Dominic passed the 16 month mark this past week. If we had to choose one word to describe him now, that word would be “mobile.” The combination of cognition and physical development have come together so that he is now very clearly aware that he can get over there (where ever “there” happens to be) if he really wants to.
Gross Motor Development at 16 Months
It all started with pushing to sit. Dominic has been sitting independently for quite a while, but he always relied on us to get him into a sitting position. His arms are a bit short in comparison to the arms of a child without Down syndrome, and then there is the general muscle weakness that probably figures in there as well. Plus, he is most generally content with life, so he never really got frustrated if he wasn’t sitting up. If he was, great, if not, well that was also great.
Something clicked, however, and one day he just pivoted over, pushed up with his arms and he was sitting. This was followed by the biggest grin ever and a whole lot of clapping for himself (I seriously need to do this when I accomplish something). The clapping continued for a few days while he got the hang of sitting up, but now we’re about a week into this, and the pushing to sit has become routine.
Along with pushing to sit, Dominic has really increased his overall mobility. He hasn’t quite mastered the commando crawl, but he is doing his own version of it. Combined with some targeted rolling, that commando crawl/creep of his gets him pretty much wherever he wants to go, including over the pillow that used to serve as a “fence” to keep him safe on the bed. His new-found independence means that we need to be even more diligent to keep him safe.
Dominic cannot yet hold an all-fours crawl position, but he is less resistant now when we put him into it. He will stand, leaning against something, for up to 10 minutes when given some support and direction.
Fine Motor Development
Fine motor development is probably the area that I feel least qualified to design an exercise program for Dominic. For now, his fine motor play activities include self-feeding with finger foods and play with a variety of objects. We just got him a set of blocks this past week, and he greatly enjoys banging them together. He sees no point in stacking them up, but he is quite content to watch his siblings do that.
One other thing that he has been doing for some time now is pointing. This is a combination of communication gesture and fine motor skill. I think that the ability to isolate the one finger actually came ahead of him knowing really what to do with it. Just one day, he was staring at his fingers and he got that pointer and was so excited. More clapping of course, but that was with some consternation as he then lost the pointer finger. He will now use that pointing gesture in a variety of ways. Sometimes he will point to what he wants–if it is a particularly high interest object like my phone or something that he wants to eat or drink.
In terms of diet, Dominic eats what we eat, though I do chop things up for him. He has 3 teeth now, 2 up front and one on the bottom. Some foods we still avoid, of course, because they are too crunchy or because they may be a choking hazard in some way. He is not at all a picky eater. In fact, he is quite enthusiastic about pretty much everything we give him (slightly less excited about refried beans, though). We give Dominic a selection of self-feeding items so he can work on hand/eye coordination and he can set the pace, and we also feed him from a spoon for things that are likely to be messy. In addition, he drinks from a straw. We do not use a sippy cup–at all–because we want him to develop a mature swallow pattern, and I have concerns about how a sippy cup affects his overall development in this area.
Speech and Language Development
As usual, I am most in tune to–and excited about–Dominic’s speech and language development. At 16 months, a typically developing child should be using a few words, interacting in social play routines, and following a few single step commands. With Dominic, things are a bit more complicated, again by the low muscle tone. His articulation skills are delayed. He babbles quite a bit, but with less variation than I noted with my older children.
We started using some very basic sign language with Dominic when he was around 7-9 months old, knowing that sound production would lag and he needed to be able to express himself. Mostly, we use food words for things he likes and family names. He has signed–or approximated–everyone’s name by this time, though he does not use them daily. He says “mama” and “dada” fairly consistently to label us. He is particularly excited by our glasses and wants to grab them whenever he can. When I put mine on at night, he starts hissing sort of. I think he is trying to say “glasses” in his own way. It sounds like “uhssssssss uhsssssss” and he is reaching for the glasses at the same time.
In terms of commands, Dominic will look at a person named or at a familiar object (where’s your bear?) when we ask him to. He follows the command to “find your thumb” when he is upset or sleepy and in play. He will point to our noses on command, but not to his. He grabs my hair if I ask “where is Mommy’s hair?”. He will sometimes “give Mommy a kiss,” but usually he finds this hilarious and engages in quite exaggeratedly NOT kissing mommy and we end up in giggles, so that is part of the game.
All tuckered out from so much learning this month!
Dom is happy and interested in the world around him. When we see him take a particular interest in an object or activity, we try and talk about it, focusing on a few key words and a lot of repetition (“Oh, look, there’s a dog. That’s a nice dog. I like that dog. Dog. Pretty dog. Look! Dog”) so that he can really hear that word over and over again.
So what is ahead?
We are starting to do some reading using board books. I expect him to put them in his mouth and try to steal them away from me and that will gradually transition to him paying more attention and beginning to point. In reading, we say the word, point to the word, maybe repeat it a few times if he maintains interest, and turn the page. This is developing some pre-reading skills as well as working on vocabulary with him. Plus, the snuggle time is priceless.
We are also introducing more songs and finger plays. Dominic is a great fan of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” He generally grins through the first line, uses his whole body to join in for “down came the rain, and washed the spider out”. He sucks his thumb through the third line and then sits up and starts clapping as the itsy bitsy spider makes his way back up the water spout. For other songs, right now he just sits and watches us make silly fools of ourselves.
Dominic is in the stroller beside me now as I am writing this. Currently, we are on an extended trip across the USA, traveling in our RV, and this kid attracts smiles and attention wherever we go. He greatly enjoys going for a walk in his stroller around the RV park, so we are off to charm the neighbors and the friends we will invariably meet along the way.