Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unexpected developmental milestones

Tonight, Erin, Blaise & I braved the first real "wintry mix" of the season to go to our parent group at The Guidance Center in Somerville. This is where Early Intervention (Blaise's physical therapy services) is headquartered and these evenings are a nice chance to go talk with other parents who have kids with medical needs while the little ones hang out and do fun stuff with VERY qualified baby-sitters. There's only a few other families that attend, so we've been getting to know people over the past few months and it's been fun seeing how all the babies have been progressing. When all the typical kids you know are racing around like mad and gaining weight effortlessly, it helps a lot to spend time with families who are on different timelines and have a different set of goals.

Having your kid spend some time playing with other kids and other adults also gives them a chance to roam outside their usual playing behaviors a bit. The EI staff are great at trying out new things with Blaise, which is how we found out last week that she absolutely loves bouncing up and down on a yoga ball. They've also got a great big container filled with rattles that Blaise never gets tired of sorting through. Taking things out of bins and then discarding them is a new hobby of hers, so this is great fun. Besides all the toys that are appropriate for typical kids, they have a lot of adaptive toys for kids with cerebral palsy, low muscle tone, or other motor problems...which brings me to the "unexpected milestone" hinted at in the title of this post.

One of the kids that comes to this group was born just over a year ago with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His mobility is very limited, and so he uses a lot of specialized adaptive equipment for all his daily activities, including playtime. His mom and grandma brought along one of his "switch" toys tonight, which is basically a cool-looking blue button mounted on a plastic box that you can program to play whatever you record onto it. Toys like these can be really great for kids with CP, especially if they have communicative problems...being able to push a big, chunky, button to make something happen can go a very long way if you aren't able to speak or use sign language. Now when the kids are hanging out with the EI staff, they're all just kind of playing on a big activity mat and can check out all kinds of stuff. Blaise doesn't have any toys that are like her friend's "switch," and the fact that it sang songs when you pushed the button (sung by it's owner's family) probably made it even more attractive. So what did she do with it when she got the chance to play with it?

She totally hacked it.

OK, maybe I'm giving her a little too much credit...but still. Before, when you pushed the button, it would cycle through "Wheels on the Bus," "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and a few other songs. Now, it gets through the first two and then you hear something like:

"Blaise? Honey, what are you doing with that?"

"I think maybe she didn't push the right button."

"Um, what does that little light mean?"

Blaise somehow managed to push a combination of buttons in the right order so as to overwrite one of the songs and replace it with general playtime chatter. Apparently she also got one of the batteries out of it before they realized that that was what she was actually doing. Happily, it's not hard to re-record the old song, but we did apologize for our daughter's technological investigations. :)

The nurses on 10 East used to tease us all the time about Blaise's MIT mobile. One of them took to calling them the "No-Pressure Bears," even after we made it clear that we'd be happy with any place Blaise might choose to go to college (except CalTech). More than one person who found out that Erin and I both went there would look at Blaise and say something like, "Two MIT parents? Both developmental psychologists? You're doomed, kiddo."

The truth? Blaise isn't doomed. Blaise already knows how to re-program small electronic toys. It's the rest of us that need to watch out. Hide your appliances, folks.


Adrienne said...

Nice job, Blaise!
I suppose that makes baby proofing a whole new thing for you guys though...

jcberk said...

This is awesome. Getting an early start on making the world what *she* wants it to be.

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