Early Intervention – a timeline

In one month, I’ve discovered a new world full of facts, activities, ideas, milestones, and goals – the word of Early Intervention.

Here’s how our Early Intervention timeline has gone thus far:

-B had a speech regression at 19 months (pronunciation). This was my initial concern – he lost his “ooo” sound and it was strange. He was found to have fluid in his ears, drained away with the help of Zyrtec. Went for a hearing test a few weeks later, passed with flying colors. His pronunciation started to come back.

-Birth to 3 (our state’s EI) came anyway for an initial evaluation because of a few of his quirks (throwing his head back on the couch, avoiding certain textures, irritation with things like crumbs and specks of dirt) B was picked up for services: once a week by the developmental specialist, once a month for speech, once a month for OT. At that initial evaluation, the evaluators recommended B have an autism screening because of his delays in communication, sensory processing and cognitive abilities. He was pointing and shrieking, “Eh, Eh!” and we were answering him, furthering that cycle. There was no direct communication with us.

-At that initial eval, we were told to ignore his cries and wait for him to come to us and ask for help. HA! Such a thing would surely be impossible. My fit-throwing toddler who wanted what he wanted and there was no other way would not be asking us for help.

-After a few weeks of once a week services by the developmental specialist, he made HUGE gains. The impossible did happen – we ignored him, and he started to come to us. We taught him the sign for “help” and he used it (while saying the word). His “eh eh”s decreased dramatically. Not only that, but his mood brightened. Fewer tantrums and much more affection for his sister and the dog. The child who never gave his sister a second thought was now fussing when she cried, saying her name again and again, kissing her ouchies. The boy who despised the dog was now chasing her for a snuggle. A few weeks in, and the specialist saw a difference in him, wondering aloud if he would even qualify as autistic.

-The EI women suggested that B would benefit from additional outpatient OT services, since he loves to be put to work; put to a task. I took him for an eval at a local hospital and he was a trooper. His fine motor skills excelled, his gross motor skills – not so much. What I thought was a typical kicking and throwing distance for a toddler under 2 was apparently not too typical. He demonstrated that part of his sensory piece might be the unfamiliarity with spaces that aren’t steady – that will rock under him, like an open platform swing or a balance beam. Yes, this outside OT would pick him up for once a week services for 12 weeks starting in mid-June. Their focus would be to de-sensitize him to certain things and help with the gross motor skills.

-Birth to 3’s OT came for her first session at our house. WOW. She rocked, and she alerted me to something in B that I never read in the pregnancy books. Never saw this one online. Never knew this one existed. Side-to-side range of motion. B never crawled. I know now that this is a huge red flag. Babies crawl. In some form, they crawl. And B did not. He didn’t develop the core muscles that other babies do, that allow them to move one hand and one foot at the same time. To be on all fours and turn a head to the left or right and keep balanced. No, he never learned any of that. She showed us just how far behind B is in his range of motion. When B sits on the floor, if he reaches to the side to grab a toy, he falls over. When B stands up and needs to look to the side, he turns his entire body instead of just his upper half. When the OT sat B and C on little stools and put the sensory bin on the floor, asking them to play – C reached down and instinctively put one hand on the bin to steady herself, and reached in to play with the other hand. B did not know to do that – he bent over and fell right in the sensory bin. B has no range of motion, even though he jumps, runs, moonwalks backwards and stands on his tip toes – all are straight ahead movements. He can’t bend to the side to save his life. This was something I had NO clue about. She gave us excellent ideas for how to help with this:

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Exercise balls – I know this picture is wretched but you still get the idea. Rolling onto the ball, stretching the body. Or sitting on the ball and we sway him side to side from the waist up.

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Tether balls – using balloons. Hang them from the ceiling with string.

There are other ways, too, to increase the side to side range of motion – popping bubbles, spinning a swing around and around instead of back and forth. Anything that gets B to practice turning to the side quickly – helping him to become more balanced and develop those muscles. Three people have also mentioned one of his eyes turning in a bit, so I have a call into his eye doctor, who has been on top of this but said he was in the normal range. Perhaps now he isn’t, and this would certainly affect his balance and coordination.

-Speech came today. In the past month, his words have really increased and he is, for the first time, telling me he’s hungry by saying and signing “eat”. This is new for him. He has a new sound, the “eee” sound – and finally says, “Mommy” and “Daddy”. He even has picked up “yourself” as in, “by himself” and is starting to use it appropriately. But when he wants something, he still isn’t identifying the word. If he wants me to turn the fan on, he is coming to me and saying, “On!” And I’ll say, ” On…what?” And he says, “Fan!”. Sometimes he’ll throw in a “help” for good measure. But the speech therapist wants us to NOT say “what” – because we want him to identify the word in the beginning, not just because we asked for it. Instead of bringing me a plastic pig and saying “Pink!” He needs to say, “pig”. So we need to stop asking him to identify the word – he knows what it is, we know he knows – he just needs to say it. This is a little tough for us all.

-And finally, our timeline isn’t complete yet. We have his autism evaluation in about a month, and I have to admit I was dragging my feet on scheduling it. I don’t believe he is autistic, and I’m just scared to hear otherwise. That said, I do want him to get the services he needs and I want it taken care of now, so we’re going to proceed. We’ll see what they conclude.

I really can’t believe how far he’s come in a month – I mean, this kid was getting up off the grass on his elbows, and now he’s doing this:

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And going to a loud, hot air show, and loving (almost) every minute of it:

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My gut tells me he’s got recurring fluid in his ears, causing his meltdowns and his muffled pronunciation and will probably need tubes put in. And my gut also tells me he’s got an eye issue going on, crossing his eyes, which is affecting his balance, coordination, and desire to not be on any surface other than flat and safe. My gut tells me that once these things are addressed and he catches up to his peers, he’s going to be in a very good place.

This entire experience has been a complete whirwind, and I almost never called Early Intervention in the first place. After all, it was only a little speech regression!

As a side note, an update on Lil C. Such a trooper, she does whatever activities we are doing with B, for B. She copies him and needs him around. She’s suddenly full of SASS – demanding to do a task herself and then purposely NOT DOING IT so I can stare at her and tell her it needs to happen. So she can demand again that she do it and then finally, when the dog is about to eat her tail as C ever so slowly pours the dog food into the bowl, I may have to step in and help. Her pronunciation just took off like a rocket. She’s got all her sounds down and sounds like a kindergartener when she talks – if only she wasn’t still talking in one word sentences! She has books and songs memorized and will read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” completely on her own if you let her. She sings the whole alphabet a lot and it’s damn cute. She’s suddenly into imaginative play, mostly with dogs, cats, and babies. She’s a very happy toddler, which I’m very grateful for.

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Early Intervention Update

The past few weeks have been unbelievably busy, with hardly a spare moment in the entire day. Most of it is school related, but we also have started Early Intervention services for B, so I thought I’d do a quick update. As it was when I went through infertility treatments, it turns out you’re never alone – there’s lots of people who are always going through the same thing. All of a sudden, it seems like toddlers everywhere are also going through EI services. It does kind of make me feel a little better about the process.

B receives developmental services weekly, OT once a month, and speech once a month – all until his autism evaluation, which if he were to qualify, would kick those services up a few notches. Since EI has started, the developmental specialist has come twice.

Both times she has come, she’s arrived with a giant bag of toys. B and C are dying to get that bag open, of course, and in order for our specialist, A, to open it, she requires B to communicate that desire with her. Once he says, “open”, or “toys”, or “help”, she confirms what he wants and opens the bag. Then, it’s all about choices. She always pulls out two toys and asks him to choose between them – not just by pointing at the toy he wants but by saying what it is. “Do you want the train or the dogs?” she will say – and he has to say the word. Once he’s playing with the toy, she typically gives him choices within that toy “Do you want the blue peg or the red peg?”. She brought a miniature plastic dog set with a tiny little dog bowl and dog beds and B and C just adored it. C is starting to take to creative, imaginative play with her dolls and animals but B hasn’t shown interest. Once A modeled it for him though, he was making his little doggies eat from the bowl and go to sleep. So cute!

They keep playing in this manner until it’s time for A to go. She writes up what she saw that day, the observations I have made over the past week, and she gives me a few tips, “homework” to work on until next time. And that’s it.

As you know, the idea of the possible autism diagnosis has bothered me and I’ve been a little in denial about it. I don’t know enough about autism to make any claim, but it has always been my “mother’s intuition” that B is not autistic. And the first time A came, about halfway through her session, she looked at me and said, “You know – I don’t think he’s going to qualify.” I asked her about that, and she said that he checks in with her constantly. And he does – like other children, when set to a task, he looks at you every two seconds as if to say, “Am I doing this right?” And when you cheer for him, he grins right at you and claps and goes back to work. It may not mean anything but it made me feel better. The second time she came, she said the same thing again. I’m okay with that right now.

I did ask her – what do you make of the fact that he’s obsessed with a color? What do you make of the fact that he really, really loves to see how things move, how things work – that an object spinning is one of his favorite things ever – a ceiling fan, a ball, or even the dog bowl he tips on its side to make it spin around the floor. Aren’t these things a little strange? She said, “Yes, a little bit. He might just be quirky. You might just have a quirky kid.” Right now, that’s what I’m going with.

In addition to the developmental services we’re receiving, a few days ago I took B to an outpatient OT. Two women did an initial “sensory integration” evaluation on him, as the sensory piece was one I did want addressed. And because he loves to be put to a task, loves to work – the EI people thought he might benefit from additional outpatient OT services. Well, when he was there they gave him lots of toys – lots of tasks. As I already knew, his fine motor skills are wonderful and a non-issue. His gross motor skills are apparently lackluster. I had no idea – he can throw and kick a ball. But apparently his throws and kicks aren’t too good. In addition, he can’t catch. They asked me if I noticed that one of his eyes turns in a bit. Funny – yes, we’ve noticed, and when he failed his 6 month eye exam, he saw an eye doctor. Because my husband had a patch as a child for the exact same issue, we have a feeling he’ll need glasses at an early age, but the eye doctor said he was still in the normal range. But for two women who have never seen him to pick that up right away – I’ll be calling the eye doctor again and having it looked at. Yes, if there’s something wrong with his eyes, he won’t be able to throw, kick and catch. Finally, they asked me all about the types of sensory sensitivities he has. There are certain textures he doesn’t like and won’t touch, such as slimy, gooey things (like melted cheese), and on the flip side, there are movements he craves (predictable, rhythmic movements such as swinging, jumping up and down on his mattress, etc.) They wanted to see this in action a bit so they brought over a mini-trampoline, but made him take his shoes off. I knew the shoes wouldn’t be the issue – it’s the socks, so I took them off too. Sure enough, he wouldn’t put his toes on the trampoline because he was unsure of what it would feel like on his feet.

When all was said and done, the women agreed they would be picking him up for services as well – once a week outpatient OT for 3 months. I’m glad for this – it certainly can’t hurt and B will likely love the tasks they put him up to. Unfortunately, he’s on a waiting list, and I hope it starts soon.

In the past few weeks, we have noticed a ton of improvement with B. He communicates MUCH better – and now that he does, I almost can’t believe we all managed beforehand. In the past week, he has finally told me he wants to eat. He has never done that before. He says “help” now right away, because he knows we won’t help him otherwise. The other night he was fussing and I thought he was with my husband so I ignored him. Turns out he was trying to get his washcloth but it was stuck. Finally, he stopped fussing, came and found me and said, “Help!” That’s big improvement right there. With this new communication, this kid is extremely affectionate lately. He’s always been a bit of a Mama’s boy, but now he’s super snuggly with the dogs, who he previously couldn’t stand. He’s affectionate with C, chasing after her for hugs and kisses. This is all new behavior. He seems to generally be a much happier kid. So while he’s certainly got some quirks, and some areas that I still would love to see improvement, I’m very pleased with the process so far and proud of him for tolerating all these new people and places and showing everyone how awesome he is.

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Weeknight Sensory Bins

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

I recently took a blogging break, a FB page break, and an arts and crafts break. Birth to 3 started up at our house and I had more on my mind than I could allot time for in the evenings. Plus, the closer it gets to the end of the school year, the more work I have to do. I can’t wait until summer! I do enjoy this hobby, so I’m back for a few posts but at a more leisurely, less urgent pace.

I know I’ve raved about them many a time before, but sensory bins are my go-to activity when the twins are antsy and I think to myself, “What are we going to do now?” Open play can only last for so long, especially for my son who likes to work. I used to do sensory bins periodically and typically on the weekends. However, after purchasing a $5 36-quart bin from Walmart (of which will eventually be part of our DIY water/sand table), I decided – I have the bin. Why not keep the bin OUT in the open all the time? That way the twins can access it whenever they want to. So this is what I’ve done.

The first thing I recommend is that the bin has a cover. When the cover is on, it’s not in use. The bin is OUT all the time, but it’s not available all the time. The kids would have to ask for it if they wanted it, otherwise I’d have beans and rice all over my house constantly. Secondly, I’ve found we need to have a designated area for sensory bins. When we play with water, it’s in the kitchen. For dry ingredients though, I’ve put two blue towels down in the living room and shut the gate to keep the dogs out. My common phrase to the twins is, “Do you want to do something fun?” and I bring out the towels – they know what’s next. Third – sensory bins are the most fun when you change up what’s inside. I decided to start keeping the bin tucked in the corner of our living room with whatever’s inside it for a few days to a week. Then, when they’ve played with it multiple times a day for a few days straight, I switch up what’s inside. It keeps the activity fresh!

I LOVE sensory bins. Sometimes, on Saturday mornings when I’m cleaning the kitchen after breakfast, I leave the toddlers to it in the living room and they’re fine. It’s something they can actually do by themselves without chasing me down. But after work, from when I get home at 4:00 and before my husband gets home at 5:30 – if it’s raining or 90 degrees out – I pull out the bin and get on the floor with them. And I find myself with my hands in that bin just as often as the toddlers’. It’s actually kind of therapeutic and relaxing!

I know a few friends who want to incorporate sensory bins into their households but say it seems daunting to do so. Sensory bins can be complicated – there are beautiful, themed bins on Pinterest that take just as long to set up as it would take to play with it. But sensory bins can also be unbelievably simple, and at this point, I don’t think my toddlers can tell the difference. So simple it is. When doing a simple sensory bin, I only need three major things: the bin, the base, and the toy.

My son doesn’t care for slimy, sticky sensory bins. I need to do more of those. But those are messy – those are weekend bins. My day to day bins after work need to be easy to clean up. I’m still in work clothes, I’ve got to get dinner ready – it can’t be messy. So for a base, I tend to rotate between various dry ingredients: uncooked rice, uncooked beans, seeds, rocks, uncooked pasta, etc. On my base addition list in the near future is epsom salt and oats. All these dry ingredients can be swept or vacuumed if need be. But honestly, it’s not typically a problem. I put the towels down. I ask the twins to stay on the towels. If beans make it across my living room (which just happened this weekend), they help me pick each piece up. If it were rice, I would vacuum. And as for the toy – the toy is optional, first of all. I know that if I add a toy to the bin, my son might not play with the base. He’ll be too enamored by the toy. When I want the twins to work on scooping and pouring, I don’t add any toys at all. Another option for the bin are the tools. We always had tools, until my Birth to 3 people told me if I wanted B to touch the materials in the bin, I needed to keep the tools away. He’ll always choose a spoon if it’s there. Nine times out of ten, I offer the twins bowls or cups at least to pour into, mostly to keep it off the floor.

As I recently organized my basement, I have a container full of gallon-sized ziplocs with various bases in them, and another container with small toys I keep just for this purpose, such as jungle animals, cars, dinosaurs, etc.

Here are four simple sensory bins we have been playing with over the last week or so:

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

Base: Rocks from the dollar store. Toy: Snakes and bugs (also dollar store). 

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

This one I introduced today, and my toddlers played with it for an hour and a half. It’s been a long time since they spent that much time in one place. C was super into scooping and pouring, and B was loving the bugs, the snakes, and the various colors and shapes of the rocks. They were sad when the bin went away for the night.

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

Base: Uncooked rice (green from St. Patrick’s Day – still good!) Toy: Wild animals, from Target.

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

This was before I had the new bin. Rice can easily spread out across a room, so I tend to only give them a little of it in a smaller bin. That day, C was into the rice, but B was into the animals.

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

Base: Uncooked black beans Toy: None – but added kitchen equipment for tools.

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

This bin was a huge success, and we kept it for three or four days before I switched it out. If you’ve never stuck your arm in a container of black beans, do it. Like smooth, soft little stones! On the first day, they scooped and poured for an hour. The next day, they enjoyed burying their cars and their hands in piles of beans and playing a bit of hide and seek.

Weeknight Simple Sensory Bins

Base: Beans and seeds Toy: Dinosaurs

Finally, I didn’t take more pictures of this bin and I should have. I was in desperate need of an immediate sensory bin that didn’t require thought, and I looked in my cupboards and found sunflower seeds no one was eating and uncooked lima beans. I mixed them together and added plastic dinos and the twins loved it. As usual when there’s a new toy, B loved the different colored dinos and played with them both inside and outside of the sensory bin. C, as usual, was into the base, and enjoyed separating the sunflower seeds from the lima beans in little piles on the towel.

Born out of necessity, these daily sensory bins are now the easiest part of my work day. It’s already set up from the day before and easy to clean up. Not to mention cheap – most bases and toys were bought from the dollar store, making the total amount spent on each bin just under $2.

I’m a little obsessed with sensory bins – I love how they can be changed up, like getting a brand new toy from the store a few times a week, but with multiple uses and hours of playtime. I hope we still have years worth of bins ahead of us!

Here are a few other sensory bins we have tried (and loved) over the past few months:

Easy Shaving Cream Sensory Bin

Sensory Bath Sunday: Squeeze Colors

The Cheapest, Simplest Sensory Bin Ever

Coloring Rice (Sensory Bin)

Dried Beans Sensory Bin

Faux Snow Potato Flakes Sensory Bin

Valentine’s Day Soup Water Sensory Bin

Please visit my Facebook Page for more sensory ideas as well as cheap, simple crafts and activities for toddlers and preschoolers!

I cleaned my basement at midnight.

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

This was a few nights ago now. And I didn’t clean my whole unfinished basement. Just the part I felt I could control enough to do something about – our toddler supplies.

During the week, I have no spare time. When I say none, I mean I get a half hour prep period during school (today’s was spent on the phone with parents) and a half hour lunch. I leave right after school and relieve the nanny, taking over with the twins until my husband gets home at 5:30. It’s dinner, bath, pjs and bed. Then the chores at 8:00. Anyway. I’m usually done for the day and on my own around 9:00/9:30. That’s when my party gets started and a few nights ago, I celebrated with a Friday night trip to Walmart. I needed a bunch of things, but in addition I left with two storage bins for less than $10. And even at 11:00 pm, I felt motivated. See, my basement was looking like this:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Just crap everywhere. Holiday decoration bins overflowing and baby gear still hanging around. Here, specifically, was the targeted problem:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

I’m constantly making things and re-purposing containers and purchasing cheap things for sensory bins, crafts and activities. And it all keeps making its way into my basement to be thrown into the pile. While I’m no Pinterest organizer (and I wish I was), this was too much for even my standards. With the two bins from Walmart I suddenly felt like I could manage this and might as well while the motivation was there. I gave myself the goal of being done by midnight and got started.

First, I dumped everything out and surveyed my storage container situation. I had a few bins already plus the two more, so I started to sort. Here’s how I organized 5 bins and a boppy bag.

Bin #1:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Sensory bin bases. As of now, we pretty much rotate between beans and rice, but I will soon be incorporating epsom salt, pasta, oats, etc. All of these dried bases can be saved and reused (and I wouldn’t have it any other way) but I wasn’t storing them well. They go in gallon bags now, and from there, into this bin. I also have the cheap $4 tablecloths to put underneath the sensory bins.

Bin #2:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Art supplies. My hot glue gun, pipe cleaners, sharpies, googly eyes, craft sticks, paint, pony beads…etc. You get the idea. There are certain crafts I’ve done where I need these things constantly, so it would be so much easier to just bring up the whole bin!

Bin #3:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10Paper, fabric, and felt. This bin’s contents were presenting me with difficulty before I organized it. I have felt coming out my ears right now and so much leftover fabric from my buckle pillows and fabric letters. We use contact paper regularly and the freezer paper is my trick for felt, which I’ll be blogging about soon. I’ve got one side fabric and one side felt, so it now feels much more manageable!

Bin #4:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

The bottom of my storage bin pile – all the extra crap with no home. Specifically, these items tend to be great for sensory play (squeeze and spray bottles, tools) or crafts (egg carton, aprons). I also threw in a few other things I’ve picked up for $1 to save for the future, such as the watering cans and the bug catcher nets.

Bin #5:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10This bin sits off to the side, as I don’t use it much but the contents are there for me if necessary! I have a few extra sensory bins and base supplies, such as cotton balls, rice, etc. It’s just nice to have these things off the floor.

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Boppy bag – it zips! We haven’t used a boppy in memory but the bag rocks. In it I have all the objects we’ve put into our sensory bins so far. They are in individual bags as well, so it doubles as a toy bag. I’ve got seasonal objects in there as well as animals, dinosaurs, cars, etc.

When we want to do a sensory bin I’ll know just where to grab the bin, the base ingredient I’m looking for and the objects to go with the base! For example, I might grab black beans and the bugs/snakes bag. Or a green water bin with the plastic dinos. Quick and painless, and everything now has a home.

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Ta-da!! And of course I’ve labeled the bins, because no organization is complete without labels! This was very much on my to-do list and I’m so glad it’s done. And the best part is – I finished at midnight(ish) and only spent $10!

There are some amazing ideas out there for storage of toddler supplies and while this is not my dream way to store things, it works for now. I’ll be keeping an eye out for storage bin sales!

A post for my daughter.

After a long, draining week, I’m re-focusing my thoughts and ready to go. B starts services with EI this week. We’re going to do the Autism eval in a month, so that if he does qualify, he’ll get a lot more services than he will without the label. I’ll be home all summer, ready to be here for all the services, and then when I go back to work, I can choose to go back to just our Birth to 3 plan or keep going wit ASD services.

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This adorable little boy has made some wonderful strides since only the initial EI evaluation. My husband and I keep commenting on the growth we’re seeing, just from simple changes we’ve made at home. To see these changes, we had to ignore him. He had to come to us, or at least name what he wanted and say “help”. He now knows, I won’t turn on the light or the fan until he says, “Fan on.” I won’t help him onto the couch until he says, “Couch – help”. It’s amazing. He is saying these words, he’s doing the signs. We’re practicing the signs for happy and angry. His speech pronunciation has improved greatly. He’s almost where he was before the little regression – he says, “Go” and it sounds like go. He says, “Two” and it sounds like two, and not toh, or teh. An added bonus – he plays by himself more than he ever did before, because after ignoring his “eh eh” for a few days, he figured out how to keep himself happy. These changes are just from one initial evaluation – so I’m feeling very optimistic. Optimistic that he can get back on track and be successful in his toddler world. Optimistic that this new development in our lives doesn’t have to continue to suck up all of my brain space.

And because I’m feeling positive and happy, I’m spending the rest of this post dedicated to my daughter, Lil’ C. Funny how things change – when they were infants, C was so fussy all. the. time. B was all smiles and laid-back. I remember my husband saying how guilty he felt that B was getting no attention. Well, the tables turned. I don’t feel too guilty, because C is independent. She’s well-balanced. She’s my damn-near perfect daughter. But I’ve not focused much attention on her recently, because B has been needy.

The day I found out if Baby A and Baby B were boys or girls, I secretly hoped for at least one girl. I come from a long line of very strong mother-daughter relationships, and I knew I needed a daughter in my life. In a perfect world, I’d have one of each, because I wanted a son as well. Baby A was a boy. I felt a rush of excitement and then an immediate plea into the air: Please let Baby B be a girl. Pleaseeee. I held my breath and then couldn’t contain myself when I was told Baby B was in fact a girl. Yes!!

And ever since then, this little one has been a source of such happiness for me. As she grows, I see a bit of myself in her – in her smile, but also in her brain.

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She’s a thinker. She’s unbelievably conscientious, always thinking of her brother, or the dogs, or whoever – before herself. She’s positive and happy. She loves everyone and everything – wanting to people watch, kiss babies, hug dogs – etc. I can’t think of a single thing she doesn’t like and will say “no” to, unless she’s just following B’s lead.

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She’s thoughtful. When I ask her to go get a washcloth or a bib for herself, she always comes back with two. “B” she’ll say, and hand him the bib she chose for him. She gives him whatever he wants, when she’s done with it. At the “My Gym” class they went to today, while kids were jumping off the walls and getting hung up on every game (or in B’s case, chasing down every orange ball in the place…), C played with one eye on the adult leaders. Was it time to clean up? She’s the first one there, ready to help. Was another child sad? She’s next to them, making sure they’re okay. She follows directions, she likes to please. It’s how I’ve been my whole life and I see that in her.

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She’s a daredevil. While B wants his feet firmly planted thank you very much – she wants to do flips, be thrown into the air, go higher and higher in the swing. She seems to like watching big kids do gymnastics and wants to participate. She’s sweet and she laughs constantly. I’d say she’s giggling just as much as she’s talking. She’s just so good-natured.

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Never did I think, with my dark brown hair and brown eyes, that I’d have blue-eyed, blond children. The gene is in my husband’s family, so I’m not too surprised, but my husband has brown hair too. And even though she sometimes resembles me, her eyes take me aback every time I capture them in pictures like this:

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or like this one, when she was 9 months old, and is one of my favorite pictures of her I’ve ever taken:

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I’m just constantly proud of her, in a deep way I can’t even find the words for but I have a feeling moms can relate to. Because if how she is now is any indication of the type of child, teenager, or adult she’ll be, I know I won’t have to worry about her. She’ll make smart choices, she’ll be kind and considerate. She’ll be successful and happy. She’ll have the mother-daughter relationship with me that I’ve dreamed of my entire life, after the one I have had with my mom, and her with her mom. One more generation of sugar-addicted, thoughtful silly girls.

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And even though twins have been so exhausting since Day 1, with twists and turns I never saw coming, with a messy house and fur-covered rugs I can’t keep clean – I have been nothing but lucky. For my wonderful husband and the perfect dream I was able to obtain: Children. Healthy children. A boy and girl, both so perfect that my life didn’t really start until they were here.

Getting past the labels.

I can’t thank you enough for the amazingly supportive, thoughtful comments on my last post, regarding our EI evaluation. You all made really valid points, points that kind of brought me back to Earth when my head was starting to drift. Again, my feelings and thoughts are kind of all over the place tonight.

Today, my husband and I met with the evaluators from my state’s Birth to 3 program and set up an IFSP for B. Some of you mentioned that this document, different from an IEP, would really reflect the desires of the parents and that we had complete control over it. You were right. We were asked what WE wanted to see change, and rate those areas in terms of importance. Doing that allowed them to choose which services would be provided and how frequently. I found the whole two hour meeting extremely helpful, precise, and what I needed to proceed with this whole process. I think I’m starting to understand exactly how this is going to work, and that makes me feel better.

But. I’m still not past the labels. There’s no label for B – yet. The evaluators do believe that if he was to take the Autism evaluation right now, he would qualify. AKA – he is demonstrating behaviors and abilities that could be on the spectrum. Specifically, his lack of communication with us, sensory sensitivities, and a few other small things (lack of creative play, lack of interest in other children), sounds like Autism to them. I’m having a hard time wording my thoughts on this. There’s nothing – wrong with Autism. I’m just having a hard time right now taking what was so great about my son and putting it above this looming possibility. Which is crazy – I know. He’s a wonderful child. He’s silly, he’s affectionate and loves to snuggle, he’s enthusiastic to learn.

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He’s SMART. I’ve spent so many months in awe of what both of my twins know and how quickly they soak up information. My nanny and I are constantly in talks of how to challenge them next, because they know and can identify, say, and apply all those things that kids this age might know. And then some. And I’ve spent the last few months pursuing my new hobby of finding educational activities that will teach them new things. But now I’m feeling like I need/want to spend time finding activities that will help B “get through” whatever it is he’s struggling with. When I know that’s not how this works.

At the meeting today I came to the realization that B doesn’t know how to play. I know he loves to play, but to him, playing is work. Work is playing. Sorting, stacking, puzzles, sweeping the floor, scooping and pouring, pushing cars, flash cards – those are what he loves. The other day he found a flash card with a picture of a brown square on it and he dug around in the play food for a brown square waffle. He brought them to me, beaming. I loved how he made that connection. And now every time we get those cards out, you can guess which card he searches for. And to him – this is play. But there’s NO creative play whatsoever – no imaginative play. And that’s a goal he’s now going to work on. I’m good with that.

I should be clear – I’m glad we have this program in our lives. I’m glad we could just say, these are our concerns, now please make them your goals. And they listened. But this is only the beginning.

Right now, our plan is to start with the EI services next week. A developmental…something or other will come weekly. Speech once a month. OT once a month. In addition, I’m going to pursue outside OT services, where he will travel to them, not just them to us. This boy loves to be put to work, loves a task, and I think the outpatient OT services would be very beneficial to him. In addition to all that….we are going to have him evaluated for Autism at the end of May. Originally, I wanted to wait a while, to see if the Birth to 3 people and the outside OT would do enough for him to show some significant progress. However, speech and OT at our house once a month is not much at all. If he were to qualify and be diagnosed on the spectrum, the Autism people would take over and his hours of service would dramatically increase. Considering it’s almost summer and I’ll be home every day, it makes sense to have these services crank up while I’m home. And if the evaluators think he might be diagnosed with Autism, then why would I wait for that kind of evaluation?

Well, because then he’d be diagnosed. It’s just a mental leap I need to get over. And I will.

I know he’s young, I know he could be Autistic. Or maybe not. It’s too soon to tell. But to end on a positive note, we have already made changes in the last week and we see a difference. We ignore his “eh, eh” and if he wants us badly enough, he’ll come to us or name what he wants. Sometimes what we assumed was him wanting something (“Couch!”), was actually just him naming what he saw, and we jumped in too soon. Yesterday, he wanted me to turn the fan on. He used to point to it, “eh, eh!”, and I’d say, “Do you want me to turn the fan on?” And he’d say “YEAH!”. Now, after a few days of me ignoring him, he pointed at it and said, “On!”. I waited and then said, “On?” “Yeah!” I then asked, “What is it?” And he said, “FAN!” I repeated, “Fan, ON!” And I turned it on. We might be on to something here.

That Time Birth-3 Came to My House.

I’m back for my second post of the night, Part 2 of my 21 month old B’s story. In Part 1, my husband and I found out that teething can impact a toddler’s speech development, which I was totally clueless about. Unfortunately, even after solving that problem and noticing a slight improvement in B’s speech, his story doesn’t end there and we may be on the cusp of something new. As I did through infertility, a high-risk twin pregnancy, and the newborn and toddler stages, I have turned to the internet for support in areas of concern. These have been topics I don’t know enough about and in the stress of a moment, I want to soak up as much information as I can, so I can do whatever is necessary at home to try and “fix” the problem. So my purpose in sharing these stories here on this blog is in case anyone out there is scouring the corners of the internet for the same reason – to ask questions and find support.

At the recommendation of my pedi (“If you’re really concerned…” he said), I called my state’s Birth-3 program. I was a little nervous in doing so, because calling them meant I had a concern about my child, and I don’t like being concerned about my child. Nevertheless, I called them and the woman I spoke with was very kind and warm – my type of person. I explained to her that I had sought her program out because of a speech regression in my son at 19 months, which Dr. Google said was not good at all. In fact, Dr. Google told me that a speech regression that occurs between 18-20 months might be one sign of autism. The internet also told me that mothers who have autoimmune diseases while pregnant are more likely to give birth to an autistic child. We were 2 for 2. I told the woman that B did have a double ear infection and fluid in his ears, which we believed likely caused the regression, but I still had concerns about a few quirks of B’s. The woman suggested they still come out to my house and do an evaluation, to take a look at those quirks and get a full and complete picture of who B is. The evaluation was free, so I agreed.

What are B’s quirks? I’m a first time mother. I don’t know what’s normal and what’s not. I have a son and a daughter. They are completely opposite. While C nurtures baby dolls, B pushes cars. Some children are calm and easy-going and some are high-maintenance. Some don’t mind getting dirty and some want to stay clean. I just assume(d) that these were normal characteristics of toddlers. And maybe they are, I still don’t know. But B has become very sensory sensitive. He recently was reluctant to touch our shaving cream sensory bin, and doesn’t care for any stringy, crumby, or slimy textures whatsoever. In the last month or two (or is it just noticeable now that the snow is gone?), B has an aversion to touching grass. At first, he stood up using his elbows. Then his palms only, fingers up. B has an aversion to specs of dust, dirt, hair, or crumbs that don’t belong. While eating an egg sandwich, if a piece sticks out, or a crumb is in a weird place, he points to it, fussing, “eh, eh, eh” and I have to take it off for him, or at the least, say, “Wipe your hands on your bib, then.” When his new socks caused a fuzz to stick to his toes, coming off and floating in the bath water, he noticed it right away, again fussing for my husband to take it out. He is not able to problem solve on his own by removing whatever it is he doesn’t like. Where once he didn’t mind spiders and ants, he now makes a sour puss face when he’s close to one, as if they gross him out and give him the shivers. Yes, this was a concern of mine.

B has a few other quirks. He’s madly in love with the color orange. He will play, eat food, and wear other colors, but if given the choice he will seek out orange. Orange socks, orange blocks, orange animals. If we take a walk in the stroller and I say, “Can you hear that airplane, B?” (B LOVES airplanes), he says, “Orange?” I’ll confirm – “You see an orange airplane?”. “YEAH!!!”. Or our newest game, “How many kisses do you want?” “One”, B will say. “Orange”. “One orange kiss?” I’ll ask. “YEAH!!! Neen!” “One green kiss?” “YEAH!!!”. You get the idea. It’s not like he doesn’t know all the other colors or even like them – he does. But he prefers orange and he uses his knowledge of the color in weird situations. Even when he doesn’t actually see the color, he’s thinking of it.

B loves repetitive motion. Many months ago I became a little worried when he started throwing his head back on the couch for fun. He continued to do it every day, only when he was happy and content. Many times, he’d grab two orange blocks and then sit against the couch and slam his head against it. If it ever caused pain, he wouldn’t do it (as he did to the floor during a tantrum once). No, this is happy motion. He loves swings. He loves car rides. He loves jumping in his crib. He loves pushing toy cars and trucks – using his whole body back and forth to do so. Again, I see this as sensory-related.

Finally, he throws fits. Big ones, especially a few months ago but still a few times a week now. He hits, he gets mad and throws things, he whines all the time, constantly, without the words telling us what’s wrong.

So these are a few of his quirks. Birth-3 came to my house today. They did their evaluation. I was hoping they’d say, “No, B’s a normal high-maintenance toddler and there’s nothing to worry about”. That did not happen.

B qualified for Birth-3 services. I’m still wrapping my head around all of it, but from what I understand, here’s what they saw: They saw a child who did not meet the standards in a few areas, one of which was sensory-related (they definitely see the same sensory issues I do). They are concerned about the fact that he doesn’t climb for fun. That he never learned to crawl (though he can now). That he only does these things for practical reasons, like to get up the stairs. That when he meets another child other than C, he takes a look at them and then goes off on his own. He’s not overly interested in other people – he’s interested in things and how they work. Above all else, though, they’re concerned about his communication skills.

Now, I called Birth-3 because of a speech regression, but I was talking about his pronunciation. They saw an issue I wasn’t seeing. I assumed B has plenty of words. The pedi asked me at the 18 month appointment and I couldn’t count his words – it’s probably close to 50. But likely 40 of them are identification words – every letter, color, number and shape. He knows his fruits, his animals, and he can say them out loud. But none of those things are communication. How does B communicate? He whines, cries, “eh, eh”…plus a few words, such as the names of everyone in the house. Birth-3 said he could possibly be on the autism spectrum, something I absolutely dreaded to hear out of plain old fear. We can (and will) request a specific autism evaluation and if he qualifies for that, those people will come to our house every week and take over for Birth-3, as it’s a different program. Next week, we are sitting down with Birth-3 and creating an IFSP, which is the young children’s version of an IEP used in school for special education students. Yes, in a few days I’m creating an “IEP” for my baby, my under-2 little boy. We don’t know yet what exactly he is, or has, or whatever. He’s too young to tell. Even the Birth-3 people said, yes, you can have a sensory issue and not be autistic. Yes, it may just be that he hasn’t been exposed to other kids enough on a regular basis for him to care about interacting with them (true, they’re in my house alone every day during the week). And yes, there are a few things my husband and I were doing that was hindering his development, which when we stop doing those things, he might show improvement.

What are those things we’ve been doing wrong? Well, we were parenting the way we thought was best, and so that wasn’t wrong at all and actually was perfect for C. However, for B’s needs, it wasn’t the right fit. First of all, we both were talking to the twins WAY too much. We’ve always believed it’s important not to use baby talk on toddlers – to talk to them in normal tones using normal words. We speak in complete sentences to them. But for B, there are too many words being spoken to him. The Birth-3 women said it’s too much for him to process. Keep it simple – “fast ball” instead of, “B, look how fast the ball is rolling down the hill!”. Oops. Forget the “please” and “thank you” right now, they said. Just get him to say the content word of whatever he wants. Start there. And above all else – stop talking for him, they said. Oops. B says, “eh, eh, EH” – and to make him happy, to get him to stop crying/whining/screaming we say, “B, what do you want? Do you want this? Do you want that? Would you like to do this and this and this?” UGH (Yes friends – I parent the same way I teach, by talking way too much!). Up until now, all B had to say was yes or no. Pay him less attention, they said. Let him come to us, tap on our shoulder, point, whatever it is – we’re doing all the work for him. Yes, we are. To address his challenges gagging on certain foods and misjudging the size of the pieces in his mouth (an ongoing problem), we were told to start brushing his tongue, insides of cheeks and roof of his mouth so he gets used to feeling objects in those spaces. So we’ve got our homework for the next few weeks until Birth-3 starts their services doing whatever it is they’re going to do. Working on sensory, gross motor, communication, etc.

This post was lengthy and picture-less. It’s more of a vent for me, but perhaps it may help someone else out there. I’m feeling glad that we did this, that we’re getting help for B while he’s young. That I don’t have to stress about how I can “fix” his issues, that someone else is going to come and take that weight off my shoulders and tell me what to do. But I’m also still a little shell-shocked that something isn’t right with one of my children. They’re both so perfect to me that I can’t wrap my brain around something being wrong. So I’m still in denial, hoping that after services and strategies are given to us, B will meet all the standards and go back to just being high-maintenance and that’s it. We will put this behind us and tell him when he’s an adult of the time he needed a little professional help to make him even more perfect.