Tag Archives: Milestones

How RIE Helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in Our Baby.

How RIE Helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in our Baby ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsI have always known how incredibly rewarding and useful Magda Gerber’s parenting approach is for bringing up our children with the respect and peacefulness they deserve, but I never thought it would also help us to diagnose a potentially serious medical issue in our one year old daughter.

When my daughter was only four weeks old she was hospitalised with an undiagnosed condition which presented as a uni-lateral facial paralysis. It was a stressful time for all of us and in the absence of a similar case to hers, we were left wondering whether this was a long term condition; one that would impact upon her development, her sensory function or her overall brain function.

We were told that it was a matter of ‘wait and see’. As the months went by, she hit every milestone bang on cue and sometimes even earlier than the guidelines. Although a slight weakness of her face still remained, we became much less concerned about her growth and progress and quickly concluded that whatever it was that had impacted upon that area of her face, it had not affected anything else.

To confirm this, she underwent an MRI at eight months of age, along with hearing and vision tests. Everything came back clear and normal and with much relief we went back to enjoying watching our baby blossom into a sweet, curious toddler who loved to interact but also loved to be left in her own solitude; happy to explore and experiment with just a couple of items she was provided with.

It was around the time of her MRI that I discovered Janet Lansbury’s blog  and learned of the importance of connected caregiving. It had been common for us to use distractions with our 20 month old when changing her nappy, feeding her or after her bath when she needed to be dressed.

We thought this was the best way to ensure these events went smoothly andour daughter quickly learned that she didn’t need to be involved with these processes, she demanded distractions and took no interest in wanting to help put her legs in the holes or lift her bottom etc when needed.

Miss 8 months on the other hand, never really got to the stage of needing distractions before we discovered RIE. So when she started becoming a little restless on the change table we knew that distractions were not the answer (Read my previous post: Changing the Change Table Relationship).

We had been talking her through the processes of dressing and changing for a little while and the only thing we really changed to help at this stage was how much we let her do for herself. For example, I would say to her, “We need to put your legs in these holes” and then wait for her to respond.

She would then lift her legs one at a time and point her toes towards the holes of the pants whilst I gently pulled them on. Knowing she could now understand simple instructions, I used a similar ‘ask and wait’ strategy on just about everything I needed her to do. There was rarely a time that she wouldn’t respond positively or show understanding of what was being asked.

Then, not long after her first birthday, my daughter started showing signs of rebellion. It coincided with the onset of a very heavy cold. She would ignore me when I asked her to lift her bottom at the nappy change or put her leg in the hole whilst getting dressed and instead squirm to roll over and sit up.

When I would ask her to come to me when she was walking off, she would ignore me and keep walking and then crack it when I physically intervened. Initially I thought it was general irritability from being sick but when it continued I concluded that she had entered a new stage of development. This type of defiance was what I was used to from my two year old, so I thought it was just a stage she was going through and that as her cognition was developing, her need to test boundaries was also increasing.

Wanting to stay calm in my parenting and resist the use of distractions, I started being even more involving in the process of changing and dressing her. On one particular day, she was ignoring my verbal requests to put her legs in her pants, so I picked up the pants and held them in front of her as she squirmed on the table, she immediately stopped and stuck her leg out.

I was a little perplexed but proceeded to dress her without a fight, each time holding up the article of clothing to her so she could see it before telling her what I needed her to do. For the next few days, I tried to use the same technique but sometimes reverted back to simply using verbal cues when asking her to put on her pants etc.

After a while, I realised that she never responded to me when I only spoke to her and would always protest when I would try to dress her in this way, but was cooperative and obliging when I combined visual with verbal cues.

As the days went on, some cogs started turning in my head and following a conversation with a friend it suddenly dawned on me that the reason she was so objectionable when I used words only was that she couldn’t hear me!

I suddenly had that sinking feeling; the one that feels like you are free falling. The more I spoke about it the more obvious it became to me that her hearing was impaired. She hated having books read to her when sitting on my lap facing away from me. She startled when approached from behind and ignored warnings not to touch certain objects, tantruming when I had to physically restrain her from doing so.

These were all things that were not usual behaviours for my daughter. I had no doubt in my mind that she could not hear. I started to think that maybe her earlier condition had caught up with her and was now affecting her inner ear in some way.

I organised an appointment with a specialist who confirmed that she had some impairment of the movement of her eardrums in both ears. She had a follow up test a month later to check that it was an ongoing issue and it was explained to us that her symptoms were more closely linked to blockages in the ear canal due to fluid build up rather than a central processing issue.

Frequent ear infections is a common cause (from which she did suffer) and grommits were subsequently inserted to drain the fluid and open the canals.

Often, babies with these hearing issues are not detected until they set off warning beacons on the speech and language development radar, by which time they have already missed out on a lot of vital foundation work in this area.

I am so grateful that the communication I have with my daughter is real and is two-way. She listens to me and I listen to her in return. I do not ‘do things to her’, she works with me to get the jobs done and now, in hindsight, I can see how easy it really was to pick up this medical condition and follow up quickly with the correct treatment.

Had I not been doing this, had the communication been one-sided, it may have been many more months or even years before I realised that she could not hear.

Knowing how important these early years are for developing speech and language skills, I am extremely appreciative that we got onto this quickly thanks to the help of a beautiful style of parenting.


The Joy of Natural Development

Watching your child achieve their milestones in those early years must be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Each one gets carefully recorded and cameras are always on hand to capture those priceless moments when your baby first smiles, rolls, sits, laughs, crawls, walks and so the list goes on. As they occur, a parent can then also breathe a sigh of relief that their child is indeed on track.

The Joy of Natural Development

For many parents, though, that desire for their child to accomplish these milestones is so great that they take measures to assist and guide them through the process of achieving them. This may not seem a big deal but in doing this parents unwittingly restrict valuable opportunities for learning countless other skills along the way. What’s more, it also sends a message to the little ones that what they CAN do is not good enough; they need to do more.

I used to be one of these parents. I did not trust in my daughter’s capabilities to learn things for herself, nor could I curb my impatience for her to achieve milestones so I could show her off and revel in her achievement. Since studying and implementing Magda Gerber’s RIE approach I have made adjustments to my thinking about a child’s development and can now attest to the enormous benefits of restraining from assisting and instead, allowing natural development for my second daughter.

With my first child I did all the ‘normal’ parenting tricks thinking it was perfectly fine and in fact helpful for my child to be aided with props or myself. I used cushions to help her sit, I put her in a bouncer, a jolly jumper and a swing, each time delighting in the huge smiles she would give in return.

When she was showing small signs of wanting to crawl or stand, I was on hand to give her a push in the right direction. She was a fast learner and was standing at furniture at 7 months, crawling at 8 months and walking at 10.5 months.

Of course her first experience of walking was by me holding her hands above her head whilst she awkwardly stumbled forwards. This was followed soon after with pushing a walker around the house.

But in all the assistance I was providing her, I was denying her of the chance to develop these skills herself. I was taking away that opportunity for her to own her achievement and be proud of it. She would not slowly become aware of her body and its abilities like she should have been allowed to. Rather, she developed a false sense of security in her ability and when the time came for her to try things out independently, she often had accidents and mishaps.

The Joy of Natural Development

Soon after my second child was born, I was introduced to RIE. I learned that children did not need to be shown how to do anything. Children are capable beings who have natural instincts to achieve milestones in their own time. I learned my daughter would roll when she had naturally developed the muscles and neurons to enable it, she would sit when she felt she could do so safely and she would walk when she was ready.

And  she is now totally content with her capabilities. She does not cry out quickly in frustration when she is not able to do something. I have never expected more of her than she is capable of doing and as such she has developed patience and contentment in her own body.

A pleasant side to this style of parenting has to be the sheer joy I now find as I watch my baby connect the dots. I have delighted in her determination to stand without any assistance or guidance and never once have I been concerned that she will fall after she has pulled herself up. I know that not only is her mind ready to make the step up but her body too has been given the right amount of time to strengthen the appropriate stabilising muscles and neuron connections to keep her safe.

One of the funniest reassurances of this method came not so long ago when my baby was about 10 months old. I had made the decision, in line with this natural development style, that I would not give her a walker to push to practice her walking. I knew she didn’t need one and I knew that when the time came she would be ready to walk. I had to laugh though, when one evening, I was standing on one side of the kitchen bench when the highchair suddenly started moving across the floor.

When it had moved about 5 metres I could see my baby walking along pushing the chair in front of her. She was obviously ready to start practising and she now pushes any object she can get enough muscle behind to move.

When the time comes for her to take her first unaided steps, I will once again watch in amazement at the sheer brilliance of my child who has mastered one of life’s most fundamental skills without coaching, steering, guiding or pushing, but rather, all on her own. Until then, I am happy to watch her contentedly move around the house by other means, blissfully unaware that she should need to do anything else!

You might also enjoy reading:

Allowing Children to Play for Their Age and Stage ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Don’t Stand Me up ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

Sitting Baby Up: The Downside ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

9 Reasons Not to Walk babies ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

Baby on the Move: What Infants Can do When We Let Them ~ Kelly Meier (Respectful Parent)

For more information about RIE parenting I’d highly recommend reading the following books (affiliate links):

Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition)  ~ Magda Gerber

Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities — From the Very Start
~ Magda Gerber

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting  ~ Janet Lansbury

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury

The Joy of Natural Development