Whānau hui time for Mitch. Photo / Supplied
How do you know your if your four-year-old child, who suffers from life-threatening allergies, is hitting early childhood milestones?
That’s the dilemma Māori neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis faces with a dad worried his son is missing out because he’s too sick to attend daycare.
Wallis (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahungunu), meets with Mitch and his son Macsen, who has severe life-threatening allergies and is unable to go to preschool.
Stay-at-home dad Mitch is also worried Macsen is falling behind in his development and his illness is having a knock-on effect on his older sister.
“He’s got some pretty severe allergies, those are contributing factors as to why he can’t go to daycare. Because of that, it is hard to identify what kind of developmental stages he is meeting or not meeting…it is hard to tell if he is actually learning things. It feels like there is a lot of pressure on me as a father, especially as I am his sole caregiver at the moment,” Mitch says on tonight’s episode of Kid’s Don’t Come with a Manual.
Nathan unpacks the first 1000 days with Mitch and his thoughts on developmental milestones.
“Milestones are really important and having some understanding of when your child is supposed to reach certain milestones can be helpful but we have to remember it isn’t a race. Children all develop differently…we want to pick up developmental delays but really your doctor will pick up on those, the other ones just follow your child’s individual pathway,” Wallis said.
“Significantly the first 1000 days play a critical role in defining later outcomes for our tamariki and for their future.
In contrast to what your parents may have believed, your outcomes are not predetermined just by your genes and it’s not about learning alphabets, numbers or colours. It’s about being in a safe, loving and interactive environment. The more love and positive interaction you experience in your first 1000 days of life, the more developed your brain will be.
“This will ultimately impact all of your child’s life-long outcomes.
“When we measure social skills in four-year-olds, the four-year-olds who have the best social skills are the four-year-olds who stayed at home for the first three years and didn’t go to a childcare centre at all.
“You don’t learn social skills by being an infant and being put with lots of other infants. You learn social skills by first of all having a one-on-one relationship, called the dyad.
“It doesn’t have to be mum, it could be dad or nana or grandad, just a significant person.
“The dyad is just a Greek word for a two-way relationship. You have a one on one relationship with someone and that forms the blueprint for all of your future relationships for the rest of your life.
“From that one on one relationship you learn to have two, you learn to have four, you learn to have eight. …Social skills build on that one on one and actually, the longer you have that one on one relationship in the first three years, the longer you can keep your child out of a childcare centre in the first three years the better their social skills will be because you’ve built that foundation.
After talking through some of Mitch’s major concerns about Macsyn and whether his older sister Maddyn is missing out by having a brother with high individual needs who requires extra attention, Nathan recommends a mate date with Maddyn to balance those concerns.
Nathan has a korero with Maddyn to see what her take on things is and what she thinks of the mate date idea.
Sometimes there can be a lot of societal pressure to get your child into early childhood education from a very young age.
Nathan explores some different avenues with Mitch, from joining a playgroup to a Kohanga Reo where Mitch can stay with Macsyn to manage his needs.
Mitch’s parents have come along for a hui with Nathan to chat options and look at where to go from here.
Watch the full episode tonight on Whakaata Māori at 7.30pm Māori+ on demand.