Saturday, February 28, 2009

Music and Movement

Picture it…

…12 moms sitting in a big circle and inside the circle 12 toddlers are picking up and throwing balls in every possible direction whilst a happy bouncy melody fills the air.

…the same circle of moms now all holding up a big, multicoloured parachute whilst the same toddlers explore underneath. Some bravely walk around, loving the feeling of their heads brushing against the cloth, others are more cautious and slowly crawl from their mom’s laps to explore this new rainbow world.

These are two moments from our music and movement class that Matt and I have been attending for the last 5 Friday mornings. Each class lasts an hour and is filled with songs and music. With each song the teacher brings out a fun item for the kids to play with – it could be balls, bean bags, windmills, silk handkerchiefs, shakers, dusters or something else exotic. She gives the moms and kids a suggested way of moving or using the item, but is really not stressed if the kid improvises and does his own thing.

I had such mixed feelings about taking Matt to this group. This year I wanted to increase Matt’s interactions with other kiddies. When a friend recommended this group it seemed like an excellent opportunity, especially as it had a strong focus on music. And if you know Matt, you know that he loves music. But on the other hand I was quite nervous of introducing Matt to a whole bunch of people who don’t know him, who may judge him or me. I was worried that he might not enjoy it or that he would be overwhelmed by all the people.

It turns out that the teacher, Theresa, has had experience with kids with special needs so she has been really sensitive to Matt’s needs. She helped me choose the best class for Matt to join. She also gave us space to introduce Matt the class and to share with the other moms about Matt’s syndrome. I decided it was better to be up front about Matt, rather than have them wondering about Matt but being too shy/polite to ask. The moms responded just as I hoped – they treat Matt just as any of the other kids, but they don’t mind asking me questions or finding out more about Matt.

Matt’s response to the group has surprised me. He has managed very well with the many people. He participates in most activities. There are some of the games that he just does not want to do. I can tell he knows what is expected and that he is choosing not to get involved. I’m happy with that – he is learning to express his will. The first song always catches him by surprise and he sits on my lap looking around quite bewildered, and not keen to get involved. After welcome song comes the parachute – which still freaks Matt out. He is happy to stand next to me and watch it, but don’t ask him to get under it. Once these two activities are out of the way, he seems to settle in and enjoy the rest of the session. He enjoys waving the handkerchief, throwing the balls, making stomping-elephant movements, clapping his hands, playing peek-a-boo with the doll, and he loves the story time at the end. This week he took brave steps to go to the teacher to fetch the item for each song – he has been too nervous to do this up until now. I loved watching him interact with her.

Matt’s not the only one who has benefitted from the group. I’ve had some moments of self discovery. I realised in the 3rd class that although I wanted this experience to be all about Matt, I was in fact bringing my own baggage into the group. I realised that subconsciously I love pleasing the teacher, getting things right, following orders and getting praise (yes - you can imagine me in my school class, sitting in the front, hand up ready to answer the question). Deep down I was finding it hard that Matt didn’t want to do something or that he wasn’t participating like the other kids. My head completely accepted that Matt would do things at his own pace, but the “young rule-following, people-pleasing school girl” in me was unhappy. I had a good prayer time with God, repented, recognised the lies that I had been believing about myself and Matt. This prayer time has resulted in greater freedom for me as I’m less concerned about the people-pleasing, and more authentically content for Matt to do his thing his way.

Theresa always ends the session by giving the kids an ink stamp on their hand – this week it was a picture of a butterfly. As Matt is obsessed with butterflies he spent most of the car trip home looking at his hand and signing the word for butterfly.

8 comments:

Kelly said...

I am so glad that you have found such a great thing for you and Matt to do together. Sounds like it is good for both of you! :)

Kelly W.

Craig, Taryn and our blessings said...

Theresa is fantastic isn't she? I completely identify with your need-to-please, Jax. I also had that feeling of pressure to perform and have my kids perform too. Just so you know, most kids show just as much reluctance as Matt does with some of the actions. My neice never ever participated in ANY of it - just watched from the side lines and then went home and did everything! And my Katie spent a lot of her time running to the windows to play there or pick up the sitting mats rather than listen to Theresa or me - oi vey! Then the pressure of disciplined parenting came into being too. Nothing like being watched by 20 pairs of eyes!

I am so glad that you and Matt are enjoying Theresa - we love her too!

Craig, Taryn and our blessings said...

Theresa is fantastic isn't she? I completely identify with your need-to-please, Jax. I also had that feeling of pressure to perform and have my kids perform too. Just so you know, most kids show just as much reluctance as Matt does with some of the actions. My neice never ever participated in ANY of it - just watched from the side lines and then went home and did everything! And my Katie spent a lot of her time running to the windows to play there or pick up the sitting mats rather than listen to Theresa or me - oi vey! Then the pressure of disciplined parenting came into being too. Nothing like being watched by 20 pairs of eyes!

I am so glad that you and Matt are enjoying Theresa - we love her too!

Cindy said...

Butterfly is Natalie's favorite sign too! Although she has a hard time making it...

That's great that the class is helping both you and Matt, each in different ways. I always say it's hard to have a special needs child, but has to be even harder when it's your first child, because you don't have the opportunity to learn that your kid won't have your same likes and dislikes...with a typical child. Even though she's not my first, I have to remind myself that Natalie has her own personality and interests, and it's different than mine! But I know what you mean about having chagrin when our child isn't the eager-beaver we are!

Jessica mommy to Alex/ RTS said...

What a great class! Im so glad you did this!

Kristi said...

Sounds like something Noah would love. If only I could get him interested in signing.. That is great that Matt is becoming more confident with his walking...

Christine said...

What a great class. Wish we could take this class together. I'm so happy for you.

Ethembeni said...

Trumpet..trumpet...loved the fact that elephant stomping is an activity Matt enjoys. He is deffintiely part of the pachyderm herd!! Blessings Elephant and Shelepahnt