Charlie did not learn several of her newly acquired skills from me, her dad, or her therapists. We tried. Oh, how we tried. We repeatedly used modeling, hand over hand, and anyway we could think of to teach her the skills. Regardless, Charlie did not master them. As it turns out, other kids are much better teachers at things like crawling and self feeding.
Charlie learned how to crawl during the baby story time at the library. It started when a baby broke loose from her mom and crawled across the circle towards Charlie. The embarrassed mom quickly wrangled the baby and apologized profusely. Immediately after Charlie saw the baby, she assumed the crawling position. She was unable to figure out how to propel herself forward. The sight of the crawling baby was an epiphany for Charlie. She continued to attempt to crawl until she mastered the commando crawl.
A few days ago, a toddler boy was eating pretzels while Charlie and I were at the park. Charlie watched him intently. He (and his mom) asked if he could give one to Charlie. After I gave my approval, the little boy handed a pretzel to Charlie. She played with it. The little boy wanted to know why Charlie was not eating the pretzel. His mom explained, “Because she does not know how to.” While his mom and I gabbed, he tried to teach Charlie how to eat the pretzel. It was very sweet how patient and understanding he was. She gave him her undivided attention but did not eat. At the most, I was able to hold it up to her mouth while she cautiously mouthed it.
Yesterday, Charlie had a not so great feeding therapy session. She smeared the banana on her tray and cried because her hands were sticky.
Afterwards, I went grocery shopping. I walked the aisles in search of things for Charlie to practice self feeding. The pretzels reminded me of the boy at the park. I purchased a bag along with a few other things. Once home, I dumped some pretzels on Charlie’s high chair tray to keep her occupied while I put away groceries. After a minute, there was not any of her usual banging or knocking. Panicked by the silence, I turned to see what Charlie was doing. She was feeding herself the pretzels! She did not stop even when she gagged and retched a little. That little boy did an amazing job teaching her.
When Charlie gets older, peer influence may not be such a wonderful thing. Currently, it may be what she needs in order to help her master otherwise challenging tasks.