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.

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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