Look, Mommy! It’s Little Bear!

We were running around the playground playing monster. Mama Bear being chased by Little Bear and Big Bear, although Little Bear inevitably ended up behind and the chased. Lots of laughs and giggling, but then Little Bear tired of the game and decided to walk around and play alone, as he often does.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 1.05.59 PM“That’s Little Bear!” I thought I heard a voice yelling.

Nah, it must be another Little Bear.

But I heard it again and again. And a mother confirming her daughter’s comments.

There was a little girl on the playground who knew Little Bear from Fancy Child Care Center. I introduced myself as his mother and talked to the child’s mother for ten or fifteen minutes. I apologized for my son’s disinterest in her daughter and let her know that he had ASD. She said she understood, although it was quite apparent from later comments that she didn’t. She revealed to me that her daughter had been one of his biting victims, although, seeing Little Bear’s delays, she didn’t seem especially upset by it. She brushed it off as, “She came home saying, ‘Little Bear was mean to me!’ and I told her that I know she’s been mean, too, and so have her friends.”

I explained about the ear tubes and their effect on his behavior. She asked who his ENT was because her daughter needed them. I gave her his name and information and she said she’d heard wonderful things about him. I told her how the fluid had affected his balance so profoundly as a baby that he didn’t walk until a week after they were placed. They were life-changing for him.

Then came the unsolicited advice and excuses, as it always does in these possible-friends situations. I expanded on his delays and she said she had read that children usually focus on one skill at a time, so maybe he was focussing on his gross motor skills rather than his speaking and social skills. She adjusted the amber bracelet on her daughter’s wrist as she explained this alternative fact mined from Google.

I didn’t want another mother to hate me and my child for his disability, so I, “oh, really?”ed while willing my eyes not to roll. Since I didn’t let them roll, I had to also try to fight back the tears that want to escape when I have to make the mother of a neurotypical child understand that my child is not neurotypical and will almost certainly never be neurotypical.

Her daughter tried to play with Little Bear. He would follow her when she ran, but he didn’t know how to interact with her. He just didn’t know what to do and it breaks my heart all over again.

But… in other news… today he said, “There you go” multiple times in socially appropriate situations. Also, he and his brother did an excellent job of taking turns playing a game on the ipad.

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Gifted

When I was a child, “gifted” was a bad word to my mother. I was labeled as “gifted,” but she refused to let me take gifted classes. After a year of repeatedly telling her how much more advanced I was, my mother relented and let me take gifted English/Writing. I have very few memories of second grade, but I remember that class and how much I loved it. I wish my mother had allowed me to take other classes as well. I promised myself that when I had children, I would never stop them from reaching their full potential through gifted courses. Now, as a parent, I just want my child to mainstream and have a fulfilling life.

Little Bear is 2/3 of the way through his probation period and has had exactly one biting incident – and it was in retaliation to another child scratching his face to take a toy, so we forgave it. He was also bitten pretty badly by another child in the classroom, but the teacher didn’t notice, so we have no idea what happened there. A sigh of relief is being breathed all over our household. We hope that he can stay in school because he needs it.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-1-30-44-pmLittle Bear’s communication is progressing rapidly. He’s learning lots of new words and starting to use signs consistently for words he’s unable to say clearly yet. He’s learned a lot of new words from the youtube station “BabyRadio” and makes the noises for the animals whose names he can’t say. He’s using the signs for more, bye bye, hello, again, and all done consistently and he’s constantly throwing in new signs that I have to ask friends who are hard of hearing to interpret for me.

Watching him grow and mature makes me thrilled beyond belief, but I still mourn the fact that he isn’t where other children his age are. While other moms compare how advanced their children are, I continue to be proud that today he followed most of the directions I gave him, even though he didn’t answer any of the questions I asked him.

I wish my life followed this e-mail that I received from Baby Center. I would love to be concerned about what area he’s “gifted” in, but instead I’m celebrating the fact that he clearly yelled for “Papi” on Sunday when my husband was the only one who hadn’t gotten out of bed yet. It was the first time he had clearly called for either of us multiple times, which brought Papi Bear close to tears. We realized that Little Bear does, in fact, know us as Mama and Papi, but he hadn’t realized that calling those words would bring us to him. I think he might be starting to understand the concept now, which is another milestone we’ve been waiting a very long time for.

Our child may or may not be gifted. We know he is a gift to us, without a doubt. Our life now is preparing our child to communicate effectively and make him smile with us. It’s piggyback rides and BabyRadio. It’s eating and stuffed animals. It’s realizing that the small things count and thinking maybe we’re lucky to get an extra year of baby phase with our boys. They grow up too quickly and we get to make it last a little longer.

Progress

We’ve had quite a busy week with Little bear. Both Papi bear and I have been working as hard as we can to get him on track developmentally. We read, we play pretend, we roughhouse with both our boys – whatever it takes to get Little bear engaged.

And it’s working! It’s working incredibly well.

This week he started saying a bunch of new words regularly: No, papi, “Gracias, Little Bear (except his real name),” uva, meow, the letters i, t, d, and z(eta). He’s using old words like bubble and ball more often. He repeats new words more often, even if he hasn’t incorporated them into his vocabulary yet. We see him on the cusp of learning and we’re thrilled by it.

He’s also growing socially. He’s starting to seek approval every once in a while. Not consistently yet, but sometimes when he’s watching TV, he’ll look up to see if you’re watching, too. He especially does this when it’s something he’s really enjoying. He’s done it a few times when playing with puzzles as well. He’s searching for approval and for us, that’s huge.

He’s starting to fight with his brother. Previously he just cried when Big bear bothered him. Now he defends himself by pinching, biting, or pushing back. He’s not doing it unprovoked – he’s learned that his brother feels pain, too, and it makes him stop hurting him.

Finally, Little Bear has found a new love. Kung Fu Panda. We rented the third installment last night and Little Bear was mesmerized. He’s always been a movie fan, but this was Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 9.49.06 PM.pngdifferent. This was like his entire spirit lifted. He laughed, smiled, growled, and actively watched the entire film from the beginning until the end of the credits, and then went up to the TV and touched it when it ended because he missed it.

Ironically, it wasn’t the panda he liked. I mean the panda was cool and he laughed when he did funny things, but the villain… that was who he adored. He literally squealed with joy every time he came on screen. The action scenes had him literally at the edge of the couch in suspense. He enjoyed the third one so much that we finally watched the first one, which has been sitting on my Amazon Prime account for at least six months – there was a giveaway when Kung Fu Panda 3 came out and I downloaded it “just in case.”

I’m glad I downloaded it.

He loved it. The leopard? Oh god. He sat there growling at him every time he fought the panda. Growling and laughing. He was in heaven.

I think we have a lot of Kung Fu Panda in our future.

Reaching Targets

Today we went to Target with Grandma. You were crying and whining when I sat you in the cart. I thought you had anxiety. I put you on the ground and it turned out you just wanted to walk like your brother.

You were so good! You never went more than one aisle away. You ran down to the end, hid at the endcap and then looked around, laughing and giggling because mommy was far away. I said, “Little! Bye bye!” and you responded, “Bah-bah!” and blew me kisses. I started walking away and pitter patter pitter patter… you were chasing after me.

You and your brother wanted a ball. They were on clearance for $1.48. Grandma bought each of you one. You wanted a blue “bubble” just like your brother had. No way could mommy get you the white one instead. You wanted to be like your big brother – he’s your favorite person ever. Both of you ran ahead of us, chasing your oversized balls, laughing all the way to the checkout.

You made me feel much better about the day.

You were playing, you were using words, you were interacting with all of us, and you were responding to simple commands.

I’m very proud of you, Little Bear.