“Different, not less.”

Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, and autism spokesperson.  She is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism.  If you have not yet seen the movie depicting her life growing up with autism, starring Claire Danes, I urge you to do so.

Bucket fillers, Model Citizens, Random acts of Kindness, If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Phrases a lot of people grow up with.  Wondering how to instill qualities to create well rounded citizens?  Here are some tips to teach gratitude, kindness and acceptance starting at any age.

Spend time as a family. Create and strengthen relationships by spending time together.  All ages crave attention.  Put the phone out of reach, turn of the tv, and play.  When children experience love, they are more likely to pass it on.

Exposure to various cultures and people.  Read books that feature cultures and holidays other than your own. Get involved in your community.  Volunteer!

Model. Model. Model. Your little ones are always watching you.  Even when they are not looking at you, they are watching you.  With their ears, bodies, and minds.  And they will mimic your every move.  So be the person you want your daughter to be.  And create a world you want your son to be a part of.

Different, not less.  Don’t be afraid to explain to children why someone looks or sounds different.  And that they are still the same on the inside.  That they can still walk, talk, and play but may do so in a different way.

Development. When babies thrive, we all benefit. Giving babies a strong start in life increases graduation rates, improves the quality of the workforce, improves health, and reduces crime.  Investing in babies’ brain development is one of the most important things we can do to raise healthy, well-rounded adults.  Play is the fundamental building block to learning.  Play is their work.  Play is how babies learn.  By stimulating baby’s senses through play, we can foster strong relationships with caregivers, influential experiences, more restful sleep, and an overall happier baby.  Children who are healthy—socially, emotionally, and physically—have a greater chance of becoming economically productive and engaged citizens.

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Face the Feelings

“Share with Michael.”
“Be nice.”
“Mommy is tired.”

Everyone wants their child to understand feelings, share their favorite toys and to be okay with not having another cookie.  Guess what, it will take longer than you think.  Here is a quick run down of when a few of these skills develop.

  • birth-6 months: express feelings almost involuntarily.  Newborns will cry out when they are hungry, and smile when they are happy.  Their emotions are practically impulsive, however, even infant begins to understand the connection of “If I cry, mom will come”.  You are their safety!
  • 6 months-1 year:
    • enjoys social interaction
    • responds to praise
    • clings to parent in group settings
    • upset when a toy is taken away
  • 1-2 years:
    • interested in other children
    • but not so much playing together
    • express negative feelings ie. temper tantrums
  • 3-4 years:
    • shares toys and takes turns with assistance
  • 4-5: EXPRESS AWARENESS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS

 

Bottom line: Don’t expect your baby to solve Einstein’s equations when he hasn’t even had Algebra I.

So just how do you help your child through these tough times? Play!  Model turn taking and talk out your feelings.  “Look how happy Daddy is happy because you gave him the block.”  “You are mad because Mommy had to put away the bubbles, let’s pretend we are bubbles and pop up and down.”  Just like teaching baby to poke with a fork or taking steps, if you do it over and over again, they will begin to form memories and use strategies when the real thing comes up.

Now, go play!

Day by day and Room by room

How many rooms are in your house?  How many has your newborn seen? Most likely the living room, the kitchen, and a bedroom.  Branch out!  And put all of the rooms in your house to use!

Kitchen:
Sights, Sounds, Feels – blenders, mixers, timers, cold refridgerator, scented candles            (you don’t have to light them!), mixing spoons (jingle jangle!)
Baking Sheets and Muffin Pans – water play and magnetic letters
Silverware Sorting
Containers, containers, containers
Food! – messy play or tasting, that’s what baths are for!

Bathroom:
Bath – water play, finger paints, edible paints,
Lotion
Brushes – hairbrush, comb, loofa, sponge, lightly rub on hands and feet, legs and arms      for a tickl-y sensory experience

Bedrooms:
Blanket Burritos! Wrap/swaddle baby up in a blanket, rock back and forth singing                   “Row Row Your Boat,
Gently down the stream,
If you see the alligator, don’t forget to scream!”
On the last line, unwrap baby for a tickle attack
Blanket Peekaboo – cover baby face and slowly pull off to say Peek a Boo, or cover                   your face and let baby pull off of you
Lotion massages
Books
Baby/stuffed animal make believe

Living/Family Room:
Pictures – babies love to look at pictures, let them look at picture frames, photo                    albums, books and even magazines.  Tape pictures on a wall for baby to look at during      tummy time

No matter the age, allow baby to explore her environment.  Cabinet locks and gates are great for keeping baby safe but not for containment!  If there isn’t anything dangerous in a cabinet, there’s no need to put a lock on it!  Let baby explore the Tupperware, pots and pans, and pantry.  As baby starts crawling, different surfaces will help develop coordination and fine motor, rugs to hardwood or a step down into a sunken living room.

That being said, just a friendly reminder to never leave baby alone, even for a few minutes.  Be sure furniture, televisions, and large pieces of decor are secured to the wall or out of baby’s reach.  Even the shaking of a coffee table leg can vibrate a lamp off the edge.

Now, go play!