Yesterday Maya ate a peach on her own for the first time. She recently developed the dexterity to do it. She held it in her hands, slowly turning it while juice ran down her chin. Maya loved this experience and I relished in her happiness and her progress. She continued eating until she got down to this unknown object in the center. She held it up and with a look of confusion asked, “Mom, what is this thing?”. I was a little taken aback to hear this question from her. How could she not know? She is 7 and has eaten loads of peaches. She knows about seeds and fruits, and even studied their relationship in school this year. I then realized we have controlled her learning experience by cutting up her peaches, or holding them as she takes bites, stopping before she reaches the pit. She hasn’t had the personal experience of finding a peach pit on her own.
Maya has some gaps in her intellectual development but these gaps are not because Maya’s learning potential differs from her same-aged peers. She simply has had less opportunities to use her body to independently explore and experience the world through a variety of her senses. As her peers move their bodies in countless ways throughout the day they are repeatedly bombarded with experiences to help them develop a rich understanding of the physical world, it’s laws and concepts. As a wheelchair user who has limited use of all four of her limbs, Maya misses many of these same opportunities or may have them later than her peers.
When Maya held up that peach pit, it was a beautiful moment of innocence and intellectual curiosity. It was also a reminder to me to be patient with her during academic learning (and more), as Maya continues to collect new information and formulate ideas about the world around her in her own time.