Countryschool children

Coconut trees chime with the mountain breeze cooling this country school in a cozy town known as the ‘fruit and flower basket of South Cotabato,’ a province an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital of Manila. Children were queuing up to get to their classrooms when I got in for a friendly business chat with the principal.

Cashew Fia, girl in white shirt and sneakers, far left, runs to greet CJ (little boy blue with his back to the camera) who was late for flag ceremony. They are classmates in first grade. Srifle, the Red Riding Hood holding CJ’s hand, is a girl I hired to help (the Grandma who is official guardian) look after CJ. Cheeky, my niece’s dog escorted the duo. That must be his way of saying thank you for the free breakfast I gave him that morning.

There’s a class entrance protocol that is new to me. Each child takes the teacher’s right hand to have it touch lightly on his forehead, and then give the teacher a peck on the cheek before he enters the classroom. The teacher in turn hugs each child and says words of blessing before letting him in. It is done quickly and then the children settle in comfortably on their chairs. They start the class with a song, a Bible verse and a prayer.

Almost three decades have passed since I studied briefly in this school. Corn and lemon used to grow on the front yard. A couple of my family elders have since retired from the school board. Computers now work in the offices, no more yummy ube jam in the canteen, but the christian country charm continues to warm the heart. I will always like it that way.

~ This post is shared with ABC Wednesday ~

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Few of my Favorite Things

Julie Andrews allegedly sang a parody of the Sound of Music tune My Favorite Things at an AARP benefit to commemorate her 69th birthday. I thought it was fun and interesting, even though there was no confirmation that Julie Andrews did sing it. Thus, ‘allegedly’ as Legends put it.

I was thirty-five then, and getting conscious of the fact that in five years my life would begin. I like believing in “life begins at forty.” To mark my 40th birthday last year I did my own lyrics revision. And came up with this: 

If you are not familiar with my blog: CJ is my son, Mozart is my fur kid (picture on sidebar), my mother is a soprano, and I am usually her piano accompanist. My father’s second wife, RIP Father, was the chess; and my mother beat him in scrabble mercilessly. I grew up watching an uncle’s ballroom dances and staring in wonder at his trophies. My pet peeve is internet/computer inaccessibility. I hate a runny nose with fervor and although I am stuck in the city, I am a country girl at heart. And oh, in case you were wondering about the three ***, that is deliberate as I haven’t yet found the person who will take the place of those asterisks.

I tried singing my own lyrics to the tune. It was crazy, but fun.

This post is linked with ABC Wednesday. Paper Border Courtesy: Liam’s Pictures from Old Books

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By definition, echolalia is repetition of sounds made by others.  It is a normal occurrence in child development.

In psychiatry it is the immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others; often a symptom of autism or some types of schizophrenia.

In medicine it is a disorder seen in certain psychotic states and in certain organic brain syndromes. Also known as echophrasia. (The Free Dictionary)

Being aware that no two children are the same, I try to recall an echolalic phase my son went though and compare it with descriptions from sites and blogs on developmental delays and disorder in children.

Life with Little Children illustrates:

Echolalia means repeating back (echo) things that are said (lalia). For example you would ask, “What do you want?” and instead of answering you, they would respond with, “What do you want?”  Or they parrot you around like when you say, “Look, there’s the stop sign” and they echo “There’s the stop sign.”

Once I showed my son an illustrated Bible story. A minute into the first page, he looked up from the book and faced me, “This is Jesus?” “He’s walking on the water?” “on the water?” “on the water?” The way I see it it’s himself he repeats after particularly the last words of his own observation. He does not necessarily repeat what I say to him. If he does, he says it in question form and echoes himself.

At three he can sing an entire hymn, recite verses, or cheekily point his chopstick at me and exclaim (Harry Potter’s) lumos maxima! but he can’t ask for milk when he needs it. He memorizes almost the entire content of his Baby Einstein DVDs, names many animals I don’t even know of but often I have to ask him if he needs to go to the bathroom because he never does even when he is supposed to.

While echolalia is known to begin at around 18 months of age, peaks at 30 months and declines significantly by the time a child turns 3, my son’s speech seemed normal until he turned 4. His developmental pediatrician was pensive, ‘has he regressed?’

This is the silver lining that I am looking for:

Echolalia is actually a positive sign that children with developmental problems may eventually be able to learn to use language to communicate. (Teach Me To Talk)

The purpose of echolalia is unclear, but it has been believed to serve a number of functions, including conversation maintenance, communication, self-soothing and verbal rehearsal. (Bright Tots)

And something I am most happy about is that my son is now talking normally again after two years of speech therapy.

ABC Wednesday

Dyslexics and Developmental Pediatricians

Let me begin with an observation on the latter.  Developmental pediatricians in the Philippines are a rare breed. Or that’s what I noticed. From society and organization websites, to forums, to word-of-mouth, to my own experience, they seem to be outnumbered by people who need their expertise. A parent of a child with developmental delays has to wait weeks or months to see one developmental pediatrician.

Only thirty are listed on the Philippine Society of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Twenty-five in one Filipino autism blog, and that is not purely DevPeds. A child psychologist, child psychiatrist, and pediatric neurologist are mixed in the list, although they certainly are a big help too.

At my son’s speech therapy and psychology center I hear the same account from other parents – securing a time slot with a DevPed is hard. They are all fully booked throughout what could turn into a year. You may be lucky if someone withdraws but that rarely happens.

I’m playing this by ear: I guess the picture is different in the west where for every special problem there always seems to be a corresponding expert. The perk of advance knowledge. Advance research. Wealth.

Back then I never heard of DevPeds or children with developmental issues were just undiagnosed. Recalling those years in the grades there were indeed a few who could have benefited from relative specialists. There was this practice among elementary school teachers, of assigning a child who knows well ahead to tutor a classmate who is behind lessons. Poor Christina. She would shed tears of frustration as she struggled with simple phrases. And poor me.  I would frown in exasperation as I sat with her wondering why she crawled through sentences.

Dyslexic? I hope at least now Christina doesn’t mind being in glamorous company. There are more than rare of them, like some listed on dyslexia the gift site list.

Among actors and entertainers: Whoopi Goldberg and Keanu Reeves
Among inventors and scientists: Alexander Graham Bell and Pierre Currie
Among artists and designers: Leonardo da Vinci and Tommy Hilfiger
Among athletes and political leaders: Muhammad Ali and John F. Kennedy
Among entrepreneurs and business leaders: Richard Branson and Ted Turner
Among writers and journalists: Agatha Christie and Byron Pitts

Here’s looking forward to third world DevPeds becoming as less and less rare as dyslexics around the rest of the world are famous contributing members of global society.

ABC Wednesday         



It happens in church and in church school
Children are taught that praying is cool.
God loves you, He took the cross for you
Talk to Him, He’d love a feel
Kneel in prayer and seal the deal.


This post is linked with ABC Wednesday.