We've noticed a pattern in the way Connor makes progress. Typically he focuses on either his physical development or cognitive development. Usually he'll make big strides in one area while plateauing or even regressing in the other area. He'll have a brief period of overlap where he either improves in both or improves in neither, and then he switches over to the other area for an extended period of time. I'm sure there's probably some official term for this kind of learning, which is apparently fairly common, but Jer and I refer to whichever skill set he seems to be making strides in at the present time as Connor's "focus area."
For the past two months or so, Connor's focus area has been in physical development. First Connor's sitting (with assistance-- his balance is still all wonky) improved considerably. Then over about about a two week period, he began standing and sitting down with assistance. As long as someone is holding his hands so that he can balance, he's able to stand now for up to two minutes at a time. About two weeks ago, Connor began learning how to "jump." It's the cutest thing in the universe, and probably a game just about every parent with a typically developing kid plays at some time or another. We grab Connor under the arms, say "Ready?" and he hunkers down like a little linebacker, a look of intense concentration on his face. "1...2...3....JUMP!" I'll yell, and Connor slowly heaves up with this tremendous effort. He would go, of course, absolutely nowhere if I wasn't lifting him up off the ground, but it's really, really cute and shows big progress.
Now, all of the sudden, he's switched gears. He's gone over a month without learning any new signs, and then in the past week he's learned three. He now signs "shoe," "jump," and my personal favorite: "please." He uses home signs for these of course-- for "shoe," as an example, he takes his right leg off the ground and waves it back and forth. But he gets his point across, so we're super excited.
As exciting as that is, however, I have some even better news. Four days ago, I bought some flashcards with pictures of animals on them, thinking that maybe I could teach Connor to recognize some of the more familiar ones. I know his new school will probably rely heavily on flashcards, so it's important for Connor to get used to them, and we've been having some more success with the PECS system, so I thought that maybe he was ready for them. I then spent the next few days holding up the picture cards one at a time and sounding like a complete and total idiot. "Cat. Cat. Do you see the cat? Here is a cat! The cat says meow!" I got bored after a while and started making up little stories, none of which were probably entirely appropriate. "Do you see the cat? The cat says meow, and it likes to shred Mommy's houseplants into little bitty pieces! Do you see the alligator? This is the animal Mommy thinks about getting for a new pet when she sees her destroyed houseplants. Alligators do not eat houseplants. Can you guess what they do eat?"
Connor did not seem terribly interested in these cards. He'd kind of look at them for a second, and then go back to studying his hands or the table lamp or something infinitely more interesting then these stupid little squares of cardboard his mom was shoving in his face and babbling on incessantly about.
Yesterday I decided that instead of just showing him the cards, I'd hold up two together and see if he could eye-point to the correct card. I didn't expect him to really be able to do it consistently, but it beat making up any more stories. I held up the horse and the cat, and asked him, "Connor, where is the cat?" Wouldn't you know he looked right at that cat? Okay, I thought. That was probably just luck. I switched the cat out to the other side, switched the horse out for a goat, and asked him again. And I'll be damned if he didn't look at the cat again. Okaaay... I thought, that was probably still just a fluke. One more time. I'm the eternal optimist. I switched the goat out for a spider and tried again. Connor looked at me as if to say Seriously Mom? and then looked at the cat for a third time and watched in bemusement as his mother sprang up off the floor and started dancing around the living room like a lunatic.
So after further testing, I've determined Connor can now identify the spider, horse, cow, rabbit, butterfly, bee, and kitty correctly five times in a row.
Next on the list, algebraic equations. Okay, Connor, where's the x?