I know I don’t update as much about her, but I do have another child–Andrew’s twin sister, Eleanor! Eleanor’s been really great and, despite her preemie-status, has been hitting all of her milestones beautifully.
Like other typically developing children, Eleanor is able to stimulate herself and cognitively start to make sense of the world around her through taste, touch, hearing, vision, and all of the other cool things she’s been picking up on (as exhibited in the photos above).
Stimulating and encouraging Andrew’s cognitive development, on the other hand, has been a little trickier. Whereas Eleanor can do much of these things on her own, Andrew–because of his delays, motor issues, and visual and hearing impairments–cannot. So with the help of his many therapists, we’ve come up with a few ideas that Andrew seems to be responding positively to.
The red exercise ball. After purchasing a couple of cheaper duds, we found success with the 65 cm SPRI Professional Plus Exercise Ball. It’s easy to pump air into, stays full for a long time, and is made of a nice, sturdy material. Andrew often does tummy time on this ball. But what he likes best is to bounce, bounce, bounce on it. It’s used mainly for soothing purposes.
Sophie the Giraffe was the first toy that Andrew ever took pleasure in. Before Sophie, we were a bit bummed because he didn’t really seem to respond to any toys at all. But about a month ago, we squeezed Sophie to elicit a squeak…. and Andrew smiled! So we did it again. Another smile! And another squeeze! Yet another smile! This was a really big deal for us because it meant that, on some level, he could hear! Andrew also likes it when we put Sophie’s head in his mouth for him to gnaw on.
A plastic baby wipes container filled with beans of various sizes. Because Andrew does not yet have much use of his hands and fingers, we try to stimulate them with objects of various textures and sizes. Holding Andrew in our laps, we place the container in front of him and guide his hands through the contents so that he can feel the coolness of the beans and all the various shapes. He has to be in the right mood for this one. But when done just right, his eyes get really big, he opens and closes his hands, and moves his hands–slowly–to and fro.
Old baby food jars filled with a variety of scents. Because Andrew is both hearing and vision impaired–and to what degree, nobody seems to know–we do all we can to try to make the most of his other senses as well. One sense that Andrew responds really well to is scent. From top to bottom, left to right: green tea, maple granola, grapefruit peel, cinnamon, orange peel, thyme/oregano, Neutrogena shampoo, chocolate, Dove body soap bar, vanilla. Andrew loooooves his scents. As we go from one scent to another, his eyes get really big and his head shoots up. Sometimes, he’ll smack his lips. Other times, he’ll smile oh-so-big. This was an idea from the speech therapist. For now, it’s for his enjoyment. But we’re supposed to start introducing the smells while saying “orange” into his cheek. The idea is that he’ll hopefully learn to associate objects with what he feels against his cheek.
Casio Magical-Light ML-1. With only 24 mini keys and about sixteen inches in length, this little keyboard packs a serious punch. Featuring 10 demo songs (like “Ode to Joy” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb), we can also control the tempo, volume, rhythm, and tone. As we tinker with the various songs and rhythms and such, it’s great observing Andrew’s different reactions. We also sometimes place one of Andrew’s hands or feet on the speaker so he can feel the vibrations. After enjoying this keyboard (which was on loan to us from a therapist), I went on the internet looking to purchase one for Andrew. Well, it was discontinued in 1994. Fortunately, I found one on Ebay for $10! Unfortunately, unlike our therapist’s keyboard, our Ebay keyboard’s sound is scratchy, muffled and far inferior of a product. Andrew doesn’t seem to mind. But I think for my own sanity, Il’l keep looking…
So these items are some of Andrew’s favorite things ever. Because he is unable to explore the world on his own in the way that Eleanor can, we try to give him as much of a boost as possible in terms of having a good time while broadening his cognitive horizons at the same time.