Palate repair rehabilitation, 30% done

by J on July 6, 2010

Oh, Simon. You are a trooper.

Over the past week we’ve seen some pretty monumental changes in the little guy. Not simply healing and getting back to his old self, but also learning tons of new (overdue) skills.

A week ago, I noted on Facebook that Simon had started sleeping sitting up in the middle of his bed, not leaning on or supported by anything, and would stay that way for hours at a time. It was astounding, and even more so because of the balance he was sustaining despite his low muscle tone. If he fell over, he would wake up, then sit back up and go back to sleep. A few times, I tried laying him down, but it always woke him up. We just chalked it up to “oh, those crazy kids, what will they do next.” But after two days of the behavior, something just seemed not quite right, so I called the pediatrician, hoping he would confirm it was just a weird phase, all kids did it, and no big deal. Instead, he recommended we call Simon’s surgeon since normal kids don’t sleep sitting up. He was worried that Simon was having trouble breathing lying down, and thought the surgeon might want (another, this would be the third) sleep study.

So I did call the surgeon (well, indirectly, through the nurse practitioner), and they both said that the behavior was Definitely Weird, and that if it got worse, we should take him to the emergency room at the Children’s Hospital and they’d page the surgeon to come take a look at Simon. Sigh.

Of course, the act of calling medical professionals caused nearly immediate cessation of the behavior in question (is it just my kid or is this a thing?), and he’s been sleeping fine ever since. So hey.

Now, I will readily admit that I paid poor attention in Developmental Psychology class (and all my other classes) in education school. I have many justifications for this, and none of them are reasons I would accept from my own students. Development of the toddler brain seemed unrelated to any issue I could conceive of dealing with in the high school classroom.

People! No! It’s always applicable! You never know when you’re going to need that information!

I am getting to the point.

I feel like I might vaguely remember learning or hearing (or perhaps I am constructing a false memory to explain what I’m observing with Simon) that when kids are restricted in one area of development (like, say, having their arms restrained so they can’t feed themselves, move forward, or play with toys as they were accustomed to), they can compensate by developing in other areas. Of course, I wouldn’t know because I was paying poor attention, which I now regret.

Even if that’s not generally true, oh my goodness look at the neural pathways on Simon. Not only has he learned how to crawl for real (he previously just did a really fast army crawl), but also his receptive language and fine motor skills have…improved.

He used to be obsessed with Todd’s putting a jingle-bell ball into a stacking cup and twirling it around, but if we tried to get him to copy us, he would just throw the toys. Now, he’s putting every toy into every other toy and twirling them around. He stacks, he nests, he balances. He experiments with sizes and shapes. Small objects can fit into bigger ones but bigger ones don’t go into smaller ones. The  orientation of non-spherical shapes matters when you are using them as construction elements. And so on and so on.

He also responds appropriately when we ask him questions like:

  • Do you want to dance?
  • Simon kiss mama?
  • May I have a turn?
  • Where is Mama’s nose? Hair? Mouth?
  • And of course “Do you want your bottle?”

“Bottle” in fact is one of three signs Simon uses (the others being “all done,” which he only sometimes uses correctly, and “dance,” which he always uses correctly). He talks about his bottle a lot, and I think frequently he’s just talking about it, not asking for it. For instance, I always change his diaper before giving him the bottle, so today, I said “Let’s go change your diaper,” and he signed “Bottle!”

And lastly, my favorite thing: he gives spontaneous kisses just to be affectionate, or to thank me for doing something he likes: taking him to the fabric store, to the airport, dancing with him in the coffee shop, or playing Flying Boy.

He is a wonderful baby.