grow.

From time to time I cycle back to the topic of personal growth. Often.

And sometimes, I forget that I’m a piece of the nurturing growth puzzle. Not growth in myself, but in the kids I see every day I go into work. In the tape and pencil crayons, sparkly wigs and lego, cars and endless board games, sportsmanship lectures and hugs, soccer and Livin’ on a Prayer outbursts, problem solving and water parks.

Some days, I see these things as ways to fill days for our kids. But some days, I really see those things as what they are meant to be: opportunities for growth and development, opportunities to learn, opportunities to develop new skills and moral dissonance.

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From one of our soon to be first graders and his family.

Growth happens inside, but it requires things from outside to ensure all aspects–physical, affective and cognitive development–are nurtured. I need to see these things, these steps we take, for what they really are more often–like I’ve been reminded of today. That we are, many hours a day, helping to build these kids into who they are becoming.

Helping them grow.

school is about ability – lakay roberts

If you believe that school is about fostering ability, stick around.

A five-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy and her mother are in a battle with the New Caney Independent School District in Texas to allow LaKay to use her walker in school instead of her wheelchair.

Read a full article here, and then make your way back here.

I have sent the following e-mail to both Kenn Franklin and Angie Lee of the New Caney ISD regarding LaKay’s battle to be allowed to use her walker while at school.

Good morning, Mr. Franklin

At this point, I believe the e-mails should be about pouring in in response to the discrimination towards five-year-old LaKay Roberts whose walker is being deemed “dangerous” to her safety.  Here is another to add to the folder.

My name is Kerri. I am a Kinesiology and Applied Health student from Canada.  A great deal of what I learn in school is about making school and ALL components of education accessible to ALL children, regardless of ability level. To make all components of education accessible to all children, modifications have to be made. And play is pivotal to the learning process and the socialization process. Please reference Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on the subject if you are not familiar with the view that formal education kills creativity. As an educator, I am sure you can agree that creativity is crucial to the experiential learning process that is so important, especially for young children.

By forcing LaKay to use her wheelchair at all times during school, you are binding her creativity into tighter spaces. You are not allowing her to interact with her world in the most fundamental way possible: through movement and play.

Mr. Franklin, the young woman writing to you right now has spent time in a wheelchair herself. I am now in school learning how to make recreation and play accessible to ALL individuals regardless of their skill level, functional ability, or motor skills. Because the time I spent in a wheelchair and using a walker was enough. It was enough to make me realize that it is easier to be able to move around with a walker even if my movements were awkward or clumsy, than it was to make my wheelchair flow gracefully into small spaces. It was easier to pick objects up from the ground when using my walker than it was to even try to reach the floor when using my wheelchair.  It was considerably easier to explore my environment using the walker, but the wheelchair was available for when distances were too long or when I got too tired . . . as is LaKay’s option.

To force LaKay to use her wheelchair at all times is depriving her of that choice. To children, we both know how important it is in giving them choice in dealing with all life situations. This may be an inconvenience to you as an educator for the years LaKay spends in your school or school district, but LaKay is in this for life. LaKay will recollect this experience for years to come, even though she is only five years old, just as I remember all of the kids asking me why I was wearing “two different shoes”.  Furthermore, LaKay is in a crucial learning period for development of fundamental movement skills. And for her, learning how to most effectively walk, run, jump and hop while using mobility aides like her walker is crucial to her desire and interest in living an active healthy life and being integrated as fully as possible into physical education classes further down the road.  Exploration of movement, such as recess time, is crucial to this skill development. And as an educator, you cannot deprive a child of a chance to learn.

Mr. Franklin, it’s your call. Restrict a child’s access to her mobility aide that she is competent in using with minimal assistance and leave her “safer”, but more dependent. Or, allow the child and her parent to make the choice–who better to know their child’s abilities and limitations, and care more for his or her child than her parent?–and grow, flourish, and thrive.  All children get scrapes and bruises.  All children fall. And all children make choices.  Let LaKay and Kristi make this one.

With respect,

Kerri [last name withheld]

Riled up yet? Please send your own letter to the hotshots at the NC ISD who believe that they are NOT restricting LaKay’s development with their choices to decrease her ability to move while she’s at school. Join the fight to allow LaKay and her mother Kristi make the choice to allow LaKay to experience her equivalent of increased freedom in mobility as the other children in her community.

going and growing.

I have about a million and one thoughts flowing around in my brain, so bear with me!

What I lack in size, I hope I make up for in passion.

Maybe that kid was right–maybe I’m “too tiny to be twenty”. Sometimes I don’t feel twenty–I convince the kids of it daily, but sometimes I have a hard time convincing myself that I could possibly have a quarter of my life behind me already. Sometimes I think I should have more figured out. And sometimes I just feel small, whether that’s in a good way or a not so good way.

I just hope that I’m already making an impact for somebody out there that helps them grow.

I taught a grade eleven biology class about asthma today. It went well, but as always I forgot to say a few things I intended to. I’ve done this presentation several times and I tend to change it up at least a little every time based on what I’m feeling in regard to asthma and life. Today, to increase tangibility for NON-asthmatics I had a good section on exercise management beyond asthma and exercise. However, sometimes high schoolers are like talking to brick walls–I don’t blame em, I was (and am) totally not a speaking in class person. Overall, I hope the three students with asthma are maybe thinking a little differently about health management and asthma, and the 25 others are a little more aware of what people with asthma deal with. That said, it was their last day of classes before winter break, so some sluggishness was expected! As always, I’m hoping to keep improving this lecture and my OWN knowledge of asthma, physical activity and how it affects the adolescents I’m speaking to.

Speaking of holidays . . . Whoa, nutrition out the window. I have not been doing great in that regard since exams started up, but I have totally fallen off the track! Because at first it becomes “I’ll get back on track after exams” and turns to “Well, its the holidays! I can get back on after!”

Wrong mindset, brain. I had declared on Sunday after not only McDonalds but also Pancake House that I would reclaim some ground on nutrition over the week. That turned into pizza yesterday with Evan while Christmas shopping and pizza today with Dean; tacked on to all the chocolatey goodness that has been served up at work by my coworkers and our families AND the lovely chocolate “hedgehogs” that I received as a gift after teaching grade eleven biology this morning AND the bits of lovely deliciousness my mom keeps baking.
It also morphed into basically no exercise since Sunday. Granted, Sunday included both hockey AND the gym, freaking fabulous; and I suppose that hitting up three malls yesterday in five hours may count for a little . . . but I don’t think so!

To once again quote Jay in his seemingly infinite and entertaining wisdom, “Why are the holidays any different? Because the table’s longer and there are more people at it?”. Yeah, true story.

Not to mention that this has been going on since Sunday. And you know when “the holidays” start? Saturday. At the earliest. That is a week of pre-holiday slackery. Even if the holidays should be no different, which I fully agree with, starting the nutritional/fitness downslide when I was working at getting back on track is no bueno.

Tomorrow: I own you for fueling better. That is my choice, regardless of what deliciousness people give me.
Saturday, I own you for a pre-Christmas dinner workout.
Sunday is fair game for whatever happens and not to think too hard about it.
Monday, boxing day shopping is a sporting event; resume regular programming, and rock this.

I got this.

Returning to old schools makes me very aware of the impending future. Today, I headed over to my old high school after work (right next door), an hour before I needed to be there to speak. I dropped my stuff off in the very dark room and made my way through the halls looking for familiar faces and to repeatedly answer the same questions for teachers, people who have played huge roles in helping me to learn and grow into who I am . . . “What are you doing now?” and “What are you planning to do?”

Two and a half years ago I was sitting in those desks. University seemed so far off, the career part of the future even farther. Two and a half years ago I thought I knew who I was; in reality I was as confused as ever. Two and a half years ago I was one of those students contemplating the big world outside those walls.

It makes me see what I’ve gained. But it also makes me wonder what I will have gained in two and a half years from now. I left high school and thought I had a plan. Then my plan changed. My plan still changes minute to minute; other than “probably still in school” I have no idea where I’ll be in two and a half years from now . . . Less idea than I thought I had two and a half years ago.

That scariness is part of the journey. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thrive on it; I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t scary. But every single day I get closer to that answer. Every single day I know more. Every single day, things happen in a way that affect how I see the world and how I make choices. Every single day, I change as the world changes.

Every single day brings me closer to that answer.

And I wouldn’t trade this crazy journey for anything.

There are even more GOOD THINGS to come.

developmental physical activity: barriers in childcare

Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.  Every day.

It sounds like a lot, and that’s because it is.  I’m fortunate enough that I’m in a position where 1) I learn about the impact of physical activity on people of all ages on a pretty much daily basis, 2) work in an atmosphere that allows me to apply this knowledge directly to the kids in our program and 3) I can, in a small way, contribute to helping kids and their families meet this total.

Here’s the thing though: resources aren’t available to make quality physical activity programming in childcare accessible to all programs.

When i started my current job, my boss and coworkers were excited that I actually like gym games.  It’s basically my thing at work.  I love it.

I’d like to say to start: yes, our kids still play sports. I think that sports are valuable for kids to learn, to play, and contribute to long-term athlete development and being active for life beyond what gym games do.  But I also believe that non-sport physical activity can play a huge role in getting kids active for the simple reason that it is just fun.  Some kids, even as young as five, get serious about sports.  Because even when kids are little, they know what competition is.  There are kids who are young who get onto a field or a rink and are just little natural all-around athletes.  They’ll make the good passes, score the goals, and be that kid that everybody’s looking at and talking about positively.  When competition comes into play, these kids will thrive on it.  In turn, though, this can make kids feel that maybe because they aren’t natural athletes and aren’t that kid that they shouldn’t bother. It’s cyclic. That kid who’s always picked last decides they shouldn’t bother trying, they stand around on the field, sit around picking daisies and grow up fighting PE teachers trying to stay on the bleachers.  And if such behaviour isn’t modified, that same kid can grow up to face a number of health concerns due to inactivity.

I was that kid.  That kid who hated PE, and didn’t start liking physical activity until I took dance in my last semester of high school.  Because of that, I’ve hit a proficiency barrier in many fundamental skills that I just didn’t get during developmental PE in elementary and middle school.  So these kids that don’t like sports or just aren’t as proficient in the skills?  I feel for them, big time.

So I organize/facilitate our Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday morning physical activity component at our program.  It’s optional.  Monday is usually floor hockey, and I have no idea what they do Fridays.  I plan four gym games per month, but I play a lot more of them.  On a soccer morning, I’ll have probably ten or eleven kids.  On a FUN game day, perhaps Ollie Ollie Octopus or dodgeball [yes, we play dodgeball. I hated it, but the kids LOVE it, and it teaches a ton of valuable skills–running, throwing, dodging, agility, catching, etc–so I submit to the “Miss Kerriiiiiii, can we play dodgeballlll?” and let them play.  Gatorballs and typically below-the-waist hits only.  No injuries as of yet, it’s a good time], which are our more popular choices, I’ll have up to seventeen or eighteen.  On tag game day last week we had eighteen.  Seven more kids is huge.  We have usually about 24 to 30 kids in the mornings, so we get a big chunk of them moving first thing in the morning–engaged body, engaged brain.  While not every kid comes every day, I can’t pinpoint too many kids who never come.

The thing is, I’ve taken classes on teaching kids physical activity, and I’ve taken courses on making physical activity more fun for ALL kids.  I’ve learned where to find physical activity resources. From what I’ve experienced, this isn’t common knowledge among childcare staff, because that’s not where their focus typically lies. Additionally, many childcare staff do not have education in childcare.  I started working at a daycare [not the one I’m at now] less than a month after I turned eighteen with nothing but high school Family Studies classes behind me.  They either come straight out of high school, or from a variety of other professions.  That said, the people running programs are certified Early Childhood Educators, and thus create a program centred around that knowledge.  We’re required to offer specific amounts of outdoor play per day, but I’m not sure if there are regulations requiring active play to be a part of the day.  Keep in mind, too, that the bulk of resources are for phys ed teachers.  The very last thing I want is for morning gym games to feel like PE–for the kids who aren’t good at PE or who don’t want anything to remind them of school when they’re not in school, I try to keep a clear barrier.  That means lots of pick-up games and games with minimal instruction so that they can play and not sit and listen.

As for programming, think about this: a school-aged daycare at any given point typically provides programming for kids five to twelve years old.  Then wrap your mind around providing developmentally appropriate physical activity programming for that group, that encompasses a variety of opportunities for increasing a child’s physical literacy, as well as providing opportunity for cognitive and affective growth through physical activity.  Fortunately, physical, affective and cognitive development can be incorporated into a child’s day through active games — pretty much any game that requires a child’s body and mind to be engaged simultaneously [read: pretty much any physically active game] will provide opportunities for all of these to occur.  However, there is a huge difference in all domains between a five year old and a ten year old, and a seven year old and a twelve year old.  This makes finding games that this wide of an age-range will enjoy difficult.

Unfortunately, the barrier keeps growing in providing quality daily physical activity in programs — there aren’t enough resources available to early childhood educators or early childhood educator assistants (like myself).  Resources are either very difficult to find (even online), or they are provided by such organizations that are pushing for daily quality physical activity/education, but also charge between $50 and $100 for a resource book.  I was blessed to receive some resources from my friend Dia, but these resources were only available via partnership that Special Olympics Ontario has with other sport organizations.  The same organizations challenging the world to provide more opportunity and options for physical activity to kids are the same that are making it inaccessible for the bulk of organizations to do so — it’s understandable that profit and business takes precedence, but these things only work if the programs seeking the resources have the funds to access them, making it a catch-22.  These barriers are not typically due to childcare centres in themselves, but their governing bodies or sport and physical activity non-profits not reaching the intended market in the most effective way and/or not receiving adequate funding to be able to reach the places that need it most. What can be done to overcome them is likely a huge mess of economics, politics and continuing education.

I am only a small piece in the puzzle, and the centre I work at joins in the picture.  The puzzle needs to keep being put together to give our kids active, healthy futures and encourage physical activity for life.  I play a small role in helping get these kids more physically active–in a week, I spend an hour and a half in the gym with them.  It’s not enough, but it’s all I can do, and hope that the rest of the active component of our program, physical education class, outdoor play and parental engagement are doing the rest.  As for other childcare programs?  There’s got to be something more out there.

If you’re a childcare provider or have a child in a licensed daycare, let me know your thoughts — what’s your physical activity program like?  Do you feel that it’s enough?  What would you like to see your kids doing differently?  Let me know what country you’re from so we can compare.  Additionally, if you’re a childcare provider and can direct me to any resources, I’d greatly appreciate it!

i and identify — wearing medical id

(Anybody recognize that P.O.D. title?)

Yesterday evening, sitting next to the sixteen-year-old I do respite with at youth, she grabbed my arm and started playing with my purple flowery sportsband.  Didn’t ask about it, just played with it, and asked what time it was [I think she thought it was a watch].  The funny thing is, the last two weeks, none of the kids had asked about my bracelets (I work with like 55 of them).  Until yesterday, that is.

“Miss Kerri, do you have asthma?” [The kids at work call me Miss Kerri.  It’s all cute and such, though it threw me off a lot the first, oh, two months of work.]

“Yep.”

“[Insert other kid’s name here] has the same bracelet!  And she has asthma, too!”  [Hooray for being matchy with one of our kids?  She doesn’t wear hers much anymore, I’ve been noticing.]

“Yuppers.  I have a black one too, but it’s too big.”  Kids understand all about things being too big.  Adults kind of lose that sort of understanding.

The other thing adults kinda lose, is the ability to not ask me incessant questions and just take it for what it is.  Your bracelet is matchy to my friend’s bracelet, you both have asthma, I’m gonna go back and play now.  Kids are so easy (most of the time).

Last night, my other respite girlie sits down on my knee and starts playing with my bracelet. “I used to have that one!  Except it had velcro on it.”  [The girlie has asthma, recently diagnosed epilepsy and potentially severe environmental allergies in addition to the behavioural/developmental things that lead me to doing respite with her].

 

And my question is . . . why are these kids not wearing their bracelets?  I understand MedicAlert is a little pricey for some, but there are other options.  It’s something I definitely think is important, and people don’t understand how important it actually is..

It’s your life.  Do you wear medical identification to identify your invisible illness?  Why did you make that decision, or why not?