What's the hype about school readiness?

When our children are born, we have certain dreams and expectations for them. At birth, we quickly count their toes and fingers to ensure that they have ten of each… we also welcome those first cries as it tells us that our child is “normal”.

We do not skip those all important doctor’s - and clinic visits to make sure their growth and development continues as expected. We quietly compare our child to our friends’ children and other kids of the same age at playschool.

So when it is time for one of the biggest milestones in our child’s life- to enter grade 1, why do so few patents make sure that their child is really ready for school? Most parents only rely on the preschool or nursery school to confirm that their child is ready for big school.  Also, when nursery schools tell parents that they have concerns about the child’s readiness for the challenges of primary school, why do some parents veto this recommendation and still send their child to school?

It is important that your child’s developmental milestones in all areas are met for him to enter primary school. This means that his physical, perceptual, cognitive/intellectual, social, emotional and language developmental milestones are of such a nature that your child will be able to cope with the challenges presented to him in grade 1.

Children develop at their own pace due to genetic attributes and environmental influences. It means that each child will attain their milestones at different times and at different rates. If your child is not school ready, even though age wise he should be ready, and you send him to school, you might be setting him up for failure.

My son was born in November, and the year before he was due to go to grade one, I realised that he was emotionally still very immature. He was still very much geared to play and found it very frustrating to sit still and focus on desk work in preschool. He was hyperactive, but this was not my only problem. He was also teary and cried if things did not go his way. Intellectually he was able to do what was expected of him, but emotionally I thought it would be a challenge for him to cope with grade 1.

I took him for a school readiness assessment and the Educational Psychologist confirmed my concerns. We then decided to keep him back a year. I had to apply to the Department of Education to allow me to keep him in preschool for another year. We submitted her report and the Department accepted the recommendation. In my son’s case, it was a good decision. I feel we gave him all the benefits that he needed to have a happy and success school career.

So when is your child ready to enter grade 1 successfully? Many people think it is an age thing. If the child is six he/she is ready to enter school. This is not true, as you could see from my son’s story. Others think that when the child has acquired a certain range of skills, the child is ready to enter school. It is not good enough to only look at certain aspect in your child’s development, You need to look at the child holistically. It is therefore vital to consider the child’s development in all aspects, including emotional wellbeing, to ensure that your child is set for success when entering school.

Your child’s school career will be a long one, and therefore it is often best not to hurry things. Help your child to be set for success by giving him all the advantages possible. Information is is still powerful in helping you to make good, informed decisions.


Breast Cancer Awareness 2014

October is breast cancer awareness month. Although more women are aware of breast cancer than ever before, not everyone take steps in making sure that they remain healthy.

Here is the the story of how one cancer survivor was diagnosed. Her hope is that it will encourage you to go for an annual breast sonar, and when the time comes, for a regular mammogram.
She writes...

Story of a breast Cancer Survivor

Chapter 1: The diagnosis

I celebrated my 50th birthday in October 2012. It was not a particularly happy event for me, this 50 business, and for a few weeks I walked around with a bit of depression- feeling sorry for myself turning 50!
With a depressive mood over me about the fact that I entered the “next phase in my life” -being a middle aged woman according to society- I decided to pick myself and to rather reinvent myself. 
I was under an enormous amount of stress for some years in that the place I worked for, changed hands three times in four years, and I was managing a division which was always understaffed. I was overweight and always on the run- busy problem solving. I neglected my health for some time and I decided to see my gynae before the end of the year. I also made an appointment for a mammogram on the same day as the gynaecologist appointment.
It was early Friday afternoon on the 2nd of November 2012 when I left work early for the mammogram. I hated going for it, but my mom had breast cancer in her early 30’s for which she received a full mastectomy, without reconstruction. She had the mastectomy in the 70’s and the surgeon really butchered my mother. So, I was always aware that I needed to have a mammogram every few years.
I put on the hospital gown which was always too skimpy for my fuller figure. I waited in the cubicle for them to call me. I had huge breasts {DD’s} which meant that they had to squeeze the poor things in with great effort. I had a mammogram at 45 years old, and the nurse said that I only needed another when I’m 50.
A pretty young woman came to fetch me for the mammogram. She explained that she would take the mammogram and show it to the doctor, and if he had concerns, he would come in to do a further examination. The procedure did not disappoint and my poor breasts were sore after the pressing down with a vengeance.
I waited in too tight hospital gown- remember I said I am a full figured woman- when the doctor came into the room. I did not expect that! I could feel the heat moving from my neck to my face. My mouth was suddenly dry. The young doctor had the mammogram plates in his hand. I pulled on the gown to cover my legs. I felt a weakness coming over me. I remained seated looking up at him. He explained that he was not happy with what he saw on my right breast mammogram and that he would like to do a sonar.
I lied down on the bed and he pulled the gown to expose my breast. I felt embarrassed as gravity was not kind to me. He examined the breast and with every breath I felt how the knot in my stomach tightened. I could feel how my heart was pounding and I was aware of my shallow breathes. The doctor showed me two darker spots on the sonar screen. He said that he was concerned and would like to immediately do a biopsy. Perturbed I said “certainly not now!”, but he wanted to do it there and then. I felt faint and thoughts were rushing through my mind. I was so overwhelmed; I just needed to get out of there! So I said that I needed to see the gynae in half an hour {which was true}, and that I would come back for the biopsy on the Monday.
I quickly changed my clothes and went outside to try and breathe. You know how it feels when something major had happened to you, but you try to pretend that you don’t have a care in the world? I paged through a magazine in the reception, but I did not see anything. I had only one thought in my head: what if it is cancer? The gynae was happy with his examination, until I spilled the beans. Where he was making little jokes, he all of a sudden became very serious. He looked at the mammogram results and calmly encouraged me to urgently go for the biopsy. I promised to do so on the Monday. I don’t know how I got to my car. I just sat there for a long time. I felt all choked up. I tried to take deep breaths. I could not think. Eventually some calmness came over me.
When I got home I went straight to my room, closed the door and lie down, trying to make sense of what had transpired. How will I tell my family? Must I tell my family? I decided not to say anything. I did not want to upset them without confirmation that it was cancer. The knot in my stomach made nest in there. I went through the Friday night ritual with my family. I sat in front of the television with my husband but nothing registered with me. I withdrew to our bedroom earlier than usual, and pretended to sleep. I could not look my husband in the eye.
The lump in my throat did not subside. Throughout the night thoughts were racing through my head. The next day I looked at my husband children and I feared for what I might have to tell them. It was Sunday morning in church that I could not stop the tears. It did not ]want to stop rolling over my face. When we got home, my husband sat me down and wanted to know what was going on. The words flowed over my lips and I could see how the colour left my his face. We sat quietly until he got up to make some tea. I could hear him talking to our daughter in the kitchen. My beautiful adult daughter who had just returned home after a few months abroad. She came into the room and we hugged each other.
Monday morning. I phoned work and told them that I had to go for a test at the hospital. My daughter insisted on going with me. The young doctor was not there and when one of the other doctors looked at the mammogram, he insisted that I first see a breast specialist. They made an appointment for later that day. I sent my daughter off to work, and waited for the time to pass to see the specialist. I sat in my car to go to the specialist, when I decided to phone a colleague. She beat breast cancer a few years earlier and saw an excellent lady doctor at the Milpark hospital. I phoned her and asked for Dr Benn's number. I phoned Dr Benn’s office and after I explained my situation, the receptionist said I could see the doctor that evening at 19:00. I was overcome with gratitude. I phoned my husband and he immediately agreed to accompany me.
The waiting room had other people also waiting when we arrived. I looked at the faces around me, trying to read it. I saw a tall slender blond woman in scrubs consulting from one room to another,. Then it was our turn. My husband and I sat close to each other, holding hands. I Told her what happened and she took me through to her examination room. She looked at the mammogram, and came to examine my breasts. I once again felt terribly self conscious about my big breasts with its “road map”. Her hands had done this hundreds of times before. She pressed and the sentinel alerted loud and clear. It hurt when she pressed it. She knew where to press. She looked at me and said the dreaded word. Cancer. Two big lumps.
After that things went fast. I had a biopsy done the next day. A gentle soul did the biopsy. He was kind and respectful and talked me through the procedure. I was grateful when it was done. He carefully probed to find out what I was told. For the first time I said it: “I know it is cancer”...CANCER! I have cancer! He said that some of my lymph nodes were affected. In my lymph, but that is a death sentence isn’t it? Once into the lymph… is that not when people die? He could see the panic in my eyes and said that there was a lot that could be done.
Back to Dr Benn. She looked at the biopsy results. I could not wait for her to tell me when she would operate. All I knew was that I desperately needed the cancer to be out of my body. Then the devastating words. She did not want to operate right away. She wanted me to start with chemo, to shrink the lumps. CHEMO?! Oh no God, please not chemo!
My husband was next to me when we saw the oncologist later that week. He wanted to start as soon as possible. He explained the treatment plan, but it was almost as though I could not comprehend anything. “And yes, my hair will fall out”, he said. My hair which was my pride and joy… .
I made an appointment for three weeks later. Up to then I read as much as possible. Frightening stuff! I knew that my eyebrows and eyelashes would also fall out. I needed the three weeks to see the dentist, as I read that during chemo dental work is dangerous. I also decided to go for permanent make-up for my eyebrows. I needed to to make sure that I would continue to somehow recognise the woman in the mirror- I did not want to stare at an alien with a bald head and no eyebrows! Strange how important such a small thing suddenly became.
And that was how I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. It was sometimes an almost out of body experience, but most of the time a terrifying reality. I started with chemotherapy three weeks later- but that is a chapter for another time.
It is two years later, and I went through 16 chemos, a full mastectomy, 30 sessions of radiation and Herceptin treatment for a year. I am on a hormone blocker now, and I need to be on it for at least 5 years as my breast cancer is hormone-receptive.
It is two years later and I am alive! My life and the life of my family was turned upside down, but I am still here. My values have changed. I have learnt to appreciate my family and friends more than ever. I have learnt how strong my husband was and that my family will stick together through thick and thin. I have learnt to be in awe of how strong and weak my body could be. I have learnt that when you have to go through things where your family could not be with you, God is there. I have learnt that it is possible to live with cancer.
Dear Lady- yes you reading my story- I urge you to take care of yourself. Cancer does not discriminate on the basis of age or race. I have met many young ladies {early and mid-twenties} with their bald heads and scarred bodies. Cancer is also not for “sissies”. It is a frightening reality. Most of us know someone or of someone who has/had cancer.
Go for a sonar once a year, and if you are older and it is time to go for a mammograms, embrace it! Us girls are strong, we can withstand a mammogram if it can save our life! Early detection is key. I was not so lucky as my cancer was already in stage 3B.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Make an appointment now, and make sure that you remain healthy. You are worth it!
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
For emotional therapy to help you or a friend or family member through a difficult time, please contact me for an appointment (Medical Aid rates are charged):
Christelle du Plessis
To find mammogram centres that offer discount on mammograms during October 2014, visit http://www.cansa.org.za for information