Thursday, September 22, 2011

Concrete Thinkers

                                       Our children are concrete thinkers. Maybe, all of us understand that to some extent. We have been cautioned at some point of time, that a particular concept is abstract for them. But how much and what to what extent should we get into specifics is something that I am slowly realizing. It started with Dr. Yamini in one of the story narration sessions for Ramam. I had a book with no text and just illustration and to my mind; it was the perfect book for Ramam to narrate. One look at it and Dr.Yamini (NIMHANS) said it made no visual sense. The story line is something like this. A boy has to get his kite stuck on a tree -top down. In the illustration, the tree top and a boy sitting on a buffalo were at the same height. To Ramam’s mind he has to just stretch his hands to get the kite down. How is he to visualize the tree top is is at a much higher height and the boy is at a much lower level. This illustration was very misguiding. Does he understand what does tree top means? Today, when I read a story, I take pains to see the book is right, he understands the underlying concept. For example, as broad as a banyan tree, and as tall as a coconut tree? Unless he can visualize these trees, can he imagine a man of such proportions? In this story this man’s job is to set the time in the clock in the palace tower. This time I took pains to explain what does “setting the time” on a clock mean? I showed it to him. It is not the same as looking at time.
                                          Later as Sharbani (She is the director of my son’s school, for those who have not read my earlier posts) explained in one of her sessions with her kids, she asked them where the food goes. They had no answer. So she opened their snack boxes and took a piece. So they, answered the food goes to your mouth. After little persuasion they said the throat. But for them to understand it can go to their stomach through the food pipe is very hard. Thankfully, there are so many videos on You tube that they may come in handy to teach our kids. In another instance, in one of the text books, there was a story of a straw, bubble and a stick (I think) trying to cross the river. She said she decided to skip the story.   How much do they actually understand is something that we have to find out? The one question that Yamini has always for me is “How do you know that he knows?”  
                                Somewhere during one of her sessions with the kids Sharbani had told the kids, they can visit the terrace of the school building. They agreed to visit the terrace the following Tuesday. The teacher was not aware of it.  Sharbani had forgotten about it. So on Tuesday the kids walked up to her and reminded her of her promise. I was there when this happened. Naturally, I was very pleasantly surprised. Setting a day and time for the terrace visit was something concrete and they looked forward to it.
                                   So then that also explains why structure and visual schedules work beautifully for them. So long farewell , wishing all readers a Happy Dusshera.                                     

Monday, September 12, 2011

When Kindness Kills

When Kindness Kills
                                        I and Ramam decided to celebrate Onam ( A festival of Kerala) at the army club, RSI, Bangalore. It was an impromptu decision. I and Ramam seated ourselves comfortably in one of the restaurants. I placed an order for Chicken lollipops and Sprite for him. Dr. Yamini (NIMHANS) had suggested me to write things out rather than repeat them verbatim every time .These are called visual chits. I proceeded to make these.  As I rummaged my bag for a pen and didn’t find any, I decided to borrow it from a gentleman across our table. Being the gentleman that he was, in the true army style, he objected to me getting up from my chair, walked to our table and handed over the pen to me. He noticed what I was writing. I thanked him and returned his pen. The visual chits said “No clapping hands, No shouting, Eat quietly.”
                                     We continued our starters, and I noticed the gentleman had just ordered beer and Ramam was surreptiously eyeing the ice bucket. He finds ice cubes irresistible.  He started pointing towards it and I knew he will want some for himself. Ramam got up and walked toward the gentleman’s table and I held Ramam back.  I told the gentleman if you lend it this one time, he shall repeat it every time.  And so the gentleman backed off. I told the waiter to fetch me ice cubes and Ramam proceeded to enjoy himself.
                                     Then subsequently I ordered fried rice and a gravy dish for him. Things were going smoothly when again he spotted something on the opposite table.  I reasoned with him that I had already ordered rice and that is what they were eating.  From my position, I could not see the French Fries on the other table.  To make his point clear, he walked closer to point to the plate of French fries.  As if on cue, this old gentleman sprang to life and rushed to our table and began emptying his plate into Ramam’s. All the while he kept telling “I understand mam”. I wanted to ask him “what is it that you understand?” But he showed no signs of stopping, that I physically stopped him from transferring the contents. Meanwhile, his wife joined me and went on and on.  “We have grand children, children are like that, he will outgrow it….blah, blah ,blah….. I said that is not the case.   
                                  Finally, at last or lunch drew to a close and I was about to leave when a third gentleman approached me, and handed me his visiting card. I had not noticed him so far. He patted Ramam and told him, you are a fine chap, a very handsome fellow, and asked me what his problem was? I thought not again. He said his friend’s son younger son was autistic; that they had settled down in Dubai…..
                                    At the end of it I thought I had been in the restaurant for 45 min had hoped for a quiet peaceful lunch in a nook with my son on a weekday, and how things spiraled out of control. BTW the restaurant is named ‘The NOOK’. That set me thinking. If I had not been in a military establishment, people would not have gone out of the way to be courteous. Here the old world charm still rules. If I had probably been in a hotel, people would have probably ignored us, maybe, for some occasional stares that would have come our way. If we had been in United States, his behavior might have been condemned outright.
                          Where do draw the line? The first gentleman made the right decision in backing off, allowing the parent to take the call. All of it is not actually Ramam’s mistake. His only intent was to communicate and he did it in the wrong way. I felt like kicking myself as I was carrying his AAC device (proloquo 2 go) and all I should have told him to use it. Call it sympathy for the underprivileged, or an urgent need to deflect an unpleasant situation, the old man overreacted. Simply put, in this gentleman’s case, it could be a misplaced sense of morality. We are offered unsolicited advice without actually knowing what the problem is. This is exactly what his wife did.
                      This is what Dr. Yamini told me. Many a time, with normal children; the society plays a major role in their behavior modification. They learn to abide by rules, listen to people in authority. For instance, if the janitor, in my daughter’s school ticks her off, it has a lasting impression on her rather than me trying to make her see the point. Recently, the security guard told Ramam to move away, because some digging work was on. Ramam responded quickly. But such instances are rare. Another incident, I remember, was when my neighbor wanted to give me something. In Ramam’s viewpoint it did not belong to us, so he did not allow her give it to me. She said she will bring it when he is not around. I probably should have stood my ground. But how many people do you check. Most times people try to be considerate of their handicaps, or simply ignore their existence.  Also as parents we are overprotective.
                               Sadly, this kind of kindness does not pay, it kills.  Sometimes you want to sing out aloud Jeene do jeene do from the film Three Idiots.

GFCF Cake Frosting

 I have wanted to share two of the recipes for icing on a GFCF cake. It has been on my mind for quite some time but somehow I have not posted it on the blog. The first is my own creation; yes I was quite excited with the idea. I used finely cut pieces of Bourniville Dark chocolate, (their label mentions use of cocoa butter and no milk products) with cashew nuts,  dalda (hydrogenated oil),  and put them in a blender. I did this as a frosting for my daughter’s b’day cake in July (yes! been quite some time) and she was hugely appreciative of the effort. Decorated it with Marbels (again dairy free). The cake was of course made from Orgran chocolate cake mix.
                                                   The second one is the GFCF vanilla cake frosting.
Also Morappam is another easy to make 40’clock GFCF snack. Use leftover idli/dosa batter. Add finely chopped onions, green chillies, coriander leaves, and grated carrot, to the batter. Take a spoon of oil. To the heated oil add mustard and Bengal gram, and let the mustard splutter. Add this to the batter. The batter has to be deep fried a vessel, uniquely designed for appams. I t is readily available in shops. However, only that  it took me 14 long yrs to procure one. My mother gifted me one too early in life (1yr into married life), I thought, it must be a complicated dish and returned it back to her. Recently I  picked up a non stick  variety.

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