acepuppets

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


kids_by_lookforart

These days it would seem that the Nicky Morgan and Jeremy Hunt make policies without actually talking to each other.  We are given such mixed messages when it comes to developing our children’s minds and bodies.  On the one hand the Education Minister wants to increase the amount of academic work our children do, including dreaded homework. On the other hand,  the Health Minister keeps telling us we are too fat and children don’t get enough exercise.  The amount of opportunities children have to free play and therefore exercise is decreasing with every new target that is added to the OFSTED process.

Tracey Crouch, the Sports Minister, tried to convince us that the Olympic games would make athletes of us all.  There was a little increase in sports participation but nothing to get excited about.  Our medalists didn’t inspire us to exercise more, rather they encouraged us to; open new bank accounts, eat Quorn and watch, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  All of these activities could be done at home on the sofa and failed miserable to get anyone excited about sport. apparently there is no single reason why people don’t participate in exercise more.

School trim trails, climbing frames, climbing walls and many other pieces of playground equipment adorn our school playgrounds now, yet children are not getting as much time in the school day to play freely. In the late 70’s and early 80’s when I was at school our playground equipment consisted of a dangerous climbing frame, a huge field, crystal draining stones in a filled in stream, grass cuttings and magnifying glasses.  Incidentally the exercise we got from the magnifying glasses was running away from the dinner ladies when we used them to melt black bin bags.  If it was sunny we would go out and play rounders or cricket on the field.  If it was snowing we took our sledges to the nearest hill and didn’t worry that we were missing English or Maths.

These days, unless an activity has got a significant number of learning outcomes and can be incorporated into a success criteria anything that doesn’t have a box to tick doesn’t count as learning.  The notion that exercise has to be formal and that you should achieve some sort of accolade for participating in it is suffocating our love of sport.  My brother and I spent one summer holiday playing in our grandparent’s empty coal bunker, it was great because the adults couldn’t get to us and we got filthy.  The amount of agility and strength required to get in and out of a coal bunker is quite a lot, we slept well at night and fat kids can’t fit into coal bunkers.

We all probably interfere far more in our children’s lives than our parents did in ours.  For some reason we treat children like they are made of fine china and neither their feelings or their bodies should be hurt.  I had bruises and scuffed knees for most of my childhood – I didn’t get upset about it and our parents were caring but accepted that it was part of childhood.  Now I am terrified of my son getting bruised and scuffed simply because I am afraid of being judge as a bad parent.

Play is definitely the secret to getting children to exercise more because it is so flexible and the imagination takes away the boredom of training.  When I watch my son and puppy playing together they are both exercising but because they are playing then don’t realize it.

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Toddlers do it, puppies do it and crazy adults playing drinking games do it – we all love spinning around in circles until we get dizzy.  My son used to purposely run round in circles saying he was trying to make himself dizzy before collapsing onto the sofa.  Another favourite activity is spinning on an office chair and we have all had great fun making playground roundabouts go faster and faster.

Why do we like spinning? Being the peculiar creatures we are – we just like the giddy feeling spinning causes.  As well as causing the state of the brain to temporarily change, spinning stimulates part of the brain that trains the body how to balance – this is called vestibular stimulation.  The same part of the brain is trained through swinging, hanging upside down and rocking.

Children are completely unaware that so many scientific things are happening to their brains when they spin because they just do it for pure enjoyment.  When your toddler decides that it it is is time for vestibular stimulation make sure that you encourage them to do it where they cannot get hurt or break your favourite vase. There are a number of ways you can get into a spin and have extra fun at the same time:-

  1. Roll down banking – choose one that is not too steep without too many obstacles in the way.
  2. Go on a playground roundabout – they are really safe now and some even have space for wheelchairs.
  3. Go on a fairground ride like the carousel or the waltzers if you are extra daring.
  4. Spin around when you are dancing, spread your arms out for more balance.
  5. Go Zorbing – this is a spinning activity for grown ups but try it if you dare.

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And for those of you who are curious about what the drinking game is (and what your teenage sons maybe up to) here is a video clip of what I am talking about.


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Celebrate the small victories. Have they been fed? Put to bed? Are they clothed at all? {Dirty, clean, matching…it doesn’t matter.} Are they chattering, smiling, maybe even singing? If the answer is yes to any of these, you’ve done something right. Scooper.

Sometimes at night I dream that my son looks underfed, dirty and is really unhappy because I haven’t looked after him properly.  I think that this may stem from the fact that his umbilical cord was very narrow causing him to be tiny at birth and for many years he only tended to eat until his tummy was full.  Everyone always commented on how small he was and I really felt as if I was failing in some way because I didn’t try to force him to eat more than he could manage. His small stature meant that although he had all of the motor skills necessary do do things he didn’t have the strength or height.  I overcame this hurdle by waiting until he felt ready to do things – such as using the toilet instead of the potty or climbing up climbing frames.  He was never behind -just left it until the last minute. He has finally started to catch up with his peers and no longer stands out as noticeably smaller – also he uses words like starving, his appetite has finally exploded and he gets wakened by growing pains which is fantastic.

My son never looked like Oliver Twist and except for the minor little things that upset young children like; having to go to bed, me not letting him have the contents of Amazon’s warehouse or asking him to tidy his bedroom, he is a happy little boy. I often wonder if other mothers have dreams like that or it is just me being weird. Alistair is a cautions child which means that he will eventually be able to climb to the top of play tower and use the slide but not as quickly as some of the younger more daring children.  Luckily my son doesn’t get bothered about admitting that he can or can’t do something and seems to anticipate that eventually he will be able to do it.

All children are different, as are all mothers, they way my friends bring up their children will have similarities but will have many fundamental differences due to our own life experiences.  Alistair often claims that I am not very caring when he falls over and hurt himself compared to other mothers who rush to stop the tears.  This probably stems from me having to deal with other people’s children and trying to chivvy them along.  I also continuously do risk assessments of what my son is doing in my head with the intention of letting him takes risks in safety – sometimes this looks as if I am just letting him walk into danger when in fact I am ready to pounce like a cat to stop him from hurting himself too much.

I put the quote from a blog by Lisa Jo Baker because it made me realise that all our children want from us is for us to be there and deal with their basic needs.  One day we will solve our odd sock problem (I have a pack of seven new ones that I bought for the new term but have lost them already) and maybe he will stop being Oliver Twist in my dreams.


#nowhere2play

The Association Of Play Industries (API) have become greatly concerned with the lack of play facilities for children, particularly in urban areas, and are conducting a survey to find out from parents the state of play facilities in their area.  The campaign is called #nowhere2play and is supported by Playdale Playgrounds Ltd who are experts in designing play equipment and installing it all over the world.

Do your children have public spaces to play in?  Even in the countryside we are seeing green patches of land being swallowed up by housing estates and school playgrounds sold off to building companies.  Is your local playground somewhere where you and your children like to meet friends and have fun or has it become dilapidated and rarely used.  The Association Of Play Industries (API) have become greatly concerned with the lack of play facilities for children, particularly in urban areas, and are conducting a survey to find out from parents the state of play facilities in their area.  The campaign is called #nowhere2play and is supported by Playdale Playgrounds Ltd who are experts in designing play equipment and installing it all over the world.

We are pretty lucky in this part of Cumbria, as there are plenty of places for children to play, and the majority of playgrounds are well resourced and maintained by committees. In Carlisle funding cuts meant that the council considered bulldozing unused playgrounds down, leaving spaces for imaginative play.  This article in metro.co.uk explains their intentions. I am not sure if they followed through with this plan or were stopped in their tracks.  To be fair the council were only considering removing playgrounds that were rarely used anyway as opposed to ones that were the meeting place of children in particular areas.

Are playgrounds used less these days because we are reluctant to let our children wander from our sight when they are playground age? There are significantly more cars than there used to be, causing us to be more overprotective than we may have been in the past. We are in an age where we fear strangers hanging around our children and allowing them to go and play out of our sight in a playground where there is no one to protect them scary.  Children don’t really gain independence until they are in the upper juniors or starting secondary school, depending on how sensible they are.

As the population of the UK increases we find our selves in a space paradox, we will have more families so we need more houses, we will have more children so we need play areas but the houses have been built on the land that was once a playground.  If children don’t get the opportunity to play outside they become obese and cost the NHS milions so what do we do?


uk-poverty-image

The summer holidays provoke a mixture of reactions from parents, some embrace the time with their children and others dread the constant need to provide entertainment.  Without a doubt the summer holidays is expensive and even if you cut down spending to a minimum, if you are living in poverty it can still be too expensive.  Children still require feeding and tend to develop an insatiable appetite because they are outside a lot.  If you are a family that has relied on free school dinners to ensure that your children get the food they need the impact of the holidays on your food budget can be catastrophic. Yes there are food banks but the sheer humiliation of having to go to one is enough to reduce families self esteem to zero.   Just recently the very astute SNP MP Mhari Black quite rightly pointed out that “Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are a symbol that the welfare state is failing” (New Statesman) whatever your political leanings are, you do have to agree that she has made a very valid point.

It is becoming more apparent that the establishment is making every effort to undermine families who have to rely on benefits to survive and the broadcasting companies seem to be in cahoots by producing belittling reality benefits programmes.  The shocking thing is how remarkably easy it is to go from a comfortable lifestyle to poverty simply through redundancy or ill health.  We are all part of the system and we are all at its mercy – maybe not today or tomorrow but sometime we will be, when we are most vulnerable. Getting out of the poverty trap seems to be like trying to climb out of a greasy pit and being pushed back in again once you see daylight.  People are having to apply for jobs in any sector of the workforce and can apply for hundreds of jobs just to be perpetually rejected.  Common sense tells us that it would be better if the Job Centre provided career guidance and directed people to apply for jobs they could be good at and enjoy rather than reduce self esteem to nothing and increase debilitating mental health problems.

Although the welfare of children is taken into account the emotional impact really is not, children suffer in every single possible way due to family poverty.  In April 2013 Caroline Hoggarth, headteacher of Greengate Infants School in Barrow, wrote an extensive report on poverty in the Furness area.  As Lead Commissioner of, ‘The Furness Poverty Commission‘, she lead a high calibre team on researching poverty in this area of Cumbria.  The research found that poverty is increasing and the impact on the town as a whole will continue the awful devastation caused by redundancy and lack of jobs.  The report includes quotes from people who had answered the questions and shows that they never aspired to be in the position they were in, it just either crept upon them or they were born into that lifestyle.

Living in poverty can be devastating for children as it deprives them of everything that is necessary to develop into rounded and confident adults.  When children go to school they are expected to spend their time learning and eventually applying what they have learnt to everyday life, in a perfect world this really does happen and a child does absorb themselves in their lessons.  However children who face the harsh truth of poverty and dysfunction are too distressed and tired to deal with learning, imagine trying to feel enthusiastic about capital letters if you have spent all night hungry, cold, listening to arguing  and feeling self concious because you haven’t had a bath.  The Furness Poverty Commission Report states. ‘The head of a junior school reported several children ‘unprepared for school- tired, hungry, struggling with emotional tensions at home. This dramatically affects their ability to learn’. A school adviser reported ‘the stress of family poverty seriously affects children’s ability to learn and to form supportive social relationships in school’

Every summer holiday children are uprooted from a routine that generally ensures that they are safe and teachers are making sure that they are well, they are receiving free school dinners and they are not alone.  As soon as they leave the school gate with their term’s work in their carrier bags they are at the mercy of their family circumstances.  For many they will enjoy days out, time with family and learning new exciting skills like how to swing as high as a bird.  Others will spend their holiday hungry, tired, lost and facing the reality of their situation.  Children are very much affected by their circumstances and suffering the effects of poverty and deprivation in your formative years can leave an emotional and educational scar that may never heal.


mld

It never ceases to amaze me how acronyms can shrink major things into a small simple word.  Often we forget what the letters stand for and only know what they mean.  MLD is tiny little acronym, that I have become very familiar with over the past few months, in fact I had never heard of it before.  Now I know that it stands for metachromatic leukodystrophy and its effects are far from tiny.

In a nutshell MLD is a genetic disease where the sufferer lacks an enzyme, that is also known as (ARSA), which breaks down the build up of sulfatides in the central nervous system.  The build up of sulfatides results in damage to white brain matter and the destruction of the myelin sheath, preventing the brain from communicating with the rest of the body. The disease progresses like a thief in the night, stealing away movement, speech, sight, hearing and eventually leading to total paralysis and premature death.

There you have it – the scientific explanation of MLD, but what does it mean if your child is diagnosed with this rare condition? I should imagine that it is a little bit like being stomped on by a herd of wooly mammoths, then feeling like a petrified rabbit staring at a huge articulated lorry coming towards you – and that is just the start.  Parents whose children are diagnosed with MLD are caught in a whirl wind of shock and disbelief and are so busy trying to come to terms with the disease and the emotional turmoil that by the time they feel ready to talk about it, their child has already been taken away from them and all they feel is shock and grief. By using all of the empathy I possess – I could never truly understand what it is like to watch your child disappear before your eyes.

I am not exactly sure if the disease progresses at the same rate for everyone who suffers it, but from what I have witnessed it doesn’t mess about and can paralyze a child in less than a year, after they show the initial symptoms of the disease.   Diagnosing the disease early is difficult because the sufferer tends to develop behavior traits that are similar to ADHD and their naughtiness causes health professionals to look in the wrong direction to find out what is wrong with them.  Children are not routinely tested for MLD so early diagnosis tends to only occur if a sibling has already been affected.

Remember the science lessons where you learned about genetics in terms of eye colour and peas with a funny mark on it?  Well getting MLD is exactly the same as that – it is determined by two parents carrying the faulty gene and literally throwing the wrong dice.  If the odds are against you – your child will get MLD but if you have a lucky strike then your child may just be a carrier.  There is nothing that parents can do at the moment to check if they are at risk of having a child who will inherit MLD.  Support in the UK is very small and the profile of MLD needs to be raised and government agencies pestered so that something can be done about it.

If your child is diagnosed before the onset of the disease there is the possibility of gene therapy, which is quite experimental but fingers crossed it does the trick.  However this ground breaking treatment is not available on the NHS and costs a packet – far more than any family can afford.  The only way we can raise funds for this type of treatment is by raising awareness of MLD, this is a job that cannot be left to parents of children with MLD because they are too busy dealing with the disease and spending as much time with their children that they can.

If you have been affected by MLD and are interested in helping to raise its profile please feel free to leave a comment or visit these site dedicated to MLD.

http://www.mldsupportuk.org.uk/

http://www.mldfoundation.org/mld-101-what.html


raised-beds-300x225

I have to say that I truly love my son’s school, they never cease to amaze me with their desire to promote natural learning as much as possible.  The school has a shiny new website that is updated regularly allowing parents to see exactly what their children are getting up to.  My latest visit to the Allithwaite CE School website informs me that they have developed a lovely quiet area with raised beds for planting food to harvest, a mud kitchen, outdoor games tables, benches and lots of wood chippings.  This information was reinforced when I picked my son up from after school club and he ran into the quiet area and with great excitement told me all about how they were going to grow food and how you can sit and relax with your friends.

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I am a firm believer that children need to find their own way to calm down, relax and find inner peace in their own way.  Learning to let go and let the chaos of the world clatter around you is a skill that is necessary in this technical age where everything is quantifiable and has to have been done yesterday.  The education system has forced schools to be concious of testing children so that they can gain a good OFSTED result so that pressure does inadvertently filter down to the children.  As someone who finds it impossible to switch off and truly relax I have been trying to encourage my son to develop these skills while he is young by allowing him to be a bit slobby at the weekends, not making a big deal about homework and spelling tests. I have told him that the holidays are a time to rest so that he can look forward to a break from intensive learning.

The outdoor games tables, which are similar to these by Playdale have made the quiet area look like a potential picnic area, where children can gather round and be sociable.  Even if there are not always dice and counters available the children will be able to look at and trace the numbers on the snakes and ladders board. My son has a great sense of ownership in regards to the school playground equipment and would quite happily sleep there if it meant that he could play with his friends even longer.

I am a little envious that they have installed a mud kitchen because making mud pies and playing with mud and soil was something I really liked to do when I was my son’s age.  My mum informs me that I when I was a child I could never wear my best clothes until just before we went out because I just got muddy and messy so easily.

It is going to be so exciting at Harvest time to see the vegetables they have grown.  My son just finds the world so very exciting and it is a joy to watch him learn and grow.


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