Although he’s never received a diagnosis, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if big bear were also on the spectrum. He called everything in the world “gata” until he was about 2.5 and he didn’t start using 2 word phrases until closer to 3. He’s never really cared to hang out with other kids, he loves doing the same puzzles over and over, making Miami traffic is his favorite pastime, and we’ve had more than one stubbed toe from can stacking. When we’re outside, he has to touch every single sprinkler in sight or he gets very upset. He calls them “eh eh.” He also can’t tolerate having the trash cans at the curb after the garbage truck comes. Those “neh heh heh”s need to be put away immediately.
He aged out of Early Intervention and was placed into VPK3 in a regular public school. He thrived. Within a month, he was singing songs, using full sentences in two languages – our family is bilingual – and his tantrums from not being understood all but disappeared. He’s still a little bit behind the average three and a half year old, but we are thrilled with his progress. His bowel control has regressed during summer vacation, but his language and social skills continue to grow. We’re very happy with his progress and have not sought further treatment as a result.
Little bear is significantly further behind where his brother was. His eye contact is about 25% of the item. He smiles at us when we catch his eye and he adores peekaboo and hide and seek. He says about a dozen words combined between our two languages spoken in the house. His two-word phrases are memorized phrases, rather than spontaneous speech: Bubble pop, high five, and all done.
Since he received his PDD diagnosis, I’ve taken huge steps to work on little bear’s speaking skills so they don’t completely fall away. Today he started saying “hola” again and he said “bye bye” to every single person we left. He said bubble with mommy and grandma and grandma said he said dog to the TV when he was watching Lady and the Tramp. I turned his carseat forward facing despite recommendations so that I can turn around and make eye contact at red lights. I sing to him and narrate what we’re seeing in the car. I hand him toys and tell him about them. In other words, I fill him with language and hope he catches a few words here and there.
Big Bear has noticed a difference. Little bear received his diagnosis on Monday and it’s Wednesday today. I teach at a local college on Monday and Wednesday nights and my husband is out of town, so my mother watched the boys on those two nights. They were fine on Monday, she said. It was a normal day, as far as my older son knew, and they both went to bed without incident.
Tuesday was a different story.
A friend from nursing school who has an autistic son told me, “You can’t let them see you cry or suffer. They can sense it. You have to show them how strong you are so they feel strong, too.” I failed at this advice with spectacular grace.
I picked the boys up from school on Tuesday afternoon and we went to dinner with my mother. Little bear did not want to sit still because he was hungry and Big bear didn’t want to sit still because his brother was acting up. Little bear was walking up and down the aisle of the restaurant laughing and giggling because I was telling him to come back. Big bear was trying to do the same, but I kept telling him he had to sit down. He responded by telling his brother, “Little bear! No do dat! No do dat, Little Bear!” Little bear could give a crap.
The jealousy grew after they finished eating. I went to wash Little bear’s hands and Big bear wanted to go, too, but had to go through the entire bathroom and close every single door that was open. He doesn’t like bathroom stalls to be open. After washing hands, we went back to the table. The check still hadn’t arrived. My mother told me to take Little bear outside because he wasn’t able to handle it anymore. We went outside so he could run around for a bit. Big bear wanted to stay with Grandma. But he also wanted to go outside. Which led to a meltdown. He stayed inside and ran over to me and glued himself to my leg as soon as we were outside.
That night I tried doing some language practice with Little bear. I repeated words from puzzles over and over. No response. He didn’t even look up. I pointed to myself and said, “mama” while doing the sign at least two dozen times. Not even a glance. I cried. Both times I cried. Big bear came over and said, “Mama, why you crying, mama? Why you crying?” I hugged him and told him, “Teddy is sick. We have to help Teddy learn.”
I hugged my Big bear extra super hard that night. When he woke up around midnight to use the bathroom, I let him come into bed with me for the second night in a row. He wants his mommy. He misses his daddy. He’s confused about his brother.
Today when I picked him up before going to work, he threw tantrum after tantrum in the house. I had to remove him from the room and hold him close, reassuring him that mama loves him just as much as always. Mama will always love him. Mama might be spending time with Little bear, but she loves her Big bear equally as always.
I put his favorite movie of the week on and snuck out of the house to go to work. My mother said they both behaved the rest of the night, but I’m sure this is just a very small sampling of what’s to come in the years ahead. I just need his dad here so we can take turns being alone with the boys and giving them their own one-on-one mama/papi time.
Today I feel better, though. I haven’t cried since 8PM. Unfortunately, at 8PM it was in front of my entire class when I explained why I was a bit “off” the past two nights. One of the students came up to me afterwards and told me her niece is autistic and she will ask her brother in law for resources for me. I have wonderful students.