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.
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.