There are some conversations that I will remember for a very long time. I had one of those tonight. One of John's relatives has just accepted a teaching and research position in child development (specializing in autism) at Marquette University. Her husband and my husband both graduated from the same high school and she and I spent most of the annual reunion/party tonight chatting about education, special needs and child development. How completely fascinating and encouraging! She is very friendly and common-sense, but smart, focused and with a lot of experience and research at her fingertips. What I ended up learning was that there is a lot of scientific research that confirms a number of the more intuitive and experience-based beliefs I have about childhood development and education. (It was also simply exciting to be so much on the same page as someone else in these things AND to be able to chat with someone so enthusiastic about the subject matter).
We started with a particular connection in that I believe we have some children with special needs that fall into the autism spectrum (namely Aspergers - a highly functioning cousin of autism with some very definite challenges and frustrations) and it was very reassuring to compare notes and get some confirmation that we've been on the right track in meeting our children's needs in a common sense fashion. Society has a tendency to overwhelm, particularly those in challenging circumstances, with so much advice on what is considered "essential" that it at times feels like it is impossible to adequately meet our children's needs without truly extraordinary (and extremely expensive) intervention. It was incredibly reassuring to realize that we were on the right track and even a bit of a pat on the back for having our eyes open to our children's social, physical and emotional needs and finding reasonable ways of meeting those.
Here are a few areas that we touched upon...
Reasonable limits on electronic stimulation is a smart idea and there is no scientific evidence to support the notion that those popular educational videos for babies are essential (as is commonly believed)
Because children vary in personality, learning styles, etc. it makes sense to adjust methods according to their needs.
Neurological research supports many of the natural things that parents are inclined to do and provide for their children. For example, the connections made when we hold and rock babies for long periods of time turn out to be significant and important to their brain development.
There was a lot more to it than this, but I wanted to jot down what I could remember.