Tuesday, October 7, 2014

31 for 21: How We're Learning

(Another photo from my brother's wedding a few weeks ago.  The rain keeps falling here, and the light is terrible in every picture I've tried to take for the past week.)
Watching babies learn is fascinating.

And watching my two boys learn and grow, and observing some of the differences between them, keeps me entertained and awed.

Toby has always been all or nothing with his interests and his skills.  Two years ago he refused to hold a pair of scissors--for me, for his preschool teachers, for anyone.  He was convinced that he could not cut, and the "can cut a straight line" box (along with a few others) remained unchecked on the preschool skill sheet.  Then, over the summer, there were photocopies of Piggy (from the Elephant and Piggy books) puppets at the library--and before I knew what was happening Toby had chopped his way around the round puppet, ears and all.

Toby refused any sort of sign language until about 15 or 16 months.  Then, in an ah-ha moment, he figured out "more".  And within a week he had a dozen other signs.  At two years he still wasn't stringing two words together.  But 6 months later his preschool teacher remarked that he never stopped talking.

With Toby, it was always easy to remember the "firsts" and to know which day to mark them on a calendar.

Max goes about things differently.  He's got about a dozen gestures right now--that may or may not mean anything.  Sometimes he'll do them when asked, sometimes he won't.  Sometimes he seems to be practicing, and sometimes he seems like he's just waving his arms around and any resemblance to a sign is coincidental.  He babbles mamamama constantly, but sometimes he looks right at me when he says it and seems to be using it to get my attention.

Max loves the attention he gets from copying his therapists.  So he'll play along with their games.  And then he'll clap for himself and wait for everyone else to join in.  And then he won't try the skill again for weeks.  He's been "army crawling" for months now, but rarely for more than a scoot or two.  Skills that seem like they're moving forward will stop abruptly and regress a bit.  And then, after some time, he'll figure them out again.  Max seems much more comfortable showing us his attempts, but some days the process seems one-step-forward-two-steps-back.

Siblings do things differently, I get that.  But throw the Down syndrome into the mix and it gets dicey.  Do I want to acknowledge that some of Max's learning style comes from that extra 21st?  Am I falling into stereotypes by noticing how he wants to please people, how he uses his smile to get what he wants, how he seems to practice and practice and practice before he masters a new skill?  Shoot, is it fair to make any sort of conclusions about the learning style of such a little guy?

I just know that I enjoy Max's learning the most when I sit back and watch, and don't get too caught up in what he's doing when.  Regardless of how he gets there, he's a toddler, figuring out the world for the first time.  It's an honor to sit by and watch his world unfold.

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