Sunday, 16 December 2012

Montessori Sound Cylinders : My Experience...

A past student of mine in from a weekend parent and child playgroup session has this experience. Thought to share with all...
The child is 20 months old. Handsome kid with long, fine and straight shoulder- length hair. Came for his sessions in fancy & branded outfits. Extremely cute. Mom sports a simple tie-back hairstyle, normally in comfy shorts and spaghetti-strap top... and i will always recognise the Cartier on her ring finger... an undisputedly... very classy mom.
Class duration was one hour. We usually had 2 teachers rotating between parents working with the materials on the shelves, sharing Montessori ideas for learning in the home and the Montessori methodology itself or at times just some housewife indulgences on how they cope with the children at home.
I could sense the mom of this boy seemed somewhat like a little bored as her child kept on doing only one thing... only one thing each time... When she wanted to introduce to him a new material, the child insisted on working with it some more until its like almost time for music and movement session that he may decide to swap for another. Child also does not seem to enjoy music. He was like just following the flow. Mum would hold his hand, giving him a nudge or physically moved him (to dance or copy the rhyming gestures we did), to get him going with the music and movement actions. The child at one glance - looked like a down syndrome child, also born with a cleft lip and a leg shorter than the other. But - a dashing young boy.
He doesn't speak. Even if he does - muffled sounds or sounds coming from his throat... forced... esp when frustrated. No coherent words. Almost NO eye-contact at all times. When it came to instructions, his mum would hold his hand and repeat the instruction the directresses last gave. Does not clap or has the ability to appreciate a clap.
I decided to work this material called the Sound Box. It comes in a box containing 6 cylindrical containers, one box blue and one red for matching activity. We usually introduce only one box first to teach the concept of loud and soft. Follwed by gradation of sounds - soft, softer, softest and loud, louder, loudest...
Each cylinder is filled with objects, which when shaken produces a different sound. For example, one big marble, a teaspoon of soy beans, a teaspoon of rice, etc.
The mom finally came out of her tolerance shell and sent in her notice of withdrawal from the weekly Montessori sessions, quoting signs of no improvement since Day 1 which was a few months back... way before i was working there. I accepted her withdrawal and just resumed the activity. While i was working the Sound Box with her and her dashing young boy I chatted her up and asked what he does at home, what he likes, etc.
Then, came her sharings... what her worries were... the why's and the how's... I told her I wanted to show her something and worked the sound box with her child. I whispered to her... when we work with children they will usually offer small signs or indications that they like or dislike something or mebbe just trying to tell us something... catch those moments, while playing together...
He was fascinated with the material, couldn't wait to begin touching. I insisted he look me in the eye by touching his arm. when he looked up, i shook the first one and he copied. Then smiled... I continued till all the cylinders were shaken, each time repeating the sound twice - ie. I would say... this is loud.... (pause)... loud.... He repeated only the actions but not the sound. He became excited. He felt something shaking inside the cylinders and kept shaking each one intensely. I repeated the action to shake near his ear. He did so. But the cylinder containing that one big marble.
It became too loud to endure... but he kept shaking it. I told the mom this material is best used to detect hearing defiency in children and it seemed that her son cannot is not able to hear a sound that loud, hence his shaking gets harder and harder... and did not seem to mind the loud sound hence he did not make any attempt to stop.
I asked his mom what about other common illnesses , was he able to recover quickly... she said nope, when having runny nose and cough, always had prolonged phlegm until sometimes it lead to bronchitis. Once she didn't realise his tonsils were so inflamed that she had to get one removed.. has heart surgery before as an infant. And the list went on..
I advised her to quickly go to an ENT specialist for thorough check up.
Next 2 wks, I didn't see him. Third week, they came. Him with small hearing aide and a cast on his shorter leg. So cute... Still so handsome and getting chubbier. Mom came straight to me and said doc confirmed hearing defect which wasn't so clearly detected first time round, but after much insistence for a more thorough check and got it fixed with a small day surgery thingy, then the cast - something abt levelling the two legs.
I was not sure how that was done.
Mom shared... he shouts a bit now. But clear shouts of NO or YES and most times now... a slow but coherent maaaammm....mmaaa.. Cause, the sounds the child hears are now louder and clearer than before.
With a tear in her eye, she said thanks... and squeezed my arm. She said it was her last session for the day and she really wanted to come to say goodbye. Actually, one more session to go...but the child had a scheduled heart surgery in US. She promised me she will spend more time with her son from now on and watch out for small signs that he may be showing her.
I gave her a quick follow up on how to coach her child to be independent with sight word cards and so on as he's still adapting to the louder sounds in his current hearing level. I shared with her he will slowly be able to articulate the whole sound of the words he hears now, instead of usually just the faint ending sounds of words or sentences that makes his sounds come out muffled or incoherent. To be patient and speak to him slowly so that he catches everything she tried to convey to him.
I hugged him and signed his cute cast. On his way out, he turned his head round to me and smiled. This time when mom ask him to wave goodbye, he did. Mum said thank you and hugged me... then she whispered, "I am having a 2nd child soon via IVF. Its a miracle."
I hope he's doing well now. If not for Cartier mom, I do not think he could afford so many major operations in his life... if not for Cartier-mom being a stay-home mum, he may not have made so much progress within such a short time. Take time to stop, look and listen.
STOP - Drop everything we're doing and concentrate on the child.
LOOK - Observe all the developments achieved and look out for improvements in other weak areas.
LISTEN - Take time to listen... your child is trying to tell you something each and everyday...
We don't have to have to be a Cartier-mom (rich mom) to be an active parent to our children's development. Though a Cartier will sure as heck help a lot along the way... Ahak! 
PS. To Cartier-mom... I remembered you today and said a prayer for you and your family, wishing all of you well and the best life can bring to your family.

To the rest of the readers... remember, the best gift we can give to our children is spelt like this... T.I.M.E

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