A day of action

Using a Little Room at Red Hill Special School

Using a Little Room at Red Hill Special School

Sometimes, there are days when you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot. They are few and far between for me, since a lot of my life seems to be filled with just getting by – making sure everyone is fed and dressed and has teeth and hair brushed.  But sometimes I have a day when I feel like I managed to tick things off my never-ending “to do” list. Yesterday was one of those days.

The day started (well, after getting everyone up, fed, dressed, brushed and Vegemite off to school) with a visit to the house we are in the process of buying. It is only two streets away from the one where we currently live, so it wasn’t exactly a long trip. I hadn’t seen the house since that first fateful viewing, when I thought it had potential and encouraged QB to have a look at it. QB was there too, and it was nice to go around together, planning where things will go and changes we’d like to make. Fortunately, the house was still as nice as I remembered it, so the buying process can continue…

Then it was off to playgroup at Red Hill Special School. The playgroup room has a Little Room and Lil Z always spends a bit of time in it.

The Little Room was originally invented by Lilli Nielsen, a Danish specialist on education for children with multiple disabilities (particularly visual impairment) and creator of Active Learning. I’ve learned a bit about Active Learning following our visit to Narbethong (a school for the visually impaired in Brisbane) and think it is likely to be a good approach for Lil Z. You can read more about it here but the basic idea is to allow a child to explore and learn themselves and at their own pace, rather than helping them to do things, hoping they will learn to do them independently.

The Little Room is at the core of Active Learning. Because children like Lil Z are often quite passive and reluctant to explore their environment, a Little Room encourages them engage. It is essentially a small enclosure with lots of different objects hanging from the ceiling and attached to the walls. The floor is a resonance board (a wooden board raised slightly off the floor so that makes sound and vibrations when struck). The idea is that Lil Z will have to engage because no matter how she moves in the Little Room, she touches something. Once she becomes familiar with the objects, she will search out specific ones and explore them, play with them, and compare them to other objects hanging in the Little Room. A bit like a baby play gym, really. But the objects in the Little Room are usually household items with interesting textures, sounds and temperatures (e.g. a cold metal spoon).

Buying a Little Room is extremely expensive. They don’t look that difficult to make (they’re effectively a big wooden box with a clear plexiglass top) but since we have neither tools nor time, the odds of us making one ourselves are low. I’ve been talking to an organisation that supports Lil Z about funding for someone to build one for us, but that is going to take time to organise. All very frustrating when it is something to which she responds well and would benefit from using more than once a week at playgroup.

This was all running through my mind after playgroup. And since we didn’t have any plans for the afternoon, I thought I’d go to the shops and see if I could get some inspiration.

So, I wandered around our local shopping centre, not really knowing what I was looking for, but knowing I’d recognise it when I saw it. I’d previously had the idea of using our old travel cot (pack and play, as they call them in the US) as a temporary Little Room, since the bottom is quite hard and would give a bit of vibration since it is raised off the floor. But what could I put over the top to hang things from? In the middle of the baby section of Kmart, I found what I was looking for – a cheap baby stair gate with rails, that would extend to go across the travel cot.

Once I’d found the top to my Little Room, I got to have fun picking out the items to hang from it. I apologise to anyone who encountered me in the kitchen ware or Christmas aisles in Kmart yesterday, who were probably very confused by my overwhelming glee at finding bottle brushes, dusters, measuring spoons and flashing LED lights – all for under $3!

We got home and I set things up while Lil Z had a feed. It didn’t take long at all to attach the utensils to the rail with elastic and hang them over the travel cot. I was so pleased with myself!

And then, since I had time before Lil Z’s feed was finished, I also managed to finally sort out her hydrotherapy. As I’ve mentioned before, Lil Z LOVES to be in the water. We have been using the pool at Red Hill on an ad hoc basis, but I’ve been very keen to organise some proper hydrotherapy for her. We even have a generous benefactor who is willing to fund a few sessions for Lil Z. But it has taken me AGES to sort out. Yesterday, I finally did it and Lil Z has her first session coming up.

And since her feed still wasn’t finished, I also managed to book a family photo shoot – on the beach, no less. I can’t take any credit for the idea (that all goes to QB) but I did liaise with the photographer and manage to book a session when the whole family is here (I originally tried to book at date when QB would be in the UK – sorry honey!).

Then at last the feed was finished and sufficiently digested that I could put Lil Z in my Little Room creation. Here is the result (note the adorable cloth nappy that matches the adorable grandma-made sundress):

Lil Z and her home-made Little Room

Definitely a successful day of action.

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