Monday, May 18, 2009

The Crawler and the Cat

The Crawler and the CatThe interaction between Matthew and our long-haired 4-year old Siberian cat, Yuri, is a good source of entertainment in our home. Yuri doesn't know it but he was a huge motivator for Matthew's mobility, i.e. crawling. Matthew has had his eyes on the cat from Matthew's commando (belly) crawling days at around 13 months to his perfected 4-point (hands and knees) crawl at 16 months. What can be more enticing to a toddler than a furry moving target? Now 19 months old, Matthew is an excellent crawler, much to our cat's consternation. Most "typically developing" kids are already walking or running at this age. Lucky for Yuri, Matthew isn't there yet so he has plenty of time to escape little grabby hands. Yuri is cautious enough to keep his distance. Sometimes, Yuri is brave enough to rub up against Matthew. Other times, Yuri steers clear when he sees Matthew charging toward him. Yuri knows when he's about to lose another handful of fur.

Despite the fur-grabbing, they get along. Yuri is very tolerant of Matthew. They also have a few things in common.

They both like to snuggle with Bill.
Yuri snuggled with BillMatthew snuggled with Bill, 5 months old

They both know the true meaning of "lounge".
Yuri loungingMatthew lounging, 6 months old

They both love to play.
Yuri playing with cat toyMatthew with rubber block, 16 months old

They're both curious about their environment. Bill and I are thrilled to see our crawler explore on his own. Mobility is so important for kids to interact with the environment. When he wasn't mobile yet, we had toys within his reach and carried him around the house to show him pictures on the wall, lights, fans, etc. But with limited mobility, interaction with the environment is restricted, so Matthew was effectively getting reduced learning opportunities in relation to his crawling/walking peers. What better way for a toddler to learn independence, problem solving, and the "I did it!" feeling than crawling to a toy all the way across the room, around the chair and over the floor pillow on his own?

Getting Matthew mobile was top priority. All his therapists and other moms of older kids with Down syndrome strongly advocated crawling on hands and knees, citing reasons for 4-point crawling such as building trunk, arm, head, and neck strength, motor control and coordination, brain and vision development, eye-hand coordination, coordination of both sides of the body, and stability. These are also building blocks to developing fine motor skills such as writing. Well, that does makes sense, doesn't it? Crawling would help develop wrist stability and strength, which are important when writing. On the other hand, there are articles like Learning to Crawl on that state "there's no proof that kids who skip crawling have impaired muscle strength or other developmental problems down the road." Being first-time parents, we relied on his therapists' advice and experiences. It was very important to us that he became mobile so he would have the social and learning opportunities sooner rather than later.

In 4-point position on yoga matYuri watched anxiously as we had Matthew doing exercises that would help him crawl on hands and knees including climbing steps, spending a few minutes a day in the 4-point position, and generally making him move forward inches at a time. We even used a yoga mat to provide more traction. By the time he was 16 months old, he was crawling fast and enjoying his new skill. Life was never the same for both Matthew and Yuri since then. The best thing about his mobility is seeing how pleased Matthew is with himself whenever he's able to crawl after a ball that rolls away or crawl up to the cat to grab his fur.


ds.mama said...

You have such a great sense of humor. I really enjoyed the comparison photos. Yuri had better watch out because Matthew is gonna get him soon!

Monica Crumley said...

He's doing great. Our cat was a huge motivator for our little guy to crawl, too.

Jill said...

This is such a cute and funny story! The pictures of the "loungers" is hilarious! I find this amusing since Nate has just recently discovered our little dog, and loves touching and pulling on him! Now that Nate crawls all over the house, he can get to the tiled areas where the dogs are allowed (they're not allowed on the carpeted living room where Nate spent most of his time!) I love to see Nate peeking around the corner of the kitchen or bedroom...and the dog's expression when Nate gets face to face with him is a scream. Love reading your journaling...

Beverly said...

love the photos! He is doing so well at crawling.

Monica said...

LoL!! Matthew is doing great, Adam has the same relationship with our cat, Yuri better watch out when he starts walking :)

Hazel Manzano said...

Hi Ria! Passing by! hey saw the video! congrats mom of the year!!!

heidi marie said...

we have a dog ellie that has the same role. henry tries to get her all the time and loves her, but ellie wants nothing to do with him!