I am amazed at the number of children that are in need of special educational care these days. Although I have no children of my own, I am concerned when confronted with the perplexed faces of family and friends discussing their young children.
Prior to entering the school system, these children seemed fine. But shortly after entering primary or even preschool, it all seems to change.
Parents are informed, sometimes rather casually, of the plethora of learning problems their young offspring seem to be suffering from. What once was a bundle of joy has now become an object of serious concern.
Here is a short list of what parents have to look out for in their pre-school children for these are signs that they might be in trouble: problems pronouncing words, trouble finding the right word, difficulty rhyming, trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week, difficulty following directions or learning routines, difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or coloring within the lines, trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes.
But do not worry, in no time, your child will be diagnosed with one or more of the following: dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, aphasia or dysphasia, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder.
The good news, however, is that you are not alone in this. There is an army of professionals ready to help, if your can afford them of course.
You could choose from any of the following: clinical psychologists, school psychologists, child psychiatrists, educational psychologists, developmental psychologists, neuropsychologists, psychometrists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.
And as you flip through your newly acquired psychology dictionary trying to make of it all, spare a thought for your poor child: he or she has been put in a convenient box and will spend the next twelve or so years trying their best to fight their way out of it.
It is unfortunately also true that many parents spend too little time with their children teaching them how to take care of themselves with good food and nutrition. How to grow, cook and eat fresh, unprocessed food, are life skills that is sadly declining very rapidly.
When having to manage a career and bring up children parents turn to convenience foods and entertainment for their children. The value of food is no longer measured by its nutritional worth, quality of ingredients or freshness or its contribution to quality family time, but rather how quick and convenient it is to prepare.
Instead to pre-cooked noodles, take some time to make your own homemade pasta with your kids. It’s easy to make, cheap and tasty. Kids love to get their hands dirty, to have them mix the flour and egg. Young boys like to show their prowess, so let them knead the dough, punch it to their heart’s content.
And watch the excitement on their faces as the fresh ribbons of pasta emerge from the machine they’d been churning. And to remind them of how special they are, name the dish after them. And the additional bonus for you’re the parent, fresh pasta takes only about three of four minutes to cook.
Make gardeners out of your kids. They do like to play in water and mud, don’t they? Let them hunt for fairies and elves among the tomatoes and carrots and for additional wonderment, add some earthworms. And let them touch these wonderful creatures, smell them and admire them.
And let your children play with their food. Food is fun. By mixing and matching we explore and experience taste and flavour. Let them prod and probe, suck and slurp their noodles and talk to them and laugh with them. And pack their lunch boxes with care and love and excitement. Show them that you care more about their wellbeing than the person in the tuck shop or the company making two-minute noodles. Help them get out of the boxes everyone else is so keen to put them in.
As student far away from loved ones, I loved getting parcels from home. Few things could match the excitement of opening that box, packed with love and filled with care. And skuinskoek (sweet fat cakes named after their diamond shapes).
For if I closed my eyes I could see my mother making these little sweet fat cakes, and her mother and grandmother doing the same thing. And to this day, it is the smell of aniseed that reminds me that someone cared, and cared enough to take the time to make these and send them to a far away place. Just for me. But mostly, that she took the time to teach me how to make these.