Watching a typical child develop is a bittersweet reminder of how Trudy’s development differed and differs.
Trudy and Patrick now have a little sister, a lockdown baby who has never seen anyone except her immediate family and grandparents, and knows her buggy much better than her car seat!
I watch her develop every day, learning to gain command of her limbs, the cogs in her typical brain turning to bang and hit and grasp her toys. She moves her body to discover what she can and can’t do, and what she still needs to learn.
It reminds me of Trudy’s first years, a floppy, hypotonic baby whose brain struggled to process everything at the same time. She would babble away (because Trudy loves to chat), but her physical development would stall.
She sat up on her own at 1, stood up independently at 2 and a half and walked at 3. Trudy is 5 now and she’s running.
Her baby sister will probably crawl before she’s 1 and be walking before 2.
And this is not that large a gap compared to some children but it reminds us of the difference between the way Trudy learns and how she will never follow a typical development pattern.
Trudy’s sister will learn through osmosis, through a combination of watching and learning, her innate faculties processing every little thing subconsciously then acting upon them with conscious and deliberate movement. She bangs herself on the head with a toy, she does it a second time and then doesn’t do it again.
A typical brain will absorb the concept of consequences much more easily than a child with learning difficulties, even if the child hasn’t experienced the consequence, so that the typical child will not wander far from home or run across a car park.
Most consequences we talk about are largely linguistic in that respect, “don’t climb too high or you’ll fall”, “don’t run across the road or you’ll get run over”, “don’t put your fingers in the fire or you’ll get burnt”. You say something like that to Trudy and all she hears is “put your fingers in the fire”!
Trudy will always need support to understand what she should and shouldn’t do, but with the right use of language, she can begin to process the world on a subconscious level, to inherently learn to be safe and independent of us.
There is research happening all the time on how to develop our young people’s independent living skills and ultimately make them less vulnerable. To make them safe, healthy and happy: Such simple aims to which we all have a right, and it should never be forgotten that some of us have the natural privilege to be.