I haven’t posted since I went to my music terapy conference. I will post about that soon, but in the meantime, I was given my final assignment for my developmental psychology course and I thought I might post both my interview with Dad and my analysis here, as I found what I learned to be very fascinating. Thanks to Humanity for transcribing my recorded interview. I could not have done this assignment without you.
Psyc251 Assignment 4:
This is for psyc 251, developmental psychology and I am interviewing you about me as a child, which may or may not be one of your favourite things to talk about.
So we’re learning about temperament right now, so my first question is: can you describe to me what my temperament was like as a baby?
You were a happy baby, you were happy pretty much all the time.
barb: Really? I find that hard to believe.
You smiled a lot, and you were happy, you just were, I don’t recall you making a big fuss. There were some times when you were colicky or whatever, but nothing was extreme, you just seemed by and large happy and content.
So can you describe an experience that you had with me, any particular experience that demonstrates this?
Demonstrates this temperament.
Well when you were less than 1 year old, I remembered you being happier rather than not.
Even now, when you’re 29 you have the same delight in rocking.
When you were less than a year old, and I remember you always smiling and laughing and just being at your best when you were on this rocking horse, It was a wooden rocking horse that we had where you would pretty much put to the tips of the rockers on either end, thinking that you were gonna do a full flip on the rocking horse. But you’d just laugh and smile and carry on.
So I can’t remember other specifics but I remember you being generally a very happy baby.
Temperament as a child is a strong indicator of how one is going to turn out later in life.
There are 3 main types of temperament that most babies fall in to.
There are easy babies which by the sounds of it you’re saying I was. There are difficult babies, which are babies that get really upset and freak out about, anything. They don’t do well with strangers, any new situation is upsetting to them. They cry a lot they have a lot of problems.
And then there are babies who are slow to warm up, which is pretty self-explanatory, at first they might be fussy and carry on and get upset, but they eventually will calm down and be alright and adapt to their surroundings.
So what did you think about parenting, and did your expectations of parenting style change after you had me. What did you initially think parenting was going to be like, and how did it change after I was born?
Well because you were our first child, we didn’t have a parenting style.
Because both your Mom and I were nurses, we knew probably a little more than the average young parent back in that day, we had read the books, we had done pre-natal classes, we had learned about all those kinds of things when we were in training to be nurses.
So we thought we would be realistic parents, and I don’t know that we had a style per say, I can tell you what I learned after our parenting style changed a fair amount after your brother came along.
And why was that?
Well, we didn’t realize at the time because of your blindness, we had to teach you a few more things, than what we had to specifically teach cameron, and we didn’t know that we were “teaching”
That we wouldn’t have to teach other babies that.
Can you give an example?
handing you a glass of milk, we had to teach you to set that milk down on a hard surface, because you didn’t have the benefit of seeing what everybody else did with a cup or glass and the surface.
So we had to make sure that we taught you, if we didn’t specifically teach you to set it down, if we were always reaching out and grabbing the cup from you when you were done, you would potentially get in the habit of just letting it go in mid-air because there was always someone who took care of it.
At that young age, you didn’t know that you had to set it down.
So there were a lot of things that your brother learned by observing others, that we had to specifically teach you.
Ok, wow! So on that note then, how did you guys go about teaching me how to crawl and walk then? Because wouldn’t normal sighted babies just see that and then do it??
I think that’s more reflexive, I think there’s an inmate desire to move yourself, to loco-mote.
One of the things we did when you were very young, because your uncle Clark was an olympic athlete, and he was going to university at the time and he had some friends in kinesiology, he actually with his friends developed some little game, that was aimed at helping you understand your body and space.
So part of the game was, we had a little bracelet made with a bell on it, and we would put it on your right arm, your right wrist, and your left wrist, then your right leg, and your left ankle
and you would just jiggle it, and we thought you were probably learning a little bit more about your body and its motion by being able to associate the sound of you moving your arm, because if you didn’t have that sound even though you move, you’d have that kinaesthetic since, but you don’t have a secondary queue.
Where as a sighted child would not only feel their leg moving, but they would often times see their leg moving.
So things like that.
So what struggles, if any did you have in parenting, that you had not expected with me.
Well I’ll tel you a general one, and then I’ll tell you a specific one.
The general one, well was of course. You were blind, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do, we didn’t know. We’d never had a baby before, so we were very worried that we weren’t teaching you, or maybe we needed to be better to teach you things.
So it was a challenge, but it wasn’t.
You were our daughter, we were absolutely in love with you from the second you were born, well before you were born.
But it was frightening, I suppose, in the early days to go, “okay? How do we do this?” How do we teach you, and help you be successful, are we prepared? Do we know enough things.
So we did things, like we phoned infant stimulation.
Which was reserved for children I think with downs and with cerebral palsy, and other major issues.
Infant stim wasn’t really something for the blind, we were insistent that we could perhaps learn something from the people, that would be the interventionists for infant stimulation, to help you understand your world.
and that’s where jan came in?
and that’s where we met jan.
When we phoned originally, I remember this in London, they said there was an 18 month waiting list.
and I remember thinking if it’s an 18 month waiting list it’ll be too late for being an infant, if you don’t get service for 18 months.
and I don’t remember if I complained or whether I made some further noise, but we ended up seeing a therapist, and that was Jan, within a couple months.
and I think we were probably a bit of a novelty, because they had probably never been asked to give support to a blind child, that would be my guess.
So that’s the general part right? The challenges.
One specific one that I remember, for a few months was you getting your night and days mixed up.
That posed a bit of a challenge at some point there because you were awake all night and sleeping all day, and your mother was probably exhausted there, and I think that was when she was off on a maternity leave, think that was real early stage.
Jan helped us sort that one out, which was music boxes.
The strategy was have a specific music box that you wind up after your bath and you’re getting ready to bed, changing your diaper, putting you in your sleeper and all that stuff, we’d put that one music box on, and then every morning we’d put the other kind of rise and shine music box on, to get you used to, this is what happens at night, this is the way routine’s gonna go and this is what happens during the day.
You were lucky enough that it only took you a few days to turn it around.
Well that’s good.
Yeah it was a bit miraculous, either that or we were just so exhausted we couldn’t remember.
So does that answer your question?
That does answer my question.
I can’t think of challenges Barb, I wouldn’t say you were a challenge, we were always very concerned about will you be able to be successful, and then the surgeries, right. You had some pretty massive surgeries.
barb: Can you just give a brief overview?
Well the first major hospitalization thing was simply you going in, and they were going to do exploratory, look into your eyes under anaesthetic, and see what’s actually there and do scans and so on.
How old was i?
You must’ve been 6 months, maybe 8 months, maybe less?
and then your second surgery was the major one, where they were going to expand the orbital structures of your eye, and that was a brand new procedure, something that had only been done once in the US, and it was all very theoretical, and you were around 2 years of age.
I had started at the college and that was in 87, you were born in 86, and I think it was within the first year.
So it was either 88, or it might have been 89.
You would have been around 2 years old, and what I remember about that.
Is they’ve got this huge piece of surgery that’s going to involve taking bone out of your skull, and then directing the orbital structures of your cranial bone, and your facial structure, and then put these wedges of bone inside there, to expand the socket of your eye to 80% of an adult size.
and the experience was that they don’t manage to, the orbit of your eye grows by virtue of your eye growing, and it puts pressure against the bone, and that’s what stimulates the bone to grow.
and because you had no eyeballs, you had nothing to push the bones there. So people with your condition often have sunken eyes and no cheek bones, because that’s made up of your orbit.
and if they tried to stimulate bone growth with conformers, progressively larger conformers, the problem with that is, typically it wouldn’t put pressure toward the outside of the orbit, it would put pressure toward the back of your eye.
So anyways, that surgery they said it was gonna be about 6 or 7 hours, and 11 hours later you came out of surgery.
and I lost, oh probably about 7 years of my life with worrying there.
We saw you in recovery.
Was I freaking out?
No. and what I remember saying to you, was “what does the duck say?” and you said “Quack quack.” and I knew you were alright.
Because I was terrified that you’d been under anaesthetic for so long, and they had messed around with your head etc.
And then the next day, of course the swelling had set in, and you looked like stewy from family guy.
You had a head that was insanely grotesquely swollen and misshapen, your head looked like a football, like an oversized rugby ball.
and you had 2 iv’s one in each leg,
barb: Why did I need 2?
dad: and one in your arm. and you had drains coming out of your head.
So you had all of these tubes coming out of you, and your mother and I had been toilet training you a couple months before your surgery.
We decided that we needed to stop toilet training you, because we were afraid that you would associate this surgery with your toilet training.
We had it in our head, because we had read somewhere that kids associating untoward events as negative punishment for not toilet training properly.
So we decided to back off the toilet training because you were gonna have this big, stressful event in your life right?
So we left you in diapers and really backed off, but the day after your surgery with all of these tubes coming out of you, the first thing you said is you wanted to go to the bathroom.
dad: and the nurses got you up and got you on a toilet, and you never used a diaper after that day. That I remember, you were toilet trained! hah.
I have 2 more questions.
My first one is, how much were you guys around when I was a baby, how much were you working what was life like for you guys at that time, other than having me?
Well for me, I was teaching nursing, so I was home every night, I didn’t go anywhere. It was like in those early days for your first 7 years, I was home every night.
Now I did work probably, often times at night, but that would technically be after dinner was made, and after you guys had a bath and off to bed so to speak.
Didn’t mom work shift work?
and your mom worked shift work, at the hospital, so there were lots and lots of times where it was just me.
barb: So if mom was working during the day, and you were working during the day, who was taking care of me when I was a baby if you were both at work?
Well I don’t remember the specific order, there was your aunt alice, and there was Judy.
and the first baby sitter you had was Brenda and ray.
Because that can often account for children’s temperaments, how much time the parents actually spend with kids.
Well we put you in day care at one point, for a couple days a week.
Because you didn’t need day care, because we had care, but we put you in day care, so you could be with other people. You could integrate and socialize with other children.
and so my last question, is. Did you have to change, other than the part where you were teaching me a lot more things than Cameron was his temperament different than mine, and if so did you have to change your parenting style a lot?
Yes he has a completely different temperament, he was unhappy, I think Cam was in pain or something for some time.
He had earaches, he had sore throats, he had legitimate physical issues as a small child, with recurring ear infections and so on, but there wasn’t a day that would go by when he didn’t cry.
He was in distress of some kind. So that was a different kind of parenting, I suppose in trying to work our way through that.
How did I deal with that?
You know what, I don’t recall you having issues with your brother when he was really really young, you were not very nice when he was a toddler.
Neither of you guys were, you guys did your own nipping and teasing each other, by and large he helped you a lot right?
Dad: and probably shouldn’t have, again we were smart enough to go ok, Cameron can’t be the helper for his sister, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t the helper often times.
Thanks for answering my questions, I have a lot to work with here.
As is evidenced by my father’s reminiscing on my childhood, I had a very easy temperament. Funny, considering I am now an adult and am incredibly quick to react to emotional situations in extreme ways. The theory of temperament in infancy is largely indicative of how the individual will turn out as an adult. While I do feel emotions very intensely, whether that be joy, sadness, hurt, for the most part it is true that I am, in fact, happy. This temperament was made evident when my father recounted the story of my facial cranial reconstructive surgery. The fact that the doctors spent approximately eleven hours performing a highly complex surgery on my head and I was not only able to tell Dad what the duck said but was determined that I was going to use the potty is indicative that I was very adaptable and resilient. I was, and still am, not going to allow traumatic incidents to get the better of me and it is essential that I bounce back and adapt to whatever happens. As I can bounce back emotionally, so too can I “bounce” physically.
Dad was most likely right in suggesting that when I was a child it was useful to play the locomotion game that my uncle and his friends created for me. I do wonder how physically self aware I might have been without it. As an adult, I tend to wear bracelets and necklaces that make noise when I move my wrists or head, and I am strangely comforted by having things that click and jingle when I move.
Rocking has always been a source of great pleasure for me. When dealing with people on the autism spectrum, actions such as rocking are referred to as stimming, (short for stimulating). Along with the rocking horse that I rocked onto each end, I also had a plastic swing that they hung from the ceiling in our basement. Even now at twenty-nine years old, I spend as much time on swings as I possibly can.
It is a common trait in blind people to need increased stimulation, whether that’s rocking back and forth, pacing around a room, flapping their hands and fingers, or some even tend to poke at their eyes. I have heard that the eye poking is only common in people who once had sight and lost it later in life. Apparently poking the eyes stimulates a response where they perceive tiny lights at the back of their eyes. For myself and probably most of the rockers, this stimulus comes from a deep seeded need to sense more of what is around us. When we remain static, we can only sense what is in the immediate vicinity, but if we are constantly moving, we are covering more of the area around us, thus allowing us to experience increased sensation of the surroundings. What I found most intriguing about this behaviour in particular is the fact that they actually were, at some point, able to convince me to stop rocking. I never stopped wiggling my hands, but I once was able to truly sit still, until I was seventeen, and I was sent to a segregated school specifically for blind people when I was in grade twelve. All of a sudden I was surrounded by blind kids and teens who rocked uncontrollably. Teachers and residence support staff never discouraged this, and without even being conscious of it, I started rocking again. I think it was within the first few weeks of my being segregated that this habit began again, and I have been unable to stop since, even when people tell me it looks ridiculous and that I need to stop.
As my parents were both very intelligent and both nurses, their main goal in raising me was to ensure that I was as “normal” as I could be. They have often told me that it was of utmost importance that I “run with the sighted kids”. As a result of this goal, I was placed in a daycare from a very young age. It is apparent then that my parents believed in Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach to my development and that even though I had care, it was crucial that they placed me in daycare so I could learn and interact with other children my age. They wanted me to fit in so much that I can remember playing soccer with the kids when I was six years old. They wanted me to play the same sports and have all the same opportunities as any other child, so that summer my father and I would come onto the soccer field, every Tuesday night at 6:30 P.M. I was goal keeper and Dad would tell me which way to move to block the ball. I did relatively well considering I was slower to react than a sighted kid would be, but we quit at the end of the summer. That said, I was still grateful for the opportunity to play soccer with my friends, and being able to “run with the sighted kids” quite literally. My parents took an authoritative approach to my upbringing. They always told me why I was doing what they asked of me, especially my father. As a result I was much more excited to learn and experience the world around me, even if things seemed frightening.
One of the points of the interview that I found most intriguing and that never would have occurred to me before was when Dad discussed how his teaching style had to change when they had my brother. The fact that they had to literally teach me to put a cup on a hard surface was, to them, quite natural. Since they naturally taught me this and I was their first child, they figured they would have to teach any baby this, not realizing that Cameron would be able to see the movement of setting the cup on the table and imitate based on visual observation. While they retained an authoritative parenting style with my brother, the teaching style was much more visually based, whereas with me I learned so much by touching and physically interacting with my world.
In communicating with other blind people and in seeing how I personally shifted after moving to the school for the blind, it is evident that my parents had the right idea in keeping me as integrated as possible. I had the opportunity at the school to observe children that had been there since they were in kindergarten and many of Bowlby and Spitz’s observations about children raised in institutions proved startlingly accurate. While the children didn’t often seem listless or depressed, there was a shockingly high rate of social isolation and stunted mental development. While there, I never understood why so many students were held back two to three years, and I was always amazed by how many children had disabilities other than blindness. At the time, I thought that their mental conditions were evident from birth and that their parents must have put them in the school because they did not know how to adequately aid them in their development. While the second part may still be true, after learning about the affects of children being institutionalized, I now wonder if some of those challenges came about as a result of being left there from such a young age.
As I have been working on this assignment, I also started to wonder whether or not anyone has ever performed some sort of formal or informal study to examine a correlation between blind individuals who were integrated or segregated and the likelihood of them living independently and/or having some type of job, whether volunteer or paid. I would posit that those of us who spent most of our lives “running with the sighted kids” are far more likely to live independently and enrol in post secondary education, as well as feel motivated to find work. Though it is difficult for disabled people to find paid work in a large percentage of cases, I believe that we as integrated individuals are far more likely to keep trying even if we don’t succeed right away. This phenomenon can be explained using Dweck’s theory of self attribution and achievement motivation. The children who spent their lives at the segregated school were always reminded that above all else, they were blind and they were different. Therefore they were held to a much lower standard than those of us who integrated. I knew I was blind and that a lot of these things might take longer to learn than they would for my sighted peers, but I was never allowed to use blindness as an excuse to not try something. I was and still am always being pushed to find a job, to get a higher education, to make friends and integrate into the world as a useful and active member of society. Although I feel this pressure very intensely and often cannot stand my mother for pushing to the point of hurting me, I am grateful every day that I ran with the sighted kids, and this will never stop. I am taking this course as a prerequisite to becoming a music therapist, and I know that through the integration of music and psychotherapy I will be the one who helps kids and adults overcome whatever challenges they may face.