You might not think it, considering that he is one of the most loving, laid-back, joyful individuals you'll ever meet, but it can be very intimidating to interact with Collin.
What if you do something wrong? What if he ignores you? How do you even start to interact with someone who, at first glance, doesn't seem to interact?
Having Collin in my life has opened my eyes to how much of adults' interaction with children is really about ourselves: the cute things they say and do to make us laugh, the way they look at us when they talk to us, the thrill of getting a hug or kiss. A lot of what makes kids fun is the way they make us feel when they are happy/cute/adoring.
But what does that mean for a kid who can't look at you? Who can't hug or kiss you? Who doesn't play in the same way as other kids and can't answer you in a way you can understand?
It just means that you need some help in adjusting your kid skills. These are some things I've learned both through my own extensive Collin experience and through watching other people being awesome with him.
1. Get where he can see you.
Collin can't see in the same way you and I can see. His brain has trouble processing what his eyes pick up, so his vision is inconsistent and hard to use. But there are some places where it is better than others - namely, close. If you want Collin to see you, get your face about arm's length from his face (that's his arm, not yours). That's your best bet for some eye contact with Collin, and it is a sure-fire way to get his attention. He might be looking at you out of the corner of his eye, or he might look toward you only every once in a while, but you can be darn sure that he knows you're there.
2. Keep it calm. (At least at first.)
Don't make sudden moves. Because he can't see, sudden movements are just that - movements. He doesn't know that you're just scratching your nose - he just sees your hand (sort of) sweep in from out of nowhere toward his face and he thinks he needs to protect himself. I regularly freak him out by giving him kisses without warning (that's okay, because I'm his mom, but I am trying to get better about it.) Also, don't make scary noises or talk too loud. His hearing is excellent and loud, sudden things scare the crap out of him. (He had a flip-out crying fit at a certain nail-biter of a U of L game not long ago from all of the sudden cheering.) These two things are why other kids can be really tough on Collin. They are super unpredictable and he doesn't know how to keep track of them, much less understand them or protect himself from them. BUT, the better you get to know Collin, the more leeway you'll have. Even though it might seem like a contradiction, when he feels safe he LOVES to bounce, shake, and swing, and he LOVES gross or weird noises.
3. Talk to him.
Believe me on this: there is nothing quite like having Collin listen to you. This is a boy who makes you feel like what you are saying is important. We still don't know how much he understands, but I'm telling you - it is uncanny how intently he listens when you talk to him. After getting the hang of the first two steps, just talk. Tell him anything. Ask him questions. Recite the ABC's (that's a major favorite). Sing a song. You will have a rapt audience and nothing makes you feel more like you've made a friend than finding someone who really wants to hear what you have to say.
4. Hold him.
Yes, friends. You really can hold Collin. All you have to do is ask. If there is some reason why it won't work, we'll explain, but there aren't many of those situations. We just don't go around asking people if they want to hold Collin. For one thing, it just feels weird to do that unless you're offering a newborn; and for another, some people might really not feel comfortable. But if you do feel comfortable and have the chance, I highly recommend holding him. It puts you in perfect position to talk to him and it really helps you to get more in touch with how his body works. I think Collin's super low tone is scary to some people in the same way it is scary to hold an infant. But holding him sitting down is a good step toward holding him in other situations.
5. Give him time.
Like a lot of kids (and adults, I guess), Collin is cautious about new things. He just has a few more obstacles than the rest of us that keep new things from becoming familiar. It does happen eventually, though. So, if you're new in his life, talk to him about that. And just enjoy the process of getting to know Collin and watching him get to know you. Likewise, give him time in your conversation with him. If you ask him a question, give him time and be okay with the silence. Because he seems to be more advanced cognitively than physically, we have no way of know if he is thinking an answer but just can't say it.
6. Ask questions.
There are a lot of things about Collin that most people can't just figure out by observing. So know this: you will not hurt anyone's feelings in this family by asking questions about Collin. Provided you're not being a buttface, of course. If you're not sure what Collin is doing or saying, ask. If you're not sure if he's comfy, ask. If you wonder why we have to do something the way we do it, ask. It shows love and interest, and who doesn't like that?
Interestingly, I have found that using some of these new skills with typically-developing kids Collin's age is actually really helpful. It's an entirely different dynamic, but most kids love for you to get down on their level, to be careful around them, to talk to them face to face, etc. It's just one more way that having and knowing Collin has made me better.