Enjoying (almost) every minute

It’s all about perspective, and I should know that by now. It was only a few weeks ago that the summer felt endless, the twins were melting down at the drop of a hat, and we spent many days without driving anywhere. I certainly wasn’t appreciating my time as much as I could have.

And now I look at the calendar and I’ve got one week left. One week until our nanny starts, even for half days as I set up my classroom. The week after that, I’m back to work full-time. Ahh! How can this be almost over already?

So now that I’ve switched my perspective, I’m enjoying almost every moment with the twins. I mean, tantrums are no fun, and they both get angry often, but it doesn’t last long. They are over “normal” toddler issues, like not wanting to wash their hands, wanting the other to have a certain toy that the other one does not want, etc.

Now, I look forward to spending the morning outside, playing with all the push toys one could possibly want, up and down the sidewalk. Pushing them on our swings. Playing “kitchen” and “cars” and whatever else they come up with.

The hard part of two years old right now is their constant STRONG emotions. They’re either super happy, super giggly, super sad, super angry. They all come on strong. But those happy emotions are so lovely, so fun. B squeezes you in bear hugs, C laughs if you even look at her. We’re in a good place.

And with B, we’re in a really good place. His language, as did C’s, took off right at two. He speaks in full sentences, saying things like, “Mommy, play cars please?” or “Put sandals on now.” And of course C does this too (“Mommy, sit right HERE!”), but she wasn’t the one receiving speech therapy. Speaking of it – sorry to say, but our speech pathologist was not the one who helped B make these speech improvements. To this day we’ve only seen her twice since April. And you all know how that last visit turned out. Our developmental specialist didn’t help either, to be honest. She’s nice, and B likes her, but the suggestions she has been giving me are things I was already doing, like trying the “first, and then” technique. However, she came to play once a week, brought new toys, and it kept the twins happy. He also has been going to outpatient OT once a week. This, of all the early interventions he has had, was the most beneficial. He still needs work on using two hands at tasks, which is something kids who crawled don’t need help doing. He still is sensory sensitive, especially to wet, slimy, sticky textures (though it was comical to watch him delicately pick off every piece of corn “grass” on his cob tonight). You know, he might just always be sensitive to that sort of thing. It’s not a problem unless it impacts his daily life – if he can’t complete tasks. He won’t touch sand in a bucket, but at the lake this week, he walked around barefoot and waded into the water on his own, completely fine. (C hates water…) So, he’s okay.

He’s more than okay. He’s doing JUST fine. With school starting soon, we’ve decided to stop early intervention right now. No more speech, no more developmental specialist, no more OT (for now on that one, anyway). And since we decided on a course of action to handle his hitting and aggression, it has decreased. He does not hit, push, pinch or bite on daily basis anymore, as he was doing. We stopped timeout, and instead I always 1) Acknowledge his feelings by repeating back to him what he’s feeling. “I know you’re so mad you have to put on your PJs”, I said tonight. Right then and there, the screaming stops and he’s listening, wondering what I’ll say next. 2) Tell him to show how to be “nice” to C, or to the dog. “Show me how you pet the dog nice.” And he does. 3) Give him the words that calm him down immediately. When he yells at the dinner table, “NO!” I say, “We don’t yell. Say, “No, thank you.” He does it, tone switched just like that. 4) After those things happen, distraction. “Show me how fast your car goes.” And it’s over. No harping on it, no trying to teach him a lesson. He’s TWO.

And C? She’s thrown a few tantrums of her own recently, all out of the same emotion: frustration. She gets mad when she’s trying to set up her dollhouse and the chairs fall over. And when she wants my help but I don’t do it quite like she wanted me to. But it’s normal, and it passes. And we move on.

They’re still exhausting, more so than just about every stage of life so far. Sometimes, between the two of them, I can’t get a word in edgewise. I ponder if anyone can hear me over them yelling, the dogs barking, and my husband singing at the top of his lungs. But the chaos is temporary, and I’m SO going to miss them when I’m back to work soon.

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I’ve got a couple posts I’ve been waiting to write, one on the changes we’ve made to their play areas in anticipation of this next year at home with their nanny, as well as a post on taking their limited foods to the next level (with success!), tying in to how we are getting organized, grocery-wise, as a family. All before school starts!

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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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.