|Posted by Val Fox on May 3, 2012 at 11:25 PM|
More than 100 kids have lived with us over the years, many who were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD. One of the activities I do with them each spring is play in the flower beds. Most kids enjoy working outside, creating something beautiful and being part of a group. Alongside the lobelias and the poppies the children plant seedlings that include bright orange merigolds, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, radishes and whatever other vegetables will fit. They get a chance to see their projects grow and add to the beauty in the world. They feel proud and excited. They can even pick their own snacks right out of the garden.
Yesterday we played in the flower beds. The kids and I weeded, thinned and re-planted, preparing for this year's colorful surprises. The red tulips they planted last year are about six inches tall. In our part of the world tulips bloom in April - May. We have two beds that have become a hodge-podge of prairie plants and grasses, each trying to take over the space. We learned that you cannot just dig up prairie plants, re-plant them, resulting in a bed of native, yellow sunflowers. Prairie plants gathered in this manner will also carry with them numerous other seeds that have been lying dormant in the soil. When transplanted into good soil with a wind shelter, the hitchhiking seeds germinate too. The kids used newspaper, then mulch to cover the soil, except for around the plant they wanted to keep. This helped, but now we are learning how to properly collect seeds from the wild. It can be tricky as each plant is different and requires collecting seeds at just the right time. I will write about these methods in a later blog.
The children I've worked with that have FASD come with a variety of challenges. Some have trouble remembering what they learned five minutes ago. Others have difficulty dealing with strong emotions such as frustration. Even more of them lack the judgement skills to keep themselves safe, often reacting on first instinct, then getting into trouble. One time I went out to check the garden and one of the kids had given himself and the rose bush a "haircut." The rose had been planted in memory of grandma Emma. I guess now we'll learn how tough that rose is as it tries to make a comeback from under the soil. And the scissors have been put away in a safe place.
Training courses have helped me understand the disabilities of FASD children, but in the end, it's the kids themselves that are my best teachers. They have taught me the importance of safety protocols, of back-up plans, of making transitions more of a process rather than just announcing, Okay, it's time for bed. I've learned so much about working with children, even since my own were grown, and look forward to sharing more of this knowledge in the future with interested readers. Thanks for visiting. It's time to go feed the dogs and the horses.
Photo: Creative Commons