Help! My kids are not perfect!

#MightyMums. How BabyBrains can help you enjoy being perfectly imperfect.

1:36pm, sunny weather, the temperature is 22 degrees even in October! Everybody is finally asleep at home. It smells like coffee and... broccoli? Ah, yes, I have food all over me. Even in my hair… I should sleep too, but I can’t!

Since I have read the last #freshfromthelab, What’s the best environment for an autistic child?, thoughts about autism are all over my head.

After a lot of « lost in reading », where I completely forgot about my sticky food-hair, I finally started to write my first post for BabyBrains. I am so excited and nervous too…

Relax. It’s easy and you know what? The bottom line is that the experience of parents with autism can teach us all a great deal about accepting our children for who they are, about investing in a relationship, and about enjoying every second of it.

Inspiration from science?

Let’s talk about what’s really matter for us parents of autistic or non-autistic children. What implication has Anna's work on our daily lives?

In really short summary, we know that some signs that are predictive of autism emerge as early as 6 months. Scared? You should not be. Knowing more means to have more scope for action, and this applies in the home, in the research lab and at the doctor's.

Sure, it also means being crushed by the weight of reality. It also means giving up on that dream of your perfect little baby in your perfect little family. Sometimes we need some help to get there (from friends, from peers and/or from professionals). After all that is a dream, sooner or later all (mentally) healthy parents will have to give up.

Even babies, for all their cuteness, are human beings. Even parents, for all their good will, are human beings. Human beings are limited: their potential seems infinite, but the implementation invariantly leaves a lot to be desired.

As soon as we give up on this idea that we ought to be the perfect family (and who has not judged other families in their pre-kids life? Who did not know exactly how to be a perfect parent? It looked soooo easy back then!), we are suddenly free to see our challenges in a whole new different way!

Whether our child has autism or not, we will certainly come to face the reality of his/her limits and of our limits in the relationship to him/her. And that's our moment to shine.

What if those challenges were a gift after all? Something that will help you learn about what really matters in life? Something that will force you to slow down and engage with this person. The real one. Not the imagined one. The actual wonderful, limited, lovable creature you are spending your days with. You are discovering what unconditional love is and that it brings so much more joy than any picture-perfect idea you might have entertained before.

Yeah... you might say: “You make it sound easy.” But really?? In the middle of my busy life, of the pressure to achieve, to look good, to smell good (gosh!! This broccoli pure in my hair is starting to properly annoy me).

BabyBrains is here for that.

In addition to coming to the workshops and webinars, and in addition to using the BabyBrains app, here is a list of easy things you can do with your child, whether she has autism or not, to nurture your relationship with him/her in a way that is fun and that boosts her/his development and your knowledge of her/him.

1. Pull faces.

From birth onwards, babies find facial expressions enthralling and fascinating. That’s why you’ll often catch people (usually granny) holding a newborn for the first time pulling all manner of funny faces. You might feel daft doing it, but this is a great visual stimulation for your baby. A newborn baby’s sight can only focus from around 20 to 30 cms away which is the perfect distance for them to see the face of whoever is holding them. So, hold your baby close and pull as many happy and funny expressions as you can. (See Week 1 on the BabyBrains app for more info about this).

2. Focus on the eyes.

Making eye contact with your baby does melt your heart, but it is also crucial for their visual development. Babies are great mimics and you may even find that your baby tries to imitate your facial expressions when you make eye contact and sing and talk to them. This is great for stimulating early cognitive function as well as discovering your baby’s unique sense of humour. (See Week 21 on the BabyBrains app for more info about this).

Around four months of age, your baby begins to comprehend distance and can even judge how far away their favourite toy is. This is a great time to introduce mobiles and other dangling toys that can be reached and grabbed from the car seat/buggy/cot. This is a great foundation for that all-important hand-eye coordination. (See Week 15 on the BabyBrains app for more info about this).

4. Play hide and seek.

All games where things appear and disappear are so much fun for babies. Which means that they have so much to learn from it (Do you want to know more about the function of fun in learning? Join our webinar!!) Try to partially hide an object such as a favourite soft toy on a low shelf or under a cushion: your little explorer will take great delight in finding it. Also, try slowly moving a favourite toy around in front of your baby’s face and watch how he tracks it with his eyes. (See Week 20 on the BabyBrains app for more info about this).

5. Play who’s who.

In the second half of he/his first year of life, your baby’s powers of memory and recognition are in full swing. Spend some cosy time showing him photographs of familiar family members to see if he can recognise and point to them. You’ll be surprised just how much information your little one has been taking in!

6. Get out and about.

Don’t be confined to your home. Outdoor stimulation is incredibly important for baby’s development, and your baby will learn from new and unfamiliar surroundings. When out and about, be sure to point out different sights and objects from dogs and trees to planes and autumn leaves, it’s all rich visual stimulation for infants.

7. Stimulate sight with food.

Weaning isn’t just about getting used to eating solid foods. Experiencing different coloured foods in various shapes and sizes is also hugely beneficial for your baby’s visual development.

Where possible let your baby try and feed himself so he can get to grips with all the different shapes and colours as well as practice hand-eye coordination. (See Week 45 on the BabyBrains app for more info about this).

8. Play with mirrors.

Prop a baby-safe mirror next to the cot or sit the baby on your lap facing the mirror and show her the different parts of his face – nose, eyes, mouth, ears, etc. Looking at his reflection helps your baby learn how to focus, track images and discover her own facial expressions. Mirror play also encourages social and emotional development. (See Week 46 on the BabyBrains app for more info about this).

It can be overwhelming sometimes to think about all the problems our kids develop. But if we help them grow by learning who they are, communicate and stimulate them, we also can be just grateful to finally get the chance to see them from the other side. It sure is a lot brighter. Your kids are imperfect. So what?

Personally, my children are not perfect, and I am happier that way with my broccoli-dried hair.

The writer: One mighty broccoli-scented mum.

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