Monday, December 21, 2009

Opening our kids' eyes to the world around them

Saturday, our town had an adorable Dickens village set up, with cute mini houses, a petting zoo and a horse-and-buggy ride. Sabrina and I went with her friend Nora from down the block and Nora's mom.

Sabrina loved the bunnies.

I scoped out the scene and called Dave; I wanted him to bring Max. We both knew Max might wig out at the petting zoo. We both knew he wouldn't want to go on the buggy ride. And yet we knew we needed to take him.

The truth is, it's usually so much easier not to take Max to new places. He gets scared. He gets unnerved. He cries. He wails. But the thing is, if we don't keep trying, he'll never outgrow his anxieties. And his brain won't thrive. On our last visit to the neurologist, he told us to expose Max to as many new places and situations as possible. His words were, in fact, "he needs significant visual stimulation." To help with his cognition, to spark his imagination, to expand his horizons—all that good stuff.

And so, Dave came with Max. Sabrina ended up going back to Nora's house, and that left the three of us standing there and watching people board the buggy, Max peering from behind a bush.

We tried to coax Max into the pen with the bunnies and ducks, but there were a lot of kids in there and he balked. He was mildly interested in the goats, sheep and llamas, though he was very interested in the horse trailer—he kept pointing to the animals, then to the trailer, hoping he'd see them getting herded inside.

I yearned for him to go on that horse and buggy ride, or to play with the animals. I don't want Max to stand on the sidelines of life, watching it pass him by. But at times like this I have to remind myself, yet again, that it's just me projecting my own wants onto Max. For now, he is happy observing. And that's the best we can do for him—expose him to different sights and let him experience them in his own way.

When we got back home, he had a blast running around in the flurrying snow.

That was his kind of happy.


  1. Dimitri used to "glaze over" or get upset. It's been a long slow road getting him used to visiting new places, particularly busy ones, and there are some problems still, but on the whole he enjoys and benefits from these experiences. Slowly but surely :-)

  2. I agree...slowly but surely. Oscar used to have a terrible time in crowds..he'd either shut down or cry if it was too loud. But the more we did and saw he started acclimating and also taking more chances. How great that you could both be there with Max while Sabrina went to a friend's house!!

  3. This is so interesting. Max seems like such the social butterfly! Maybe, like me when I first begsn walking, Max is intimidated by large crowds because of his unsteadiness on his feet, and it's a fear that he will fall? That could be it, but you know him better than we all do! I'd love to meet Max someday!

  4. We try to do the same, baby steps, but its hard to watch children get upset or confused. 'Tough love' comes mind, its hard but will be worth it some day:) Jen

  5. Wow, that Dickens set up looks really fun. I wish we had something like that around here!
    I think you're right that exposing Max to new things is the only way he'll overcome his anxiety. We had a similar issue with Daniel. From age one until forever, everyone would tell me that he would be walking very soon - the doctors, the therapists and the people who knew their stuff. The problem is that Daniel didn't take off walking for a very long time. He had the physical ability to do it, but he also had some pretty hefty sensory issues. He would not just toddle across the room to us, but would walk if we stood directly behind him at all times. If we moved away or in front of him, he froze up and screamed his little head off. His therapist advised us to start moving away from him when he walked. It was a nightmare at first, but he gradually overcame his fear.

  6. Ellen, Max and Faith remind me so much of eachother! Even though we have never met! That would have been her all the way... He will get there!

  7. One step at a time, Ellen!

    And, big picture, there's value in observing life. Were it not for the observers, we wouldn't know our human history!

    Someone has to keep an eye on things and take notes, after all....

  8. I totally agree with you. Max seems so happy.

    The Dickens theme is beautiful. I wish there was something like that near us.

  9. We went through a lot of the same with Amanda, but the more you expose these kids of ours, the better off they are. Amanda is a bit older than Max, she was just in her school's Christmas play, (Pics posted on my blog). She has come a long long way. I can take her most anywhere except a movie theater, but that is more due to her visual problems.

    Crowds have always been a problem for her. She does better with me than with her mother. I think it is because I am bigger and act more like a lead blocker.

    Animals have always unnerved Amanda, except for horses. She was involved with riding therapy at a young age, so that really helped her. She is still scared of dogs, cats and just about anything else though. And the only time she has ever jumped was when she saw a rabbit.

    I really enjoy your posts. Max is blessed to have such a mom.

  10. CP and anxiety is a bad mix. You are doing the right thing. I remember when I was Max's age I hated going to movie theaters. My parents took me to tethers more and more until I was fine with it. Now I go to the movies and enjoy it, i hope that max never has OCD or anxiety disorder when he gets older like I have. This post hit home for me u are dong the right thing. I know it must be embarrassing as it was for my parents, but he will thank you latter. Keep fighting ,

  11. I play it down the middle. Some days I decided its just too much and other days I push. Good to know that it's not just my kid who finds big moments a little overwehlming.

  12. Just for the record, I hate sheep, and goats, and llamas, no matter how many people are around or not. If they're out in the open, as in the wild, then I'm fine. If they're in a pen, petting zoo, any zoo. I keep a healthy distance. Just let Max do what he can do and just nudge him along as he can take it. I'm perfectly happy taking pictures while people run around and stuff. Look at it this way, if someone isn't "just" observing the stories aren't as good later on.

  13. Thought typically calm, it can be hard to determine what the next movement of an animal is going to be. If you think they might jump, lick, etc., with no warning, then the easist thing to do is stay back.

    Yesterday, 3 of us moms took our 4 boys with autism (ages 12, 9, 7, 5 and all over the spectrum) and our 3 daughters (NT) to our local "Old Town" to see lots of different santa's and such. They roam the streets talking to kids and giving them thier picture card. It was a great (yet cold) opportunity for all the guys to experience/observe life. As you would expect, all had a different way of going about it from my son ignoring things to one of the boys seeking out and talking with each character.

    Oh these slow steps can be hard and oh so very slow.

  14. It's good to read and see how much Max has progressed. Keep up the good/hard work. smg-gdp

  15. Wow - your town does some really neat stuff - that Dickens village looks pretty cool. I applaud you for pushing Max a bit with this kind of stuff. Too many times, I retreat because it is just hard! I also think it is great that you realize when you are projecting your wants on Max. That can be easy to do at times. I guess it gets easier to catch yourself as kids get older.


Thanks for sharing!

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