Monday, February 20, 2012

Brain boosters for kids with special needs

Years ago, Max's pediatric neurologist told us to expose him to as many kinds of new experiences as possible. "It'll help grow his brain" is how he put it. In other words, getting Max to try different stuff would give his mind a workout, pique curiosity, encourage learning and focus and generally do his brain good. This is true of any child, of course, but especially true of a child with brain damage.

We got Max toys and books galore to explore. But for the longest time, he couldn't stand new places. They'd freak him out, to put it mildly. He'd screech, cry, shake his head as if we were torturing him (and by the looks we got from other parents, they for sure thought we were).

Max liked comfort places, the ones he'd been to again and again—mostly relatives' homes and Cold Stone Creamery (good for his belly, not so much his brain). And so, we got into the habit of repeatedly visiting local places that offered varied stimulation: zoos, children's museums and playspaces. We got memberships and season passes and we went and went and went.

Max has thrived. Because he's so comfortable at these places he's into everything, including new exhibits and activities. Today, we went to a zoo he loves and he didn't just walk in, he ran in.

We had our niece with us (Dave's sister had a baby girl on Saturday) and Max was thrilled to show her around and introduce her to "his" llamas and monkeys and lions.

Max's swan!

Everywhere we went, he was articulating the animals' names or imitating their sounds. His favorite animals are lions and zebras...

....though this time he was really taken by the turtles. 

Meanwhile, my niece felt comfortable enough at the zoo to attempt a nap on a bridge atop the Pillow Pet she takes everywhere.

What's particularly great about going to these comfort places is the surge of confidence Max gets. After the zoo, we tried a new restaurant—not usually something Max likes, but he was all for it. Then we had ice-cream at a new place. And for the first time, Max asked to have his chocolate ice-cream in a cone.

It was a good day. 


  1. I really love the advice and yes, it's so true. Expose your children (even typical) to as many new experiences as you can and let them explore and learn about their environment. Grows lots of good brains.

  2. Love this post! Mason was the same way - didn't like new places and would cry when I would take him. But I persisted because I knew it was important for him to experience new places and activities. And now it is very rare for him to have a meltdown on an outing. He loves getting out and doing new things :-) It looks like you had a wonderful day!

  3. Sounds like a great day! I love that your niece decided to take a nap on the bridge.

  4. Great post! Paolo also used to also act tortured when we took him to new places, felt like the meanest parents ever! We also persisted with new places as often as possible and it did get easier. My parents, who are our neighbors, have commented that we go out so much but to us it's therapy and you gotta do what you gotta do!
    I also wanted to tell you that it truly brightens my day when I wake up to Max's handsome smiley face:)

  5. I love this! Thanks for the reminder!

  6. okay that is advice I love "as many new experiences as possible" GREAT advice makes me want to start making plans. Great post thanks for sharing.

  7. looks like a great time! We have had similar issues with Zach when he was younger, but has been so much better now that he is older.

  8. I know you didn't write it for this reason but I have to pat you on the back for being such a great mom!
    Fortunately my kids love new places. Now if I could only get Jaden to stay in one place long enough to let Malachi have a chance to play!

  9. Ellen, you should come to South Africa and take Max to the Kruger National Park zoos are great but seeing a wild animal in it's own habitat is even better :)

  10. Shasta, it takes one to know one! Thank you.

    Nisha: Man, I would LOVE that. I was actually in the midst of planning a safari (my dream trip) when 9/11 happened. I didn't feel comfortable going on a fancy vacation after that, then I got preggers, and the rest is Max history.


Thanks for sharing!

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