Thursday, May 24, 2012

Do you see what Maya sees? (We didn't.)

Maya sees things that we (meaning, me, most likely you, and probably most people) don't see.  While I've kind of suspected this for a while, it wasn't until yesterday afternoon that Dave & I were kind of blown away by it.

I'll get to that in a minute.

Maya has always been a watcher.  I suppose it's in her genes, as it's my nature to be a watcher, too.  I think that her natural disposition to be an observer was heightened by her mobility difficulties, although I can't say that for sure.  When she was 1, or even 2, she was content to find a nice place to sit at the playground, have a seat, and watch everyone.  Her peers would run and climb and slide, and Maya would clap and laugh and smile.  Don't get me wrong, we would try to motivate her to climb and play, and sometimes it worked, but she's always been happy to just hang out and observe.

This watching-ness carried over to books, as well.  When we read to her we would point out obscure pictures in the background of books---a cloud in the sky, a bird sitting on a tree branch, etc.  As time went by, we started asking her to hunt for things, I-Spy style.  She loved it.  Eventually she would point to things and make excited noises---a clear "Hey! A boat! See the boat?"  and so, I think we unwittingly were helping to train her eyes.

And then came the icing on the cake-using pictures to communicate.  If immobility encouraged her observations in the first 2 years of her life, nonverbalness took it to a whole different level in the most recent 2 years.  When we started using picture cards to communicate, she learned the power of pictures---they could mean words!  When she pointed at one, we knew what she was thinking!  Amazing!  And so she paid close attention to the images around her.

Sometimes exceptionally close attention.  Like yesterday.

Yesterday a Fisher Price catalog arrived in the mail.  Maya demanded it, since she loves to flip through and look at the pictures of the toys (well, who doesn't?).  Dave sat with her on the couch, and I listened to them talking from across the room.    They were looking at this page: 

(The pen on the side is included for scale purposes.)

Dave: Maya, what animals do you see?
Maya: Ah!!! (Alligator!)

(alligators are her favorite animals)

Dave: No, silly.  What animal do you see on this page?
Maya: Ah! Ah! (Alligator! Alligator!)
Dave: Where is the alligator?

(Pause.  Maya points.)

Dave: You've got to be kidding me.

So I ask, when you looked at this page, did you see the alligator?  Because Maya saw in within seconds.  Here's a closer look:

I'll point you towards the general area:

And zoom in closer:

See it?  Now go back and look at the first picture again, with the whole page.  See how small the alligator is?  Craziness.

This trick is actually serving her unbelievably well.  I'm certain it's the reason that she can learn new words on the talker rapidly---she's used to scanning intently and focusing on pictures.  We're not limited to apps or devices that only hold large pictures, because she does fine with small ones (this catalog is supporting evidence).  Maybe someday it will translate into some helpful literacy skills, too.  Who knows.  For now, it's a pretty neat little game.  If only they made "Where's Waldo" books with alligators---she would kick butt.



Joanne said...

I think that's great - one thing we are working with Anthony on is being able to scan an area and choose something from it. p.s. it took me forever to find that alligator, ha!

the mommy psychologist said...

Whoa...I never would have found it if you didn't point it out.

Becca said...

Wow, totally stumped me, too! Samantha sees *patterns* that look like things, and will state them, making me think, think, think to try to figure out what she's talking about. Like she'll say, "Look! An "X"!" And I'm like, huh? But she sees the X in the way two other objects have crossed paths. Or a Y. Or, get this, a jolly roger (skull face). Gotta love untainted childhood imagination!

Amy said...

Visual memory is Lorna's strength as well. Have you heard of Highlights? They have some for younger children were you find the item and put a sticker on it. Lorna is 15 now and loves highlights, word seek and finds, she also likes to play some of the seek and find games with grandma on the computer. She is cognitively impaired at a lower level than her younger brother but can find anything that he can't. It is always so exciting to find their strengths when we are given so much information about what they can't do.