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.