Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Christmas 2009

This Christmas was noteworthy. For the first time, T spent almost the entirety of Christmas Day with us. Now, this is no small matter - for several reasons. First, my family does Christmas the slow way: we open presents one at a time, and appropriately Oooh and Aaah over each one, try it on, play with it, hear the story of why it was purchased, etc. This only happens after we have been thoroughly breakfast-ed and coffee-d, much to my dismay as a child (because coffee takes so long to drink and everyone has to have several cups of it and there are PRESENTS OUT THERE, for crying out loud!) Then of course there are the eggnog breaks, and several timeouts for more coffeecake or cookies as the day rolls on. This Christmas was no different – the Opening of Presents started mid-morning and went well into mid-afternoon – and T sat with us almost all day. It helped that many of his presents were of great interest to him - toys that spun or whirred or ran down a track – but doggone it; there he was, right with us.

In previous years, he wouldn't be with us at all. He would only come join us in the room with the big tree and all the presents and wrapping paper when prompted, and opening a gift…well, that just wasn't something that came naturally. (A prime example of how our kiddo did not, until recently, learn from watching others' behavior and imitating it – EVERYTHING had to be taught to him step by step, and still does.) So there were always these stinging moments in previous Christmas mornings: a special gift from a family member would be presented to T all wrapped in pretty paper, and he'd just be staring off into nowhere in particular with the present in his lap – then I'd take his hands, limp as could be, and try to show him how to find an edge on the wrapping paper and start tearing, none of which he seemed to understand or be interested in, and once it was opened, it was usually ignored. Most of his Christmas day was spent in a separate room, watching videos while we opened presents. Another situation of the balancing act Rob & I live: joy and sorrow all wrapped up in the same moment. Joy at Christmas morning with my family around; sorrow that our son wasn't able to participate. I always hoped that someday he'd get it.

This year, he was much more aware of what was going on, and while we still had to pick up a gift and put it in his lap, he knew to rip the wrapping paper to open the present. Once opened, he played with the toy. SO majorly huge – and so different from even last year! He even seemed to get that Santa was one really cool dude. Quite often during the season, if he'd see a picture of Santa, he'd get very excited, smile at me with a HUGE grin and say "Santa!!!" And we haven't even played up the whole Santa thing at all! He MUST be picking up on these things by LISTENING and COMPREHENDING – much more so than previously.

I have learned from previous Januarys not to say "I think it's going to be a good year." So I'm not saying it. But…progress is happening. T is learning. This is ALL good.

“Coat Off” and “Ezra Black Keats”

It's been a while since I've posted, and I'm quite thankful to report that the echoing of my name has vanished, for those of you who have asked. Thanks for checking in.

We continue with the intense Verbal Behavior therapy 32 hours/week, the Methyl B-12 injections and the detox-ing, and we also continue to see slow but steady improvements in behavior as well as expressive and receptive language skills. It is SO totally cool. Two very fun things came out of T's mouth today which I just had to share.

First: T has been able to request and label the action "coat off" for quite some time. This winter, he has a new coat which not only zips up but Velcro-s shut as well (fancy coat!) T is not yet able to open up the Velcro to access the zipper. Each time he wants to take off his coat, he'll look at me, reach to my hands and say "coat off." Today, because it is so blasted COLD, I switched up the usual coming-home routine by taking Chester outside before I had taken my coat off and had assisted T with his. I usually throw a frizbee to Chester, since he's been home all day without us around, so I took a few moments to play with him. After about a minute, T opened the back screen door, peeked around at me with his coat still on, and said "Coat off!" It was such a TYPICAL kid moment…as if to say "Hey Mom, you forgot something!" I laughed and came inside to help, and gave him a big hug for using words to ask me for help.

Second: Rob has been terrific about telling T the author and illustrator of the children's books he reads to him. T can now name the author of the small library of books he will allow us to read to him – very cool. One of his favorites from a few years ago, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats had been, until recently, shunned from his list of Allowable Reads. I'm glad to report that is has now been deemed acceptable to read it to him again. He likes it so much again that the author has become part of his echolalic repertoire, but with a fun, sweet and decidedly appropriate twist: he says "Ezra Black Keats". Gently, I try to correct him, but he is convinced, it's stuck, and now when we walk around the grocery or are on other errands, he'll flip his fingers and say "Ezra Black Keats." I just have to smile.