his brain is processing something he has just learned. Our children learn by touch, hearing, smell, taste, movement, sensations and above all, seeing and being aware of the space around them and the people in it. If their senses are being stimulated most of their waking hours, their brain is making and establishing connections.

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However, if our children are not in an emotional learning state, none of this will be effective. Our children need extra minutes of input each day compared to the typical child in order to keep improving at a good rate, but at their rate. When I have managed to keep JB emotionally positive and feel he’s had a good variety of learning experiences during the day, I feel satisfied.

So, I know my child, what brings out the best in him and how best to deal with moments of challenging behaviour (although I am still learning here as well). I also have to ensure I am in an emotionally good place myself, and that JB is emotionally ready to learn.

If a child, and that means any child, is in a negative emotional state, he or she is not going to learn anything of great value. If a child is constantly being shouted at, humiliated or smacked, the brain responds in a very different way and essentially shuts down on all potentially good learning. Positive emotions do the opposite; they help each of us remember better to establish memories and enhance learning.

We are all exposed to situations that produce a variety of emotions all the time at home, and children have even more exposure at school. As a mother of a child with special needs, I have made it a personal obsession (a healthy one hopefully), to ensure my child deals with the uncontrolled negative emotions such as a death in the family and optimise on the positive ones.

On the topic of discipline, a child who experiences fear, the fear of threat, his brain will either be fighting it, running away from it or just taking it when confronted with it. A threat always takes priority in the recipients brain evoking a ‘survival’ response. Even threatening facial expressions are very effective in engaging the threat response (survival).  (Ohman, Flykr, & lundqvisit, 2000).

Violence causes the blood flow to decrease in many areas of the brain concerned with cognition. Studies on animals have revealed that threat damages the hippocampus and further fails to fully function for new learning in the short-term.

diagram-of-brain-showing-hippocampus[1]

The Hippocampus is a small area inside the limbic region of the brain that forms, organises and stores new memories, connecting particular emotions and sensations to them. It is also crucial in processing spatial memories. Many of these memories are processed during sleep and so learning something before bedtime is useful as well as getting a good long nights sleep.

Distress has been shown to kill brain cells, decrease new brain cells produced, and long-term stress negatively affects moods, cognition, damages the hippocampus and frustrates the ability to prioritize. Stress also impairs verbal short-term memory and memory created through experiences such as events. (Lupien, Gillin & Hauger, 1999).

Positive Emotional States

There is an emotional state essential for all learning; the joy and pleasure state.

Why? Firstly, there is improved behaviour and judgement. The high release of dopamine during this emotional state means the brain has a far greater ability to perform well in executive attentional system. This takes place in the frontal lobe which helps significantly in school success as it deals with short-term memory, judgement and decision-making. The brain’s ability to focus and ignore distractions is also enhanced.

A Word on Dopamine

Dopamine is a chemical that transmits neural connections in the brain. It is linked to positive experiences and pleasure and is a vital element in the built-in reward system which cements our ability to predict and enjoy perceived rewards. Other positive evidence of dopamine includes enhancing our attentional systems to improve memory involving symbols, words, textbooks, video’s, computers, abstractions and written stories (semantic memories). Dopamine also plays a crucial part in spatial memory.  (Schultz, 2000) (Denenberg, Kim, & Palmiter, 2004; Tanaka, 2002).

The School

It is therefore a necessity as parents to ensure that our children experience these emotional states at home AND at school by following up each day on how happy our children were. And if necessary educating the teaching staff that this is vital for their learning from the time they start and during all the years of their schooling. When our children experience these positive emotions at school, they associate such feelings with learning, school, teachers and assistants. Beware of bullying in all its forms!

The Anticipation and Curiosity State

The anticipation and curiosity state causes increased motivation and the formation of new knowledge. This is a powerful teaching tool for teachers and parents alike.

Even if we’re not officially homeschooling our children, it is useful to know what can increase these emotional states. Chances are you already have them down pat, but here are a list of a few, for parents, teachers, aunties, siblings, granparents etc.:

1. Physical Activity – The chemical’s dopamine and norepinephrine are released during movement and enhance long-term memory when learning takes place, before, or after such activity. I have JB walk as much as possible, climb at the park and we dance at home as he loves music and this all helps keep his emotional state positive.

2. Interesting questions/statements – These should ideally evoke emotion, thus changing from a negative state to a positive one of eagerness.

3. Lots of Hugging – this is useful especially after you have disciplined your child. JB responds well to this when he has been disciplined or just when he’s feeling frustrated or upset for some reason. An experimental psychologist at the DePauw University, Indiana, Matt Hertenstein confirmed this through research and added that hugging stimulates the brain to release dopamine as well as decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. Touch also increases the release of the oxytocin which is a neuropeptide that produces feelings of bonding, trust and devotion.

Holding hands, hugging and especially therapeutic massage all release oxytocin. Sometimes our children act grumpy and just want to feel connected to us, and hugging them is all it may take to fix it. It sure works with JB!

 

A quick word on changing states. If a child is in a negative state, we as parents and educators need to ensure our children (all children) change to a positive one for learning effectively, as well as overall feelings of well-being and happiness. Usually the child may be upset about something and this requires an empathetic listener. Show them some understanding of how they feel and if this is recurring, help them to change their own emotional states in the future. Older children should learn and know how to do this themselves. We as adults have to do this frequently!

4. Enthusiastic One to One Face Dialogue – This is great for speech practice. I follow JB’s lead on this and we have lots of laughs!

5. Role Modelling – All adults involved with children should strive to be positive role models. Show love of learning, smile, build suspense, tell a true story, show enthusiasm about learning and teaching, read a book, explore nature together etc.

6. Rituals – Sing or play a song, do clapping patterns, cheer, play an instrument, dance..  at a particular time each day.

7. Personal Learning – Link any topic you’re teaching to the child’s personal life.

When we actively and consiously strive to maintain positive emotional states in our children as far as it is possible, much else seems to fall into place. By hepling them feel secure and bonded, they are better prepared to meet unexpected disappointments and deal with them rationally with support.

Remember, as I always try to… If I do my best, even if it’s not perfect (and it never usually is), then it’s GOOD ENOUGH…

…AND………….  have fun!

Love Cornelia xx

Speech, Language & Publications – What I’ve Learned

This blog comes after much procastination. Why? because it’s a huge topic and one that I am sure I will have to continue in some follow ups.

I was somewhat in denial and didn’t understand the extent of the great difficulties most children with T21 experience with speech and communication. I had met and briefly worked with a five year old child with T21 at the A.R.R.O.W. Centre who had just 3 or 4 spoken words and I assumed that he was the exception and no way was any child of mine going to have such limited speech at that age! I have been taken off my high horse since then and have learned to steadily work on this and accept the small slow progress.

The most difficult fact for me to digest is that JB has uttered words with perfection, but then somehow lost the ability to repeat them. So by the time I realised I needed some help in this vast and complicated area, JB was already 16 months old.

I will outline in chronological order what intervention he has had since then. Before I do, I would like to mention something crucial that I learned during this time; speech acquisition and language acquisition needs to be addressed as a whole, so understanding becomes a central part as the child grows and learns. This is all an extremely complex process and exposing our children to a variety of healthy environments with clear commentary is key to growth and communication.

From Birth – Books , books, books!!, self-voice recordings, rhymns and songs.

16 months – 1st Speech Therapist (3 months) I wasn’t entirely convinced with the effectiveness of her approach.

                      – Face to face speaking

                      – 2nd Speech Therapist (4 months) She was good and she gave me some *exercises to do at home with JB, after a while she seemed to run out of ideas and she was quite expensive.  

                      * – face massage, inner mouth stimulation using biting implement and NUK brush. Blowing horns and harmonica.

                           – face pulling and imitations, immitation of sounds, sign language

                           – turn taking , lip smacking

                            – increasing listening skills using as well as Self-Voice, music, specifically Vivaldi Winter, from the Four Seasons, Vivaldi Violin Concerto with two Violins and Strings  in A and Guitar Concerto in C Major. These have been a valuable addition to JB’s life, he loves loves this music as well as other classical and loves to ‘play’ his guitar. These were recommended from another organisation that branched off from the Institutes of the Development of Human  Potential.

                               – 3rd Speech Therapist (1 month) She was excellent but was brief because JB and I had to move to another area. She made me aware of the difference that a state paid professional gives their all, all knowlege, all time, all dilligence, all caring to her client. She helped me to understand that skills such as concentration are prerequisites to speech and so all areas of development need addressing for the child, not just focusing on the speech entirely. She was wonderful!

                             – 4th Speech Therapist (1 year and ongoing). Again, this woman is excellent. She doesn’t pretend to know it all and is dilligent, positive and thorough. She visits JB at his nursery and instructs the staff there what he needs and follows up with one to one sessions with him as well. She is clearly addressing development in many areas as well as speech sounds and overall communication.

SPEECH, I have learned during the last few years as complex as it is, requires a holistic approach including the speech focused therapies. Education and life skills are equally important so that when the speech does finally come, it can fit neatly into whatever he is doing in other areas without having to address all areas practically from scratch. Thinking, awareness and understanding as well as gross and fine motor skills all play an equal part.

A Breakdown

Here is what I have learned are essential:

talking in clear speech. 

no T.V.      

work on concentration

the Self-Voice    

taking turns using games, gestures and sounds

praise with big cheers and claps    

practice words by demonstrating words broken down into syllables  

exaggerate facial sound expressions to imitate      

feed the brain with good nutrition    

exercise regularly to get oxygen into the brain and stimulate other brain pathways

repeat words while playing games and playing in general  

set the example

sing and/or play songs repeatedly

pair movement with music

have fun and pace yourself

…and more recently,  1) discovering other brain stimulation exercises such as walking up three steps, one foot per step, then down again without holding on, progressing to having eyes covered as he does this.  2) spinning slowly anti-clockwise on a swivel chair…...

... and perhaps most importantly, ADDRESSING POOR SLEEP FROM THE INABILITY TO BREATHE PROPERLY!

SOME BOOKS I RECOMMEND:

Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome by Libby Kuman. (There is alot of information in this book, but somehow too much and no explanations of why)

Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby! by Doman  Take from this what you can. I love this book, but go with what your child enjoys doing and don’t be hard on yourself.

What to do About your Brain Injured Child by Doman  Again take what you can. I realised that this was too much for me to do alone and the Institutes also recommend these strategies to be used fully with full family support. I nearly burnt myself out on this one.

Kids Beyond Limits by Anat Baniel  Another book I loved. I use many simple everyday techniques from this one that I believe made a noticeable difference.

Montessori – The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard. A well explained book about the Montessori techniques with strong research evidence.

How to Teach Your Baby to Read by Doman A useful approach and one that I found helped JB to learn more words as he repeated the words when I read them out.

Is That My Child? by Robin Pauc Good information on diet and what a difference it makes to the developing child.

The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge A fantastic insight on how plastic the brain is and gives hope to anyone.

TO DATE…

..I will continue to follow up on ths topic as time goes on. To date JB has about 25-30 some clearly, some not so clearly spoken words in context. He can imitate many more and this is a repetitive ongoing work that he actually loves to do. He LOVES TO SPEAK, and this is great for both of us as we have daily word sessions using his word books as well as other objects and body parts.

If you want more feedback on the books I have recommended here, please let me know. These are just a few, I will give further recommendations as I continue.

Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful.

Best,  Cornelia xx

 

 

 

Moving Forward – The Physical and Sensory Activities for JB

From the moment I knew I was expecting another baby, I was determined that he or she was going to flourish in every way within my control. Why make it harder for your child, if you could make it just a little easier.

I used the concept of epigenetics during pregnancy (see my blog on Epigenetics) to kick-start this process.

When JB was born, some local experienced mothers showed me how to exercise JB by moving and bending his legs whilst laying down. He seemed to enjoy this. I also looked into baby massage and began an evening routine that only fully developed after I took him home from his surgery at 6 months.

Knowing that touch provides valuable stimulation for the brain, this became an essential part of the routine. I enjoyed giving him a gentle all over massage after his bath every evening. I would then give him firm pressure on his joints following the bone, working from his fingers up to his shoulders, and then from his toes up to his knees. This is known as ‘deep pressure tactile therapy’ and aids fine and gross motor development. Thanks to Kay Ness for this guidance and information. I would repeat this therapy during the day as well when I changed his nappy singing to him the whole time.

A quick word on massage. The benefits are numerous and we know thus far that it stimulates growth hormone release, feel good hormones, bonding hormones, it promotes sensory awareness and improves muscle tone.

On a short break to Tobago the following year, I met a wonderful Reflexologist from Canada who seemed to connect with JB and he to her. She gave him a relaxing reflexology massage on his feet and the following day gave me a workshop on it. So this was added to our bedtime routine.

I added to this facial massage and stimulation to focus on the speech muscles by lightly tapping my forefinger and middle finger tips from his mouth across his upper lip and on his chin up to his bottom lip.

JB  was a little delayed with sitting up unaided so we took him to an Occupational Therapist. She told us that his muscles had sufficient strength to enable the next physical milestone to follow soon and didn’t see a need for any follow-up sessions unless the skills were delayed for much longer.

When JB began to crawl, I aided his movements by moving his arms and legs forward in the correct pattern. I had read about a young man who was told that his father would never walk again after he had suffered a stroke, and the son was determined that he would. So he took him outside in the garden everyday and began with crawling movements. This basically develops the mapping in the brain until it becomes a capable skill. So soon enough JB began to crawl alone. I let him crawl as much as possible and 7 months later, JB was walking. Luckily living in the Caribbean enabled alot of barefoot wondering, and as JB loves the outdoors, there was much underfoot textural stimulation as he ventured out and about in the garden.

JB had and still has alot of energy and loves to move around as much as possible. Every evening before his bath, we would go out walking. We walked and walked until he didn’t want to walk anymore. During this time, JB also enjoyed his new tricycle and climbing equipment and especially his swing, which he would have stayed in all day if I allowed him!

The tricycle was for the most part something to push around or to be pushed around in. He eventually was able to pedal a little but his legs were too short for consistent peddling so he didn’t establish this skill at this time. The climbing equipment was his second favourite activity and he quickly learned to climb to the top in just seconds, over and over. JB essentially enjoyed using all his physical toys including the see-saw which I equally enjoyed every day. During this time we also joined a swimming group. When JB turned 2, I started other physical activities with him as recommended by Glenn Doman.

I set up crawling tunnels using chairs and his favourite book as a motivator at the other end. We also started forward rolls and hanging, holding onto a bar. I also introduced walking on an imaginary bar which was really just tape stuck to the ground. All this was hard work, but for the time being, manageable because it was fun. That was until JB decided he didn’t want to do any more crawling or bar walking, so we continued with everything else.

We also continued to take our evening walks and increased the distance. JB additionally enjoyed a once weekly gymnastics club for toddlers and loved using the trampoline. I was concerned that JB was not able to jump and this was a wonderful exercise for him to learn some of those skills and experience the sensations.

During this time, JB’s schedule looked something like this:

  • 8am-Fruit
  • Patterning
  • walking
  • 8.30 – breakfast
  • Reading – Self-Voice (A.R.R.O.W.)
  • Boxes, cylinders
  • NUK brush
  • face massage
  • crawling
  • forward rolls
  • snack
  • patterning
  • walk/run
  • 12 noon – Lunch
  • books
  • sleep
  • 2pm – smoothie
  • books
  • climb
  • walk
  • patterning
  • 4pm – Dinner
  • boxes
  • music
  • books
  • walk
  • milk
  • bath
  • massage, joint pressure, face massage, reflexology

This schedule was actually less rigid than it looks and I was more guided by what JB wanted to do at any given time within a set of choices and what I felt would suit his mood at a particular time. It was a good guide and helped me to remember the activities.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, these schedules changed all the time, so I may have worked with this one for a few days.

To address JB ‘s other sensory needs, I made sensory boards using various textures, patterns and finishes that I found in cheap costume jewellery shops using large bangles and earrings.

To address JB’s sense of smell I taped up small tins that I punctured with holes in the lid having inserted cotton wool with drops of essential oils; a different aroma in each tin. Much of the day JB explored the outdoors; nature provides rich multi-sensory experiences  and by making children aware of the details in this invaluable resource awakens them to notice and discover more and more.

Today JB loves to listen to and experiment with music both by watching musicians play and trying musical instruments himself. His favourite music to date is Vivaldi’s ‘ Winter’. I introduced this piece to him after reading some positive reports and research that this aids listening skills.

We have moved on from this in the past year as JB now is in full-time nursery and many of his needs are met. However I still provide for him the physical and sensory experiences he needs at this stage by listening to him and continuing to listen and learn from others.

Thanks for allowing me to share this with you.

Cornelia x

P.S. Happy Down Syndrome Awareness DAY! and join me in my next piece on Speech and Communication.

Education and Schooling for my JB- The hopes, challenges, solutions and blessings

After JB’s surgery and our return to Trinidad, one of the first things I did was look into his future educational needs. I got the general message from other parents of children with T21 that there were no suitable schools or provision for our children.

I was determined to find a great school for JB. I discovered that many children with special needs went to special schools where they were considerably underachieving being only partially literate if at all and lacking an all round balanced approach.

This is not a critisism of those who own and manage the schools, the schools are considerably underfunded and on the whole, the private school fees were not very high; therefore there is difficulty with accessing the high quality resources and training that is so desperately needed.

However, I remained optimistic. I eventually came across a Montessori School and researched extensively on the Montessori system. Feeling happy with what I had discovered, I went to visit the school and the Principal was enthusiastic to have JB start the following year at 2 years old. The 1:1 issue was discussed and she was happy for me to stay intermittently with my daughter who was taking a year break from education and looked after JB when I went to work. Wow, I had done it! I found a wonderful school for my JB.

The following year I went to the school to register JB as guided by the principal the previous year. To my great devastation I was told that their policy towards 1:1 had changed and that they cannot accept him!!

I spent the following months driving all over the district visiting other private Pre-schools in a desperate and almost fanatical frenzy, determined that there must be somewhere for my JB. I did find one lovely school, but they already had 2 children with T21 and they said they couldn’t accept any more. That was the last school on my list. I had exhausted all possibilities. 

I started looking online; reading research publications, blogs about homeschooling and various educational methods. I invested in some resources, did more research and started educational programmes at home. I tried techniques recommended by Glen Doman as well as Montessori and other more mainstream techniques and lots of trips to the beach! Lucky for me JB loves books and lying in a hammock, so we spent long periods every day reading. A Cat in the Hat was his favourite and we read and read and read. Alongside all this we continued with the much loved Self-Voice sessions as practiced in the A.R.R.O.W. Learning System.

Life was good. It was hard work but it was working. After a few months though, JB began to resist the learning schedules. I must have re-written the schedules at least a dozen times to keep it effective and interesting but also to find the exact stage of learning for JB. JB’s wilful personality turned our days into battles of gentle persuasion that became totally futile. He just refused to continue!

Then came the hardest decision I ever had to make. Find JB the education he needs back in the U.K. The decision was a long one that I wrestled with. The eventual plan was heavily immersed in the faith that I had to exercise in order for it to work. This meant leaving my husband and teenage child and going it alone. Four months prior to leaving I enrolled JB into a special private school with an emphasis on Montessori. Here he learned the very important lesson of detachment.

The timing of the move was crucial. I still had clients that I was working with on the A.R.R.O.W. Speech Programme that I had to close off. Nevertheless, there began a slow close off and a gradual transition in my life and that of JB.

We arrived in the U.K. on a chilly morning early in January and despite my optimistic plans for JB sto start nursery the same month, he didn’t start until April. The wait was worth it.

Inclusion was the number 1 priority for me and this was finally achieved.In addition were excellent resources, well trained staff and loving support. We decided for JB to stay in nursery until the following year, so that he has more catch up time before starting more formal education. After the second week that JB first started the nursery, he exibited newly learned skills; dressing and undressing were the most dramatic ones. The nursery teacher plans his learning carefully from week to week to take him to the next level which his key workers follow. JB has weekly goals and plans which are reviewed and rewritten every Friday ready for the following week.

The SENCO really helped us out when we first arrived by kick starting the provisions and she continues to provide much needed support. These have been the blessings. JB is very happy and he is realising and enjoying his progress. He has come so far with his independence, understanding, appropriate use of play materials, social interaction with peers and staff, communication, concentration and following instructions.

JB’s brain is waking up a little more each day. This is the education he needs at this time. I know there will be new challenges ahead, but we celebrate his achievements today and we pray for more tomorrow. We will face those challenges as they arise and find the solutions.

What have I learned from this part of our journey? That sometimes our plans take time to materialise and it’s usually for a good reason. That we must try to do all we can to make them happen. That our children feel happy and connected with their main caregiver and generally happy and loved as they learn. And finally, to change a situation if it is not working, staying hopeful and optimistic.

Please journey with me in my next blog on what we did to assist JB’s physical and sensory development.

Cornelia

 

 

Epigenetics and Attitude- Using the Power In the past , it was assumed our genes were inherited and could not be changed. In recent years and fortunately for me before JB was born, scientists have discovered that genes are in fact changeable dependent on environmental influences. So what kinds of things change our genes? Firstly, nutrition which many of us by now are aware of. In addition though and equally important are our actions, thoughts, our unconscious beliefs, our emotions, perceptions, exercise, toxins, daylight, sunlight and attitudes! What does this mean for us and our children; born and unborn? It means we are the drivers, we have the power and control over our health in every way: mental, emotional, physical, cognitive. All this of course also gives us greater responsibilities over our total being and that of our loved ones. I started to read on the subject when I was pregnant with JB. Thus I began to practice daily manageable activities that would influence his genes and give him a greater headstart in life and for the rest of it. So, this is how it works: if you play a musical instrument during pregnancy, your child's musical genes will be expressed and have a natural inclination for music. If you deeply engage and study the concept of speed and velocity, dance, design or lay around and do nothing much, those genes will be expressed in your baby.
  • Moving - I began to exercise more. I had practiced yoga for around 11 years and this was a natural continuation for me although learning new postures for my condition was a refreshing experience. I joined a yoga for 'mums to be' class and found it wonderfully nourishing both emotionally and physically. In addition, I began to set time aside every day to walk. 40 minutes and sometimes more. I knew this would influence JB by expressing those genes and therefore help make him physically active, further enhancing his lifetime emotional, mental and physical health.
 
  • Language - I read daily to JB out loud. I talked to him, sang rhymes and read stories and scriptures. JB's daddy also spoke to him daily. After JB was born, I extended his language and learning potential by exposing him to his own voice. Something I knew would be effective and enhance his language as I'd used the A.R.R.O.W. Programme in the past and had seen the effects. Also Dr. Lane's research into the self-voice demontrates this. In his book; Self-Voice A Major Rethink, Dr Lane states, 'Whilst any one of the A.R.R.O.W. components may be stressed at any particular time, it is the student's own voice, the self-voice, which remains central to the approach.' Many other researchers have demontrated that when a baby hears its own voice, whether gurgling or crying, the baby becomes more vocal.
  • Music - I played my favourite music which is classical. My particular favourites during my pregnancy included Chopin, Mozart and my all time soundtrack love; Pride and Prejudice. After JB was born, he noticeably recognised the music especially form the soundtrack and the pieces seemed to calm and soothe him. To this day, JB is instantly calmed when I play any of these pieces of music to him.
  • Attitude - With hormones rushing around during the initial stages of pregnancy, this was quite a struggle. I did though consciously try to stay positive and calm and cheerful. I continued to work part time and took ample rest as well as the exercise. I tried to keep my days peaceful and balanced.
  • Diet - As descibed in my previous blog, I consumed food that was high in nutrients and fibre with plenty of water. Research on epigenetics in 2009 showed that rat fetuses who received poor nutrition had as a result adapted genes primed for poor nutrition. The results included smaller sized rats at birth and high risk of obesity, diabetes, neurodevelopmental delays and cardiovascular disease.
  • Deep breathing - The brain needs oxygen. The more clean air we get into our brains, the better they will function. During exercise, and also yoga, this happens naturally. I did however set aside a few extra minutes each day to breathe deeply, so that the oxygen would help to nourish and enrich JB's system.
This information is obviously not only usedful for babies with Trisomy 21 or any other condition, but for all babies, all children, all parents everywhere! IMG_6060a Acting on epigenetics will make a huge difference for the future generations and significantly help provide a promising future. We all have the freedom and choice to express our genes throughout our lives. Effective therapies can regulate our genetic expression, be it emotional, physical or cognitive. As such, we continue to create a favourable environment for JB to be at his optimum as much as we possibly and comfortably can. Having healthy family relationships and expressing love and support to our children in addition to the other environmental influences will give him the platform he needs to continue to thrive and have a promising future. Thanks for reading. Tune in to my next blog on schooling! It's been a great learning experience so far! Cornelia x    

Down’s Syndrome – What’s worked for my Little Man…

I am now going to fast forward in time from my last blog….. 7 years forward; the birth of my son who has Down’s Syndrome or Trisomy 21 as I prefer to call it. There is so much to share and so I will break it down to a few key areas during my next few blogs:

  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Epigenetics and Attitude – The Power
  • Schooling
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech
  • Emotions
  • Cognition including Attention
  • Waking up His Brain
  • Books, Publications and Blogs

 

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Diet and Nutrition…….

I have decided to start with diet and nutrition because this is what I focused on primarily before he was born.

My own diet was clean. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables many of which were organic balanced with proteins, carbs and plenty of water. This was my fourth and very different pregnancy. We didn’t actually know he would have special needs, I just wanted the best for my baby based on what I had learned during my 14 years since my last child was born.

I included smoothies daily containing brewers yeast, wheatgrass and sunflower seeds. I also had the DHA plus pregnancy supplements.

When J.B was born, 5 weeks early at 5lb 11 oz all seemed well. A paediatrician commented on how well he looked and asked if I took vitamin supplements during pregnancy! I  continued my nutrient packed diet to keep my milk as nourishing as possible. Then at 3 months it was clear that all was not so well. J.B suffered heart failure and was losing weight drastically. He needed immediate surgery and so I flew from the Caribbean where there were no paediatric heart surgeons to the UK. A week later he was on the operating table and by then also being fed formula milk. We continued with the formula post surgery in addition to my breast milk, weight gain was serious business at this stage.

Before we knew it, he was six months old and happily chubby. JB started his own food. In addition to his first foods which included paw paw, sweet potato, pumpkin and yam, he started to drink green smoothies which he loved!  However, at 11 months, it was apparent that JB became congested every time he drank formula milk, he also became overactive. After reviewing the milk benefits and realising that there was sugar added as well as other questionable ingredients, I stopped the formula and continued to breast feed which then increased my supply and I continued to breast feed until he was 26 months old. I wished I had done this earlier:(

 

Eventually I discovered that JB’s digestion was not working well enough to digest chicken or fish and he also had a bad reaction to eggs. So JB became a vegan!

Since then I have introduced him to Nutrivene D supplements, zinc, magnesium, calcium, omega 3 and high protein foods including beans and brown rice, quinoa and raw organic vegetables, especially broccoli which he loved from the start.

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Of late, (he is now 4 years), to further increase his protein intake (on the advice of Robin Pauc), I have reintroduced fish and chicken, he now can digest both easily and he is also eating eggs successfully.

So this is what JB eats. I want to let you know what he doesn’t eat. JB does not eat anything containing wheat, refined sugar, preservatives, artificial colour, heated oils other than coconut oil, or dairy products. His diet is clean and all meals are cooked from scratch. The majority of his foods are organic.

JB is physically active, alert, fast, responsive, well built, strong and lean. He is also mentally alert, fast, responsive, observant, keen to learn and has a great sense of humour!

Ensuring this super balanced diet is achieved daily takes planning and practice and it has taken me a while to get it right. I am still learning  and still tweaking. I prepare meals in advance when possible to allow more time with JB, and plan weekly menus to avoid the ‘what shall I cook tonight?’ syndrome. I keep it simple and manageable and it works.

In a nutshell, this is JB’s diet…and mine. I practice what I preach and I have been able to keep up with this ever energetic and growing boy by keeping my own health a priority.

If you would like to know more about our food and meal-planning, let me know. I will get some simple recipes to you…. meanwhile watch this space for my next blog on epigenetics and attitude… our state of mind and the power behind them!

Thanks for reading,

Cornelia x