"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You Never Know . . .

When Katya first came home nearly two years ago, she had no real idea how to play with toys. She would "stim" by juggling small toys or bits of toys, or even pieces of trash--whatever she could get her hands on--between her fingers, rubbing them against her cheeks.

She preferred to have a total of 5 items, fairly consistently, and could entertain herself on and on with those broken bits of toys or trash.

(Note the large piece of cardboard in one hand, the ball we had given to her, in the other.)

When we brought Katya home, she was given a diagnosis of "failure to thrive". Interestingly enough, rubbing objects on the face can be a sign of failure to thrive.

As a family, we set about to try to gently but firmly bring Katya forward in her developmental progress. She did not know how to play typically with toys. So we started a several pronged approach.

First of all, we gave her "stim toys" that were more interesting than what she had before! While that may seem counter-productive since we wanted to reduce, and then drop, the stimming completely, we went with our gut feeling. And our gut feeling was that Katya was stimming from a combined lack of love, attention, and appropriate toys that interested her. So it made sense to give her more interesting stim toys--ones that DID things or let her watch things--like a duck bobbing in a sea of colored water inside a clear cylinder, on a key chain so she could easily hang on to it to swing it, and watch the duck bob.

Next, we started gently but firmly enforcing "Stim Toy Rules". What's that you ask?! Well, we instituted 3 simple rules. A. Stim toys stayed on the table inside the door when going out to play. NO ONE would touch them but Katya when she came back in. But they did not go outside. B. Stim toys sit on the table in front of you while you eat--they are NOT in your hands. Again, no one will touch them until you are done eating and touch them! C. Stim toys stay on the head board at night when it's time to go to sleep. They will be there in the morning--NO ONE will touch them, but they stay there. Here--you can hold this soft stuffed animal while you go to sleep IF you want to. (She usually did not.)

Along with that, we instituted focused play times. We, or a teen-age helper who came into our home once a week specifically to play with Katya, would gently but firmly try to teach her HOW to play. We started with simple developmental things like "Peek A Boo" and stacking the blocks we still owned from when Chad was a baby. (How many, many times had I been tempted to get rid of them, but would always relent and keep them at the last minute! And when Katya came home, I was so glad I had kept them!)

Katya did not much enjoy those times of learning to play. She protested. She tried to get away to be alone to do what she wanted to do--stim with her toys.

But, little by little, the stim toys began to be picked up less and less after she came in from playing or when she got out of bed in the morning. And the block towers were rapidly built and then knocked down quickly so she could go do something else.

Soon, she seemed to be completely done with the blocks and moved on to Duplos, and then to Legos, where Katya seemed to be happiest. So we concluded that our journey of teaching her to play like a child can and should do, was probably at an end. Since she did not seem to show any interest in the blocks once she moved past them, I again thought about selling my blocks. Our storage space for toys is limited, and no one in our family needed them!

Well, you just never know, and evidently, I was wiser than I thought I was when I would choose to keep the blocks time after time.

Because the last week, Katya has begun getting out the blocks. Regularly. Look how much fun she is having with them now!

Taken today as unobtrusively as I could manage, I clicked again and and again as Katya kept playing.

What is interesting to me is that it appears that Katya is finally truly interested in the blocks and is examining carefully what is inside each of the clear blocks, and trying to figure out what each block might possibly do. Previously, she had little to no interest and only participated with the blocks because we were gently encouraging that, and the only thing she cared for was to have us rapidly build a stack for her to knock flying.

I just loved capturing my pretty daughter and her interest in these blocks today!! 

You just never ever know, do you? I think it is such a healthy developmental sign that Katya wants to study the blocks and learn more about each one. Good thing I never sold or gave them away!


sweetpeama said...

Later down the road you will have block for small visitors to play with when they come visiting.

Boysmom said...

Yes, we have held on to our blocks for that reason, but ours are the wooden painted kind.

Anonymous said...

Seeing these photos and reading about Katya and her achievements always make me smile. She will amaze us all! I am so genuinely happy that she came to be your child! /Milena

Peggy said...

This is just wonderful! I'm so glad I read your blog today :-) KEEP THE BLOCKS!