Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Play, Self Regulation, and FASD

I've got a few different things swirling around in my brain, and I'm starting to see a connection.

The first thing is a NPR article that a friend posted this morning about the importance of free, non-adult-directed play in the development of children, Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills : NPR. I was feeling pretty good about how I instinctively let my children, and my older kids especially, to have lots of play time when they could use their imaginations. I limited their extra curricular activities to one at a time until they were in high school and I made sure they had plenty of time just to play. The reasons were because we lived in the country for much of this time, the realities of having a large family and if each child had multiple activities we'd be in the car most of the day, we didn't have a ton of extra money for lessons, and because we did not have a TV. Other people around me were carting kids to music lessons, sports, drama, swimming, tutoring, art class, etc. Sometimes I felt like my kids were missing out, but just the thought of all that running around tired me out! After reading this article, and seeing that play increases executive functioning, I feel better. Maybe I was actually doing my kids a favor by letting them play and use their imaginations.

One paragraph in the article kind of worries me about my younger kids, though.

Sad because self-regulation is incredibly important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ. Children who are able to manage their feelings and pay attention are better able to learn. As executive function researcher Laura Berk explains, "Self-regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain."


Why would this worry me? Because FASD affects executive functioning, decision making, problems solving, self regulation, etc. http://www.come-over.to/FAS/FASbrain.htm


The final thing that's swirling around my brain right now is that the therapist asked me to see how Ms. D plays or spends time with other kids. The more I am thinking about it, the more I'm realizing that both my kids play differently than others. And so I'm watching, learning, and trying to piece all of this together. There's a connection here, I think, but I don't have it all figured out. It might be an interesting study for someone to investigate the relationship between FASD and play. Or maybe a study on what increases executive functioning in kids with FASD. What would help my kids? What would help other kids with FASD?


I guess in the meantime, I'll just do what feels right for my family and what I think God wants us to do. Ultimately, that's what each parent ends up doing anyway. I'm constantly learning, adapting, and changing how I raise each child. Each child is different. Each life circumstance is different. And that's what makes parenting messy, unpredictable, joyful, difficult, wonderful and very exciting!

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