Domestic Explorer

One of the first things you learn when you have a child with a visual impairment, is that they have to access the world through touch. They can’t sit back and observe siblings, parents, and even the television to learn what things are, how they work, and what their purpose might be. For our children to learn, they need to be active participants in their environment. Within their possibilities, there is always a hint of explorer, and sometimes a full-fledged adventurer.

It took Eddie awhile to tap into his inner explorer. He was scared of most things outside his reach, and waited for the world to be brought to him. We were always handing him things, and helping him access new information, but he just wouldn’t seek it out on his own. Within the last year, that has all changed, which is especially evident in our home.

We can tell where Eddie has been because the room looks like it has been robbed. Most of the cupboards will be emptied. If there was food to be found, it has been eaten…or at least tasted. If there is a sink, the water will be running. If there was anything on the counters, they have been either moved around, or simply swiped onto the floor. His characteristics mirror those of the Spanish Conquistadors looking for gold. He definitely leaves no “stone” unturned.

In Eddie’s wake, I don’t mind following and picking up. Yes, I know. I should be making him clean up after himself, which I do on occasion. We all know he has to be independent, and the additional step of cleaning helps him really learn where things go. However, I don’t want to discourage his new sense of discovery. Over time, we can develop a better method for searching, but for now, I simply love that he is willing to search.

Though most of Eddie’s missions are held within the house, there are times when he is outside that he also gets adventurous. This weekend, while with friends, he found his way to a fire pit. He got out of his chair onto the ground, and scooted right over to the rocks surrounding the pit. Luckily, there had been no recent fire, so there was no heat to contend with. Once near the rocks, he lifted his legs over and put his feet in the ashes.

I heard somebody ask if he was going to get in it, with a hint of disgust mixed with amazement in their voice. My answer was simply, “probably.” Eddie did just that. He climbed over the side and sat right in the remnants of last night’s fire. Then, he tasted the ashes, and quickly learned that was a bad idea. Before the taste I did hear, “Is he gonna put some in his mouth?” Can you guess my reply? “Probably.”

Even though daily playtime in a fire pit may not be a great idea, one excursion inside is just what Eddie needed to develop that concept. Think of all the information he received by being within the circle of rocks. He learned that it was a circle, that is was surrounded on all sides by rocks, and that after the wood burns it ends up a pile of icky tasking ashes that are gritty, and stick to your clothes and skin. Those are all things he wouldn’t have gained by sitting in a chair and basking in the heat of a fire, which he also loves to do.

I couldn’t be prouder of Eddie’s willingness to reach out, and access his surroundings. When he lacked obvious curiosity, I was jealous of parents whose children were always asking questions and into everything. I didn’t know how to bring the entire world to Eddie, if he was not interested enough to seek it out. It appears it only took time, and patience I don’t always have. Well, I’m off to see what my “Domestic Explorer” has gotten into now, and I can’t wait to see what discoveries he will make next.