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.