Tubes Vs. Allergy Meds and Being Behind the Speech Curve

This is a bit lengthy. I really should be writing about all the amazing things that summer has brought me – specifically, quality time with my kids. They turn two in a few weeks, so I’ll do the update then.

Right now I’m looking for advice from you speech people, because I’m confused and slightly annoyed. Instead of our Early Intervention Developmental Specialist today, the Speech Pathologist came instead. And she’s blunt, which I knew. Which isn’t my style, but when it comes to my kids, yes, just get to the point and tell me what I need to know. But she’s also super critical. She admitted to me. In fact, on Day 1, the first meeting of EI, she told me to get B tested for Autism and was sure he was autistic. (Side bar – we did have that Autism evaluation done last week and B is not Autistic. This should probably be a blog post in and of itself.)

NORMAL SPEECH FOR 2 YEAR OLDS?

On that Day 1, B was mostly communicating to us through pointing and whining. I can see now how that was a problem. Since then, he learned to ask for help. Since then, he learned to string up to 4 words together in a mini-sentence, the same as C, just slightly slower and with rhythm. “More…Daddy’s….french fries……please…..”, nodding his head with every word, as if he’s counting out the beats to a song. Since then, he tells me what he wants. “On light please”, ” ‘Self” (Myself) – not just demanding it as C does but also exclaiming it after he’s carried the stool into the bathroom without assistance and stood on it to wash his hands. “More carrots please”, “Jeep – ready set go!” and many new one word sentences that help him communicate what he wants. In only a few months time, he has come a long way. And like I said, though he speaks a bit slower, he’s almost caught up to C.

But when the speech pathologist came today, she let me know that he’s really nowhere near where he should be. In fact, she said, even though he has almost caught up to C, she’s behind too, apparently for what’s normal for 2-2.5 year olds. Really? I guess I’m just confused. When it comes to speech and communication, for almost two year olds – what IS normal? I mean C sings the entire alphabet, says, “I love you Mommy” and her “S” sound is divine. She effectively tells us what she wants almost 100% of the time, using multiple words at a time. So if she’s behind, then I’m just flat out confused. I thought she was ahead. The fact is, there are a few areas where B still needs work, and I know that. B prefers to communicate with us using one, demanding word – and as we have done before, we have allowed him to do this and acknowledged it, which doesn’t teach him anything. For example, when reading books, he’ll yell, “Train!” because he wants us to read the train book. So one of us will say, “Yes, B, go get the train book and we’ll read it.” Or if he wants me to change his diaper and not Daddy – he’ll say, “Mommy!” until we say either, “No, Daddy’s changing you right now.” Or, “Mommy is coming.” He’ll say, “outside”, “downstairs”, “orange truck” – and we know what he wants, and we don’t force him to say each word in a sentence. (Should we? Should I say, “Oh, you want the orange truck? Then say, ‘I want the orange truck'”.) But I guess this isn’t helping him – and I’m frustrated.

I’m frustrated first and foremost because according to the speech pathologist, and of course the whole Early Intervention program in general, B isn’t where he should be, and even though I know this two months later, it still gives me a stomachache. But more so than that, I feel like the natural way that my husband and I talk and react and parent isn’t a way that’s helping B. I mean, I didn’t know this but it now seems to be the case. And so – now I feel like I’m looking at B when he says something and I don’t know WHAT to say back. I don’t know how to respond to my own child. And if I’m talking to him incorrectly, then so is my husband and everyone else he interacts with. We’re all doing it “wrong”. I could do what comes natural, but that seems to be furthering the problem. The goal, according to speech, is to get B communicating without repeating what we say.  Which – we do that all the time. We teach him new words and we ask him to repeat, which he does. But then he doesn’t do it in context, which means he never learned it to begin with.

Such as the pronunciation for “open”. They both always said something like, “Ah-Mee.” Finally, we broke it down and taught the syllables to them. They both repeated it perfectly. We do frequent sing-song reminders as well. C now does it in context, and B doesn’t. And the speech woman told me that B doesn’t learn anything accidentally – he won’t pick up on things easily on his own. It has to be direct instruction with constant reminders. She said she knows other people might say, “Oh, he’s still so young” – but she wants to let me know that this could affect how he does in school, since he’s obviously a hands on learner (yes, this is true, a mini-engineer right now) and only learns deliberately. He won’t just pick things up.  All of this makes sense, it’s just kind of stressful. I’m not sure how to communicate with him naturally, if what I’m doing isn’t working. And really, thinking about how he will perform in elementary school doesn’t help me now, except to know that yes, this is serious and we want to help him. But I just don’t know how off the mark he (and C) are for 23 months – and how to BEST get him to where he needs to be.

And finally – regarding this – the speech pathologist isn’t exactly warm. This was only the third time they met her because she comes once a month. B and C cry a lot, because she’s a little scary and she doesn’t let them get by without doing what she needs them to do. She said today, “That toy isn’t for spinning – use it correctly or I’m going to take it back”. She pretended to give them a shot with a play doctor’s kit and she touched C first and C screamed. Then she touched B and B looked at C, saw she was upset, and screamed too. And she said, “Oh, he’s crying because I touched him”. And I said, “I think he’s crying because he’s sensitive and he saw C crying and followed suit.” I have shy children – and B is EXTREMELY shy. And I think that needs to be taken into account. He won’t perform for strangers. When he’s uncomfortable he looks down at his hands, or hops into my lap. But he’s still little, and I don’t know – strangers are kind of scary. Especially unfriendly ones.

OH and to finish up today’s session, she said (and I echoed) – “You can’t do the puzzle until you clean up the animals.” Wait time. And then, “Clean up first and then you can do your puzzle.” Finally he just looked right at me and yelled, “NO!” And – I was unprepared. Should I put him in a “time out” to make me look like a parent who has this under control, when in fact we have never done a time out before because we haven’t needed one and B has NO IDEA what time out is or means? I said, “That’s not nice, you need to clean up.” “NO!” Ah yes, Baby’s first defiant NO, and in front of Early Intervention people. Fabulous! I can’t even tell you how it ended because it didn’t end. Lolz – Is this how you parent?? Just when I think I’ve got parenting down pretty well, it turns out I have no clue.

TUBES VS ALLERGY MEDS – When doctors don’t agree

I’m so over this right now. Both B and C are constantly getting ear infections. The antibiotics work (most of the time) and the infections go away. But with the smallest cold, C especially gets infections. Neither of them just get little colds. And so it’s constant. Our pediatrician wants them on Zyrtec. So they’re on Zyrtec. And when they’re on it, the fluid in their ears goes away. We know Zyrtec works. But they’ve been on it for months at a time. When they come off it, the fluid comes back. B’s hearing doctor said Zyrtec is bad, it makes them sleepy and is just a band-aid, it doesn’t actually solve the problem. Tubes might be needed. Pediatrician then says, they haven’t had enough infections yet to qualify for tubes, and plus it’s allergy season anyway. Keep taking Zyrtec. Now speech pathologist agrees with hearing doctor, and is pushing for tubes, because constant antibiotics is a bad thing (I agree), and constant Zyrtec isn’t good either (I agree). But the pediatrician isn’t having this tubes discussion right now. Not to mention – tubes fall out. Tubes require surgery and being put under. All of these things might be contributing to B’s speech issues, so we need to get on it but my doctors aren’t agreeing and I don’t know WHERE to turn for that one.

A much happier two year update coming soon!

I need a cleaning schedule.

Well, with only one day left of school, I can pretty much declare – I have MADE IT through this school year. I have made it to summer! It was a very long, draining year. My hardest year as a teacher for sure, and having twins at home after a year of maternity leave only made it that much harder. I’m looking forward to starting fresh next fall, but for now – I get to pretend I’m a stay-at-home-mom again. And I’m really, really excited about it.

One of the things I’m looking forward to this summer (besides spending quality time with my children, of course) is spreading out my tasks and to-dos throughout the day, rather than saving them from 8:00-11:00pm. Not only do I want to get all my nightly chores done as I am already doing, but I want to take on more tasks. See, my house is an embarrassing disaster. I’ve talked about this before, actually. (Funny, I thought the house was messy THEN!) And unfortunately, out of the two adults, two toddlers and two dogs living in this small home, none of us are really the cleanest/neatest, and our biggest issue is that we don’t maintain our clean house (whenever that happens). I have a desire for organization like I can’t even describe, but it all seems so overwhelming, and on a weekend after a long week of work, the last thing I want to do is deep clean my house. So I don’t, and that’s a problem.

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It’s also a problem when the twins find the tissues!

Now that I’ll be home for the next 7-8 weeks, it’s time to tackle the mess. Currently, the twins are napping from 1:30-3:15. It’s not the longest nap, and as it is C doesn’t fall asleep for bedtime until at least 8:30, if not 9:00. But I need them to nap this summer as long as possible. That’s my time. I’d like to spend the first 15-20 minutes of their nap doing normal clean-up, maintenance chores (washing dishes from lunch, wiping counters, taking out trash, etc.) – things my nanny currently does and I finish up on at night. But in addition, I’d love to do one or two additional cleaning tasks during the nap. Every single room in my house needs an overhaul. From washing curtains to scrubbing radiators to sorting through clothes – it’s all there, waiting for me. There are receipts everywhere and coats that need washing and couches that need vacuuming.  I can also tell you that I don’t want to spend every single moment of their nap, every single day, doing chores. I’d like to blog more – a few times a week. I’d like to sort through months’ worth of pictures I’ve taken. I’d like to update the FB page I’ve neglected in the last few months. I’d like to get back to my hobbies – even spending only 20-30 minutes would be fine. But the nap is short, and the house is messy. I’m just not sure where to start.

How do successfully clean people clean their homes? Do they just pass by certain areas of the house and say, “That needs to be cleaned, I’ll do it right now”? Because that doesn’t work in my life. I’m in need of a good cleaning chart – one that gives me a sort of regimented schedule. I can’t just clean up “whatever I see”. I get distracted, all of a sudden my phone is in my hands and I’m addicted to the internet, which is frankly an obnoxious habit I need to break. I need specific tasks to be completed on specific days. If anyone has a good one, pass it this way! Otherwise, I’m hitting up Pinterest.

B and C have been doing wonderfully and their language is finally taking off! I’m excited to share an update, and I might actually be able to on the new summer schedule! :)

Dear Picky Eaters,

Dear Picky Eaters,

You suck at eating. It’s really quite annoying.  I suck at planning foods you’ll scarf down with ease and happiness (do any toddlers eat with ease and happiness?). Daddy sucks at knowing what to do when you don’t want to eat what is on your plate. We all suck at mealtime.

Honestly, the one aspect of parenting I could completely do without and would happily hire someone to sit in my place, is feeding you. I mean, it’s not all bad, all the time. Sometimes it starts out innocently enough. B, all 31 pounds of you, you get hungry when you see us in the kitchen cooking throwing food together to feed you both your dinner. You sweetly come into the kitchen and say, “Eat?” And I say, “Yes, B, it’s time to eat! Go to your chair!” And you sit there, puppy dog eyes on full display as you salivate, wondering what Martha Stewart-type concoction will be served to you.

Dear Picky Eaters,

For breakfasts, you get stuck in a pattern. For a long, long time, you both ate baby oatmeal mixed with pear puree. Then you ate Daddy’s crock pot oatmeal with steel cut oats and apples and cinnamon. Then, in the past month, you both got sick of eating breakfast with a spoon. So we went out on a limb and tried something completely new – muffins!

Dear Picky Eaters,

It was a success. You both love these muffins, which are made with whole wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce, bananas and a few more things. I freeze them and they last me about a week. But it’s time to introduce some other flavors of muffins, because I don’t want you getting too sick of these quickly. Breakfast isn’t really a problem right now.

And see, babies, it should be noted that I do plan your lunches. Granted, it’s the same five things every week – pasta with minestrone sauce, whole wheat couscous “sticks” (which we’ve slipped chicken into), a quesadilla with finely-chopped chicken, sour cream, salsa, and the magic ingredient (corn), chicken-“fried” rice quinoa, and either a repeat or something I’m praying you’ll eat (like our new rice and chicken “muffins” – which you ate the first time, not the second.). And it’s also true that these five meals have been on repeat for oh, 6 months. I’m not a chef. I plan the meals, Daddy cooks them. And he doesn’t do this every night. When we have minestrone, I have enough for you guys to eat it like 7 more times. I freeze it in bags. The same goes for the quinoa and the couscous sticks. It’s all previously frozen in individual bags. I don’t want your nanny to have to go through what we go through at dinner. I want lunch to be a breeze. So in addition to any of those meals at lunch, you get two side veggies – typically either peas and carrots or green beans and squash. You also LOVE broccoli, brussel sprouts, cucumbers and asparagus, which you eat at lunch as well. No, veggies aren’t the issue here.

You still drink your afternoon smoothie, with plain yogurt, frozen fruit, a banana and spinach. That’s going fine too. For drinks – you both drink milk with your meals and water throughout the day. You love your water cups. You get a kick out of drinking from your own and then switching cups, spreading all the germs, I’m sure. But it’s okay. Drinking isn’t the issue.

Dear Picky Eaters,

The issue, twins, is dinner. Your lunches look all yummy and good and whatnot, and so you may be thinking, what’s wrong here? Well see, those lunches are the ONLY things you will eat. There are variations, of course. You both love pasta. And rice. And dairy, veggies and fruits. You like a cheese sandwich, which I can slip a piece of chicken into and you don’t notice. But that is IT!

I don’t want to give you the lunch foods for dinner, because if you have the same things multiple times a week, I’m afraid you’ll stop liking them. No, I need more recipes of things you’ll eat, that I can have on hand for dinner.

Daddy isn’t a fan of giving you two dinners. Neither am I – and I agree with him that you can’t just not even try something new and then be rewarded with something you love. Which happened tonight. Without the reward. But you won’t even TOUCH foods that we think you’ll like, that we think will help our problem with your desire to be stuck in your eating ways. It’s not that you don’t like flavors, it’s that we can’t get you to even put these foods to your lips. Ketchup/BBQ/any salad dressing – you won’t touch it. Peanut butter, won’t touch it. We tried to get you to eat pizza a few weeks ago – you looked at us like we had three heads. Beans – absolutely not. MEAT??? It’s like we’re trying to poison you. You wouldn’t touch the broccoli and cheese quiche tonight, because you don’t like eggs (texture is the issue here I believe). And I didn’t have a Plan B, even though I knew you probably wouldn’t touch it. So I’m having a bit of Mommy guilt.

I’m not sure what the right move is at the dinner table – put out food you may or may not like first, in hopes that you’ll try it? If we put out something you DO like with it – well, I”m afraid you’ll only eat whatever you love and not touch the rest. But if we only give you the questionable food up front – and you DON’T like it, well now you’re hungry. And defiant. And “giving in” would mean giving you something else. Which I will do. But then you learn that if you cry about something yucky, you get something yummy.

Dear Picky Eaters,

(Mealtimes are such an ordeal that I had to dig back to Christmas, when you weren’t using utensils yet and still used high chairs, to find another picture of you eating!)

As we know you both do enjoy many flavors – we think it’s that you both get into a pattern and don’t like to break it. You just hate trying new things – simple as that. And Daddy and I are always so tired. We don’t want to spend every night after you go to bed in the kitchen. We just want you to eat more than the same five meals on repeat. So, picky eating toddlers, I’ll try to be better about planning. About having something you do like with each meal I think you’ll hate, because I’m not about to let these dinners just fail and you go to bed hungry. That’s not how I roll. I’ll start planning more on the weekends and preparing more dinners at night before I go to bed so we aren’t scrambling the next day at 6:00.

But you guys, you have to do your part too. Just pick up the food, open your mouth, and TASTE it. I promise it won’t be so bad.

Love,

Your Exhausted, Drained Parents

As a side, I’ve linked the recipes we do find success with here, just in case you’re in a similar boat as I am. And if not?  What are your secret recipes? They just might be a winner in this house!

The highs and lows of 23 months

They’re just about 23 months, and 2 is creeping up quick. I felt inspired to share this post tonight after coming to a realization. Somewhere in between kisses and snuggles on the couch when I got home from work and at dinner, when C screamed bloody murder because of a bib mix up and B burst into tears when his quesadilla came apart – I realized how quickly our emotions change as parents. My husband and I, on an almost daily basis, have these moments where we can’t believe these little beings are ours; reflections of us. We asked B to go call his sister for dinner. And we watched him go into the living room over to her and say, “C! Eat!” But then, so soon after those precious moments, we look at each other and wonder how quickly we can run the bath and get them to bed, because B didn’t get the towel color he wanted and I didn’t give in when C asked for a pear, and then an apple, and then a banana, and then puffs, when she didn’t want dinner.

This age is starting to get really fun. They are both on the brink of so much language, constant learning, and frequent meltdowns. We’re exhausted.

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This is the scene right before bed: Everyone on the couch, even the dogs. Sometimes B is into the books, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes they want to read right along with us and know every word; sometimes they’re yapping to each other, the dogs are wrestling, the microwave is beeping, and my husband is reading me a children’s book. At least someone is listening. Sometimes we get goodnight snuggles as we carry them up the stairs – and sometimes they insist on climbing the stairs by themselves and take a half hour to do so, pausing on each step, turning around to see where the other is.

B’s skills, in the last week or so, have started to take off. And I’m not just talking about his balance and coordination, although that’s improving too.

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This boy who hated being on any surface that wasn’t flat and hard, who couldn’t bend his body in any direction other than straight down, is starting to understand that it’s fun to twist and turn and swing and bounce. He never enjoyed these things previously, and now he loves the exercise ball. He and C go to a My Gym class once a week and though they are by far the least adventurous kids there, every week they do a little more and try something new. This weekend B walked across a wobbly rolled up mat.

Not only that, but his speech and communication are really coming along. I’ve found that if he identifies something by color, shape or size (which is what he has been doing all along), I repeat what he said and look at him, waiting – and he finishes his thought. His pronunciation is getting better as well and he’s added the long “I” sound. It’s just really wonderful to watch him process, learn, and get excited. It’s even better to see the tantrums decrease dramatically. Where a few months ago he couldn’t communicate effectively and was hitting and biting, now he’s all laughs and smiles.

IMG_1851C is also growing and changing every day. She too enjoys her My Gym class, though she hasn’t come down a slide since the first day.  I find myself both in awe of her and struck by her fierce sense of independence and the growing amount of sass. Out in public she and her brother are both very shy, but at home she rules the roost right now. There’s never a time when she doesn’t know what she wants. And even with her desire to do every single thing on her own, she’s very much like myself, conscientious to a fault, always thinking about others instead of herself. This both makes me so proud and breaks my heart at the same time.

I’m SO enjoying watching her learn. She and B somehow know their letter sounds and now, just for kicks, I’m starting on some sight words. I don’t expect much to come of it, but she soaks it up. She wants to know what the words say and since she has books memorized, we can all kind of pretend she’s “reading”.

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She absolutely LOVES to read. It’s her favorite thing right now, besides kittens and babies. Unlike B who always wants to help me do a task, she’s fine to be on her own, which is quite helpful. You have to steal kisses to get them, but she chooses to be tickled until she can’t breathe. Like her mother and grandmother, she’s addicted to sugar. This is why she doesn’t get much of it :) She’s not deprived, though, I assure you. She eats fruit multiple times a day and eats up unsweetened applesauce and plain yogurt like it’s ice cream. She practically licked her applesauce bowl clean tonight. Once or twice a week they get a little something, and just like their parents, when offered a chip or a donut hole yesterday, B chose the chip and C the donut.

As we round the corner towards 2, my least favorite part about this current age is their desires to do (though it’s also one of their best traits!). They climb stairs at their own pace, they eat at their own pace, they want to put their own shoes on and it doesn’t matter if we’re already late to go somewhere – they want to put on their own shoes. They can’t, of course. But it’s them against us (or me, during the week in the summertime), and if I think I want to get them somewhere on time, well that’s just not happening. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes I look around at our tiny tornado of a house and our under-walked hyper dogs and I just have to take a breath and know that this IS life with toddlers, and is actually everything I always wanted!

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But my favorite part about 23 months is their growing love for each other. No longer occasional playmates, they have each other’s backs at all times – constantly inquiring about the state of the other, whether one is crying, laughing, or sneezing. They ask for each other the second they wake up. They chase each other down the hall. One won’t eat until the other sits down. Even if they aren’t playing with the same toys, they choose to be in the same room. They’re always together, which seems to be what they want. In short – they’re starting to become friends. And it’s absolutely the most adorable thing ever. My favorite part, hands down.

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Scattered.

I miss blogging. For those who have never blogged before, not sitting down at a computer to write once or twice a week seems like nothing – normal. But there’s this world of bloggers out there, millions of them, and I love to be part of that community. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time figuring out where this blog needs to go to make me happy.

Part of the issue is my actual career. Being a full time teacher of 5th graders who stay in my room for 7 hours a day is hard. It is for any teacher. After coming off of a year and a half on pregnancy/maternity leave, this school year has been – challenging. Exhausting. For many reasons. It’s been hard to find my teaching mojo again and at this point in June, it’s not coming back. Yet my day is so busy, I don’t have a moment to breathe. So many times my friend and colleague has opened our joint door and found me with my eyes half shut, staring off into space. I’ve been a bit of a lost soul as a teacher and I’ve accepted it. I hope to feel refreshed in September. However, I still have very little down time.

With the hecticness of B’s new EI schedule, I’ve found even less time to ponder activities and sewing projects. When I scroll through Pinterest, I’m now looking for gross motor activities for toddlers, ways to encourage toddler speech, OT games that help the vestibular system (THIS, more than anything else, is what B is struggling in right now). (More info on the vestibular system here and how the vestibular system affects behavior)

Because of these things, I haven’t been taking much time to try out new sensory bins or Sunday bath activities. I haven’t been sewing stuffed animals or ironing felt. I loved to do those things, take pictures, and blog. I loved to ship the posts out to various outlets in the blogging community, in hopes of driving traffic to this site and sort of finding my place among other mom bloggers. I did it for about a month and really, I did love it. But to do it right, to make a blog into a thing, you have to commit so many hours to it a week. More hours than I have. I found myself up until midnight every night, putting in two to three hours at the computer and ignoring my husband. That wasn’t going to work, so I stopped. But I did really like it.

I’m having some trouble deciding on the direction and the focus of this space. We’ll see what the summer holds – if I find myself with a bit more time, I may get back to my toddler crafts and activities focus.

As it is, I’ve got a list going of great ideas I can’t wait to try, including a giant sensory bag the twins can flop all over, some new sensory bins, some letter sound activities and plenty of outdoor play.

And I’ve got pictures sitting in my blog folder waiting to be turned into posts, including the felt stories I made and our two wooden learning towers, made by my husband and painted by me. My husband is beginning to make a swinging frame for the twins, and we’re squeezing a toddler trampoline into our tiny house.

As the twins turn two next month, I’ll be swapping out almost our entire playroom of toys for new ones, as the prior toys are outdated for their skills and aren’t being used. I can’t wait to add a felt board, a ball pit, and sets that require imagination and pretend play.

I’m party planning, with ideas for rainbow-colored sensory/messy play themes. I’m just all over the place. I’m tired.

And meanwhile, the twins are growing and changing, the terrible twos looming in the not-so-distant future (though I hear three is worse!). C insists on doing every single thing by herself, even if it takes two hours. B wants me to run down the hall with him every second of the day, chasing him until he’s beside himself. They both, suddenly, know their letter sounds and it’s just precious. Yet, they still speak in one word sentences. Their afternoon nap is sadly starting to push towards 2:00, and I don’t let them sleep longer than 3:30 if I want them in bed by 8:00, which I do. Even then C takes a while to fall asleep. It’s a long day! Food is still a challenge – dairy, veggies and grains are on constant rotation but they struggle with textures and protein.

I don’t know – there’s so much I feel confident about as a teacher parent, and I feel very good about the choices my husband and I have made and the way we talk to and teach our twins. But there’s so many areas in my life in which I have no idea what I’m doing, or even if I know, I’m not doing it. I function best when I’m organized, both physically and mentally and right now I’m not. I’m just very scattered.

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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