Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Horse of a Different Color

I wanted to do that thing that you're not supposed to do in this post--in all the infant developmental posts, really--compare your children to each other. I wanted to do it in a sort of academic way, rather than in a "why can't you be more like your brother/sister" way. In that spirit, Van is a horse of a different color (I know they look the same color to you: very, very vanilla, but they have vastly various flavors on the inside!)

Van's 14 months old, and I posted about Nuvy's development during this stage , but sparsely. By the time I got her all posted, she had largely outgrown the stage. Now that Van is in early Stage 5 (stage 5 is 12-18 months), I want to take the opportunity to explore this stage more fully.

Reading my previous post on this stage (link above), I can see that I missed a lot of the emergence of skills in my writing about her. Let's take a look at Van:

Neurological and Physical Development:

Significant specialization occurs in all areas the brain at Stage 5, and of particular interest is the specialization of the hemispheres (the old "left-brain/right-brain" thing all those Signals t-shirts are always chirping about). This specialization and coordination between hemispheres precipitates:

evidence of hand-dominance ("lefty" or "righty")

Van is still pretty ambidextrous, but seems to lean more left than Nuvy ever did. Interestingly, he picks up finger foods with the left, but will move the spoon to his right.

heterolateral movement--

meaning alternating movement evenly on both sides of the body, such as stair-climbing with both legs, swinging arms while walking, and other left/right/left/right activities.

Van does not yet walk, but he climbs stairs and swings his legs alternately. His crawling is rhythmic and even, very different from the one-legged crab crawl Nuvy had from the very beginning of her crawling.


or the ability to reach across the center of the body to do something, like shaking hands, opening doors, or grabbing a spoon from the left side of your plate, using your right hand. Follow?

he is beginning to do some definitely diagnostic cross-patterning things. He has a wagon and a shopping cart, both of which he likes to push, and he can now maneuver himself, hand-over-hand from the front of the wagon around to the back where the bar is, for the purpose of pushing it.

Cycles of activity are getting established, and with this come the old sleeping and eating routines. You might get some speech at this stage, but many times it comes a little later.

With Van, we are having more trouble with sleep than we had with Nuvy. Maybe that's it, or maybe I'm more sleep-deprived now, having TWO children who don't sleep through the night, but there are some marked differences, and some remarkable similarities. Both children take substantial daytime naps. If I'm lucky, they'll both sleep for two hours at the same time!

The big disadvantage with Van is that he does not suck his thumb. I didn't give him a pacifier (by which I mean, I AM his pacifier), and I started nursing him to sleep very early. This is a big no-no, I know, and I also know first hand why. I had some excuse I used when he was very little, and still on Phenobarbital (anti-convulsant from his peri-natal rough patch. He doesn't need any seizure medication anymore, and has not had seizures since we left the hospital a week after his birth), which interrupted his sleep. So, for whatever reasons, he still does not sleep through the night, and I still nurse him down a couple of times between midnight and 5am.

Their eating patterns are similar for the age: She also refused breakfast at his age, and she also went on a three month blueberry binge, after which she would not touch a blueberry for almost a year. Van has recently ended his blueberry binge. He has also, generally, started eating less. End of a growth spurt, as I understand.

New Physical Skills

undressing--a variably convenient skill for parents. Van is still pretty much limited to hats, socks and shoes, though he "helps" when I'm undressing him.
walking steadily and carrying objects while walking

opening and closing things (doors, jars, boxes...)
I had forgotten about this one. Man does he like to open and unpack things. His particular obsession right now is a tube of peachy-pink sparkly lip gloss with some minty/orangy flavor and ostensible lip-plumping properties. I think he likes how it makes his tongue feel like it's asleep. I like champagne for the same reason.

resisting any new barriers--such as newly placed baby gates.
Kent is going to test this theory this weekend by installing a new gate on the stairs from the second to the third level of our house. I will spare you the details of how I broke the other one, but my excuse is sleep deprivation.

Stage 5 children abhor any kind of physical restraint, so if it's not too late for you, go ahead and get those baby gates up long before you think you'll need them. A barrier placed before Stage 5 is likely to be viewed as a natural part of the environment (at least for a little while) while one placed during Stage 5 will probably become an object of resistance.

jumping on both feet -- not yet, he's still not walking.

catching and throwing things -- He does have a pretty good arm. As I recall, Nuvy did, too.

leaning forward on tiptoe -- another walking skill we haven't achieved yet.

digging and building -- he stacks and builds much more than his sister did. I haven't observed a whole lot of digging, but it is the dead of winter...

Van is also an avid self-feeder. He does not much go for the spoon anymore. He really wants to feed himself, but hasn't had much success navigating the spoon to his mouth, unless it's peanut butter or mashed potatoes. So, he quickly digs in with his hands, abandoning spoons altogether. He does seem more interested in spearing things with a fork than I remember with his sister. Perhaps it's because I was less willing to let her play with forks at this age...

Cognitive Development

An interesting cognitive milestone is reached at about this time--the Stage 5 child begins to learn from trial and error, and to alter her strategy to accomplish a goal. If she has a goal, and her current strategy for reaching it isn't working, she'll try it another way. Just a few months ago, she would keep trying the same thing over and over until she either succeeded or abandoned the goal altogether.

She can also go back to an interrupted task--another development that is variably useful for parents--at her next opportunity. Just a little while ago, she would have forgotten all about the interrupted activity and gone on to something else.

Repetition continues to be important, but the sequences become more and more comples, so you see building and stacking. She is gratified by creating tall things or lifting heavy things. She can identify familiar objects and people in a picture, and can categorize based on a simple common feature (e.g. same color, different color).

We are seeing the persistence at a task, but not so much the sorting and categorizing. He does seem to recognize pictures, but it's hard to tell what he's identifying, as he's not demonstrating much expressive language yet. He does delight in familiar books and pictures, though, so I'm confident he's recognizing things.

Emotional and Social Development

The Stage 5 child's interpersonal skills acquire remerkable subtlety. She starts to consciously regulate her emotions, and realizes the influence her behavior has on others--particularly her parents. She can curb her anger if there's positive incentive to do so, tests limits, and enjoys applause. She loves an audience and tries on various roles to see how they feel.

We are seeing this kind of behavior with Van to a degree, although he seems generally more committed to his emotions than Nuvy did. He seems somehow less distractable.

She has a strong sense of self and ownership. She can take turns to some degree, but is a long way yet from sharing. She begins to take an interest in other children, often preferring them to adults.

This is definitely evident in my experience with Van. He likes to pass things back and forth, "sharing" in his way, but only on his own terms. He absolutely loves our neighbors' children (9 and 15 respectively) and adores his baby cousin, Gracie.

Speech is emerging, and she will name things and remember their names. She experiments vocally with animal sounds and rhythms. she enjoys rhyming as a linguistic point of interest.

Here he is developing rather differently from Nuvy. He does not talk, and makes only the "cow" sound. Oh, but he sings! He loves rhythm and songs with fingerplay (itsy bitsy spider, twinkle little star, pat-a-cake) and mimics the sounds of the words in the songs. This imitation does not seem to be as pronounced in speech, though. He doesn't really repeat sounds. He does, however, mimic the rhythms and inflections of speech with a degree of sophistication that continues to impress me. Of course, I may be a little partial...

Here are the Stage 5 environmental supports, for those who are setting up environments. In the next post, I hope to discuss our second-child adaptations/abandonments. You know, for your amusement.


NOLA mom said...

Isn't it interesting how different one's children can be from each other?

For what it's worth, I wouldn't worry too much about nursing to sleep being a "no no." Weissbluth says it's fine, and he's the big sleep guru the developmentalists and pediatricians go by. Breast milk is supposed to have a sedating ingredient in it, so it's natural for babies to fall asleep after nursing. Eventually they do this less and less and learn to fall asleep on their own (with varying degrees of nudging from mom). In my experience, if you follow a pretty good schedule, they eventually get the hang of sleeping when they are supposed to. Weissbluth says that an early bedtime helps babies sleep better and longer too. Seems counter-intuitive, but a 7 - 7:30 bedtime helps our kids sleep better and not wake as early in the morning. Sleep deprivation is no fun at all. My first slept through at 9 mos. My second at 3 mos, but then got an ear infection and didn't sleep through the night again until recently, at 18 mos. I nursed both to sleep.

If I may toss this(sort of unrelated) question out to you as the mom of one boy and the former preschool director and student of Montessori, who therefore has watched lots of kids play and knows much about how they play during different phases of development: Do little boys (or girls) go through a phase (maybe in their sorting phase) where they line up toys? Lining up toys can be a flag for autism in that it can be an example of playing inappropriately, and can you guess? My 18 mos old loves to line up his cars. He's pretty obsessed with cars in general and does play with them appropriately about 50% of the time, but he lines them up, or moves them from place to place (ottoman to the side table, side table to the bed room, etc) the other 50% of the time. He is developing "typically" in every other way, so I have been told not to worry, but I worry. Boy, do I worry. Every time I see those darn cars in a line (or the dolly baby bottles or the sea animals--just one time each, but still) I have a little anxiety attack inside.

What do you think about this behavior? Some things that are "flags" are normal depending on the stage (staring at a ceiling fan is normal for a 2 mos old, but not necessarily for a 2 yr old; opening a closing doors is a common and normal obsession for little ones just mastering the skill, but isn't so normal in an older child). I'm wondering (hoping) that this is one of those things that is normal right now, even if it wouldn't be later on. Any thoughts?

Testdriver said...

I'm with everyone who tells you not to worry. 18 month olds are entering a sensitive period for order that will last several years. Lining things up, or putting one thing in each hole in a system, is an activity that really calls to many children of this age.

I find with Van, and have observed from watching other children, that boys do tend to relate to toys in a more focused way, at a younger age. The fact that they're younger means that there is a broader understanding of "appropriate" use of toys.

It sounds like he knows what a car does, and can play with it as a car, but at this age, the purposes of toys are pretty fluid--blocks can be cars and other toys can be blocks. lining up and stacking are very appropriate activities for an 18 month old.

I don't know too much about early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, but I am inclined to look more for social indicators in very young children, like appropriate eye contact and appropriate emotional expressions (age appropriate, I mean.)