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.

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A Good Day

Last night Big bear stayed in his bed until 6:30 in the morning. I let him come in with me at that point, as long as he didn’t wake up his brother. He didn’t sleep at all, but he cuddled and had some mommy time. Around 7:30, he said, “Mama, time get up!” and I begrudgingly obliged.

Big bear and I made his lunch together, read some books, and watched TV while Little bear continued to sleep. We had some one-on-one time, which has been very important this week. He’s missing his daddy a lot and he’s noticing mommy spending more time and giving more attention to his brother, so he’s starting to act out.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.23.38 AMAs soon as Little bear woke up, he was a totally different child. Hitting, kicking, attacking his little brother and all Little bear wanted to do was drink his milk and watch Super Why.  I tried to sit Big bear on my lap and explain that Mama loves him and we’ll have lots of fun together. He said he wanted his father.

While I dressed Little bear, I narrated what I was doing. Put on pants. Ponte pantalon. Put on shirt. Ponte camisa. Put on shoes. Ponte zapato. A soft whisper “…papo…” I repeated “zapato?” A little bit louder, “Papo.” Little bear was trying to say “zapato.” This is a new word for him.

I broke up a few more fights started by Big bear and put them both in the car. At that moment, my phone rang. Daddy was calling on FaceTime. He talked to the boys for about 10 minutes and it made Big bear feel better. When I said it was time to say goodbye, he started crying uncontrollably and saying, “No Papi bye! No Papi bye! Quiero Papi! I wanna Papi!” So I called my husband back using whatsapp and he was able to sing him his ABCs all the way to school.

Little bear and I had some one-on-one time when we got back to the house. The minute we walked in the door, he did something he’s never done before: He reached in the direction of the kitchen and said, “awa….. aaa…. awa… awa.” He was asking for agua. I praised him profusely and gave him a choice between agua and leche. He chose leche, of course. He didn’t point to the drink he wanted, but he pointed to the room where it was located and for a child who, up until now, has never pointed, that’s a big deal.

We started with a picture book: Happy Baby Palabras. I used his finger to point to each photograph and I labeled in English and Spanish. He flipped ahead to his two favorite pages: toys and food. He tried to use my finger to point, but I corrected him and used his finger to point to his favorite toy: ball. Then he pointed to his favorite food: yogurt. Back and forth he went, studying each page and then pointing to his favorite, occasionally saying, “Baaa” (ball). I was very happy with the progress.

After reading the book a few times, we played bubbles as a reward. Little bear bounced and said, “bubba pop! bubba pop!” when they landed on his clothing.

We followed bubbles with some puzzles, shapes, and play-doh. At that point, he started to climb on my back and bite me, which is his signal that he’s hungry.

He seemed interested in what I was doing as I broke the eggs and beat them, so I pulled out the play food and gave him his own burger and pan. He started poking the burger like I was poking the eggs in the pan. After two or three minutes, he started biting the burger and smiling. I finished my task and took the food to the table, blowing on it to cool it off. I look down and I see Little bear blowing, too. He was imitating mama! He rarely does what I do, so every little bit gives me hope that we’ll be able to get to know our son at least a little one day.

He ate his eggs, followed it up with some apple sauce, and then we went to the bedroom to play tickle monster. He giggled and giggled. He always looks me in the eye when we play tickle monster, so I said, “Hola, Little bear! Hola!” And he repeated, “Hola! Hola! Hola!” over and over again.

He played in his toy car for a bit to calm himself down and he started asking for “leche,” so I made him some milk and put him down to sleep. He’s still awake, but he’s slowly calming down and getting ready for his afternoon nap.

Today has been a very good and very productive day.

Sibling Rivalry

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.