Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Baby Birds

The Au Pair found a nest in the bushes by our apartment's swimming pool the other week. In it were a pair of baby rice sparrows, our country's national bird. She showed them to Little A, who promptly wanted to take them home.

The nest was transplanted to the bushes outside his room, but, afraid the mother bird wouldn't find it, or would reject the babies for having been touched by human hands (I read somewhere that this was the case with certain birds in the wild), the Au Pair took to feeding the tiny chicks by hand twice a day.

Big A, who had raised fighting cocks and racing pigeons in his youth, didn't expect the chicks to survive the week. But to everyone's surprise, a few mornings later, Little A spelled out "watchbirds" with his letter tiles, and showed me that the nest on his balcony was empty.

The little birds had grown their feathers and taken - sort of - flight. They begun by hopping about the area near the bushes for a day or two, but soon found their wings and flew away.

There's a lesson in this, obviously. That help can come from unexpected places, and that, against odds, one can become a success. So I am applying this to Little A, who has plenty of challenges to face; many more so than the average child. May he find his wings. And fly. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Happy Feet

Several years ago, this animated film came out featuring singing penguins. There was one among them who discovered he couldn't use his voice like the others, but he expressed himself another way - through dance.

As a former professional dancer, I was once expert at saying things without using spoken words. Now that I am mother to a non-verbal child,  alternative forms of communication take on a whole new meaning.

On my birthday this year, my family visited our city's Ocean Park. We'd tried to go once before, but the queues then made it impossible with an impatient, crowd-unfriendly toddler in tow.

This time round, we chose a day when the city was virtually empty for the Easter four-day weekend. Little A breezed through the fish tanks, only spending a long time admiring the sea horses.

When we got to the penguin enclosure, however, there was an opportunity  to get up close and personal. Big A took a look inside, then paid the fee and took Little A in. Neither of them wanted to hold up the slippery fish to feed the penguins, so the Au Pair was tasked with that job.

Little A loved being close to Pingu and friends. There was a time when he would cry seeing animals in cages, but being in their "natural" environment like farms and open areas has always thrilled him, to the point that we've considered animal encounters as possible therapy options. (Next up, swimming with dolphins.)

Many parents and professionals have related how children with special needs are sometimes brought  of their shells by developing close relationshps with a particular animal. We'd love to discover if this would be true for Little A, if only we didn't live in a small apartment in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

Apart from this, we push on with Little A's alternative communication modes.  May our society get to the point where happy feet and happy fingers will be enough to include these individuals who lack their own  voices.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Big Blue

Back when DVD players were the latest technology, Big A and I were a new couple. As he loves movies as much as I do books, for our first anniversary I got him a DVD player and a film that a friend sent over from Amazon US. DVDs were fairly expensive then, and there was a limited number of locally available films.

The movie was Luc Besson's The Big Blue, one of Big A's all-time favourites. A certified technical diver and former national swimmer, he has probably spent more of his lifetime in the water than on land. His son has clearly inherited this love of the water, as I am, despite all efforts to change this, very much a land creature. Graceful on land, having spent most of my life defying gravity and standing on the tips of my toes, I am awkward in the water and have a dodgy right eardrum that makes diving difficult.

Little A first went swimming at about 9 months of age - the summer after he was born. He loved it, splashing around and flailing his limbs. Shortly after his second birthday, he escaped from our apartment and made his way to the swimming pool. By the time he was three, he preferred the big pool to the baby one.

In his third year, Little A taught himself how to swim. Slowly, carefully, by dint of much practice and holding on to our arms, he learnt to doggy paddle and got confident doing it for the length of our 20m, 5 foot deep pool. He also discovered floating and buoyancy at this time. Then, he moved on to dipping his face underwater, first practicing in the bathtub, and then in the swimming pool.

This summer, he mastered the frog kick and gained incredible speed chasing his dad the length of the pool. Simultaneously, he has discovered the joy of diving. Experimenting with his breath, he would plunge down as low as he could get, trying to get to the bottom of the pool. After reaching it with his feet, he tried sitting down, lying down, and doing somersaults.

One day in March, a neighbor's son had some toy cars by the poolside. Little A took them and dropped them into the pool, where they promptly sank to the bottom. Knowing he couldn't yet reach there, I prepared to put on my swimsuit and retrieve the cars, but Little A surprised me by diving in and getting them himself, one after the other. Delighted with himself, he dropped them down and did it again.

We've since bought some sinking swim toys, as he's been using the ones brought by swimming teachers and other parents. These days, 5 feet of water is no challenge at all for Little A, so much that he actually spent 5 entire days last week out of the water. One of the coaches who teaches some of the other children has taken videos of him, remarking that all he needs now is to learn the form for the proper strokes.

It would be great to see Little A follow his dad's footsteps in competitive swimming, and possibly scuba diving. The bigger challenge now, is getting him to don a pair of swim goggles so we can take him to the beach.