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My son. The guinea pig

I started writing this post on Sunday night and, well, we know how that turned out.

This past weekend I made Joshua a lab rat. A specimen. An experimental subject.

(Don’t call the cops, people.)

At Joshua’s 18 month and 24 month well-baby visits, I’ve signed the paperwork that allows him to participate in child development studies should a child of his age be needed. I’ve had hesitations at both of those visits because what if something’s not right, you know? What if he’s “behind” in some areas and I don’t know it because what do I know about anything anyway? What if I miss something and I don’t get him help when he needs it?

(He’s never shown any signs of being delayed in any way, but I’m neurotic.)

A few weeks ago, a local college conducting toddler development called me and said they had an opening and a need for a male 2 year old for their imitation studies and asked if I was interested in bringing Joshua down to join their study.

As a teacher, this was not something I could say “no” to, you know? I mean, this is neat stuff here and I’m all about research and learning.

As a mom, this was not something I could say “no” to, you know? What if my child’s results help another child, or help a teacher help another child?

Saturday morning we woke up and got dressed and Joshua and I headed out. I was…nervous? Yeah. I was definitely nervous.

I made sure to leave early because I am notoriously bad at driving anywhere in town. Especially when I’m nervous.

I always get lost.

Dan always drives us anywhere we go. Always.

Because did I mention I always get lost?

But guess what? I didn’t get lost on the way there!

We got to there and the psychology/child development student was waiting for us so we walked through the campus to the building.

On our walk over the student asked if he was shy and I said “Yes, usually. It might take him a minute to warm up.”

I was completely prepared for Joshua to stick to me. Just like he normally does when we’re in a new place with new people, but when we got into the “waiting” room he jumped at the toys. He was yelling “MAMA RAYCAR!” and “AWPWAY” (airplane) and had pulled every toy in their cabinet out into the floor within five minutes.

Clearly, he felt comfortable there.

The study he participated in was one on imitation. Essentially, how long would it take for him to imitate the student’s actions when he was presented with a new object.

The whole time she was explaining this test to me, I was picturing the episode of House where House teaches Cuddy’s daughter so she can get into preschool. I had a moment of panic where I was all “WHY DIDN’T I TRY TO FIND THE TOYS!!!” And then I realized that this was research and calmed down. Mostly.

And then she said “you can help direct him, Mom, but don’t give him the answers…” Clearly, she saw the same episode I did.

And clearly, she sensed that I was nervous that he wouldn’t perform the tasks like he was supposed to.

We went from that room into another room and he sat in a big boy chair at a table and she turned on the video cameras. And he spotted things he wanted to explore in the room. Like the video cameras.  So he kept climbing out of the chair by way of going through the armrest.


(Ahhh, toddlers. Not so different than herding cats.)

There were two “tests.” The first, and the one in which he participated, was straight imitation. With little fanfare he was shown a series of items or a task and was expected to manipulate the items in the same way or complete the task.

(The second was called “emotionese”; in that strain, the tasks were done in extremely exaggerated ways to see if the children would respond in a like manner. That’s not the one we did. But it is the one that I have to think makes the researchers feel most ridiculous.)

He completed all of the tasks. Eventually.

On a few of them, like the sorting tasks, he became sullen toddler child who fiddled with the objects he was supposed to sort, stared longingly at the other thing he wanted to play with, and then sorted the objects, reluctantly, and promptly slid through the armrest once again to go play with the other thing.

On a couple of the other ones, he said “Eff that noise!” and found a different way to do it.

(For instance, during one task, he was supposed to use this fork looking thing to lift a lid by its handle to get to the slinky. He just grabbed the handle. I feel like the phrase “don’t reinvent the wheel” is appropriate here, no?)

After he’d completed all of the tasks, we went back to the toy room and he played while I filled out some questionnaires and she said “Your child is exactly where a 2 year old should be.”

And I beamed.

Because, I mean, how could I NOT?


Ahh, Saturday was lovely.

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Thursday 5th of May 2011

Aww, what an awesome experience! I took my son in for something similar last summer. I was exactly the same as you, a nervous neurotic mess of a mom. But in the end? It was a lot of fun!


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

If you are ever in the mood for a nerdy good time, I happen to know an equally nerdy speech therapist that can do even more testing! I evaluated Katelyn and I had way too much fun doing it! :)


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

this made me giggle because I would be the SAME WAY.

and now I want eddie to do this test.

because I am also neurotic.


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

They contacted me or I never would've thought to take him in for it. One thing she DID tell me was that 3 year olds sort by shape and THEN by color and 2 year old sort things by COLOR and then by SHAPE.

Joshua? Got tired of sorting by the fourth time they had him do it. So he just threw all the items into one of the cups and climbed out of the chair to inspect the camera. o_o


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

My doctor keeps on fretting because my now 1 & a 1/2 year old isn't quite speaking. I keep thinking "what can we do if he's not speaking at this age?" and then choose to not worry about it.

What I really love is the people who fret that the kid isn't tall enough, or doesn't have the right head-circumference at a certain age. It's not like you can correct those.

Still, it must be awesome to know that your kid is right where he should be :-)


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

At 18 months, Joshua didn't have many words. By 2? He's talking my ears off. Remember "Boys are walkers and girls are talkers."

And I'm with you on the head circumference thing.


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

That's such a cool opportunity - I don't think there's anything like that around here...


Wednesday 4th of May 2011

This was one of the city's major universities and they contacted me by getting my information from paperwork I signed at the doctor's office.

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