Three, two, one

We managed to implement the countdown to “you’re in trouble!”  If Tristan’s screaming, we can usually halt him by counting 3, 2, 1.  He will help count instead of screaming and is pleased to do so.  It’s resulted in a lot fewer instances of him needing to be placed in his room for having a tantrum.

Tristan has a push tricycle that we received as a gift from a neighbor who no longer needed it for her child.  We’ve had it for a good year now; I lent it to his preschool while he was there, since he had no inclination to use it.  However, we’d been using it as an impromptu stroller for a couple of months and he’s now able to steer it and almost pedal it on his own.  I’m really proud of the steering – he picked that up rather suddenly last Monday and has been enjoying his newfound skill.

Tristan’s language is gaining some more levelage.  He’s repeating two word combinations and showing he makes sense of the words.  For instance, I can instruct him to say “hi daddy” and he will repeat both words.  I’ve heard him say “wash hands,” “yes please,” “no thank you,” and quite a few other combinations of words.  His pronunciation is improving, with him able to say “triangle” understandably.  He’ll attempt to say most anything I ask him to say.  I am trying to get him to answer offers of food/drink/etc. with a “yes please” or “no thank you” – I will say, “Do you want milk?  Say ‘yes please’ or ‘no thank you.'”  He will repeat the “no thank you” in that case.  If I reverse the prompt and put the yes last, he will repeat “yes please.”  I’d say he understands and means his yes or no about 30% of the time.  From what I’ve seen of other kids around his age, that’s not too unusual.

Tristan is making more sense of verbal instructions and the names of people.  One thing he’s working on in therapy is “give (someone) a hug.”  He’s made clear that he understands the instruction.  We’ve been practicing it with multiple people in the room and without gesturing to indicate who is who.  He has a pretty decent success rate once he figures out everyone involved’s name.  He loves to show off, he loves the hugs all around, and he especially loves when we cheer for him when he gets it right – he echoes or prompts the “Yaaaaay!” and it’s really cute.

We’ve discovered that Tristan is quite a little chocolate demon.  We’re using this our advantage in language training.  He will do his best to try to remember a sentence in order to gain more chocolate.  His pronunciation of the word chocolate sounds more like “cock-cock” but chocolate is a bit of a difficult word – I don’t blame him.  We prompt him to say, “(Mommy/daddy, I want) more chocolate please.”  He will repeat “mommy” or “daddy” easily, he will try to skip over “I want” but can be prompted slowly (though we don’t enforce it always), and the “more chocolate please” part is not optional in order to get his chocolate during language training.  He’ll try to initiate the exchange so far by saying, “Mommy, hair down please.” which is his one now spontaneous but formerly prompted sentence.  At least he gets the point that we want him to use his words to ask for things!

Phonics punkass

Tristan is rebelling.  He insists on pronouncing the word “soup” like “sowp” instead of “soop.”  If it were spelled “soop” then it would be proper to pronounce it that way, right?  He pronounces “poop” properly.

We have a new obsession – Word World.  If you’re curious what it is, just click the link – the picture you will see explains it far better than I can.  It’s a show targeted toward 5-7 year olds, and I think Tristan knows all of the words used in the show by now.  Anyway, we highly recommend you share the show with your little ones.  As an adult, you will probably be ok with it and not puke too often when your kid asks to watch it over and over.. well, assuming your kid is still fairly young.  Anyway, I’ll certainly take that over the Myriad of Licensed Characters that grace just about everything and make no sense to me.

And Word World has an episode about the “oo” combination, which is probably why Tristan insists on calling it “sowp.”

More wordiness

Tristan’s evolving some neat skills – he’s starting to break down words I don’t think he’s seen before and be able to read them (notably: when it was about bedtime a few days ago I wrote out “sleep” and then “sleepy”, and he said them both – neither of which I know us to have taught him)

He’s also starting to be able to do this in reverse – I asked him to spell baby (while he was playing with Magnetic ABCs on the iPad) and he actually used it to spell it out.  Managed to g et him to spell “Mommy” the next day, as well.  Also very neat.

He’s been using a combination of a stencil + easel and the iXL Cindy sent to practice trying to write letters, as well.  Some he’s much better at than others.  He can write a few of them without assitance, evidently (X, specifically, which is evidently a tricky one).

As far as services go: after fighting with the process for… 4 whole months now, we started receiving speech therapy for Tristan, as of two days ago.   So he’s now receiving 15 hours/month of ABA, 1 hour/week of OT (namely, help teaching him to feed himself) and now 1 hour of speech (general language acquisition).

Additionally, since Tristan has been receiving services for roughly a year, they’ve started his next round of testing – or I should say, mostly finished.  The OT side is possibly going to fade out after the review of the tests – he can now do roughly most everything expected of a kid his age – use a spoon (mostly) without spilling (which was one of his major deficiencies), assist in donning / doffing clothes / shoes, etc.   Additionally, the OT has been working with him, as of this week, on 3 yr+ skills, like cutting.  He actually wasn’t faring too badly there.

We don’t officially have the results of the testing, but from peeking over the shoulder of the person administering it, I may have seen the scores – and for everything but communication/social skills, he was within 25% (AKA: abilities around that of an average 24 month old)  Keep in mind this is impacted by the communication issues – if he doesn’t understand a command, he certainly can’t comply with it. Ultimately, it’s a language thing he was still around 33% behind there – not great, but far better than the 50% behind.  In the end, this round of testing seems to much better represent his actual abilities (though it’s not perfect, obviously).

He’ll actually wind up going through yet another round of testing in April, through the local school district (which Kirin posted about earlier).  Basically, at age 3, it all switches over from one government agency to the local school district.  We’ve heard conflicting information about what it takes to qualify at service from that point, ranging from things that he certainly wouldn’t qualify for, to the more logical determinator: “would he be able to function in a normal classroom without assistance?” – so we’ll see.

Also: completely random – Tristan has started to try to perform a front roll without assistance – something that some of the Little Gym can do – presumably he’s learning from them.

Neat stuff lately

Tristan is officially able to eat chicken soup by himself.  It’s been a couple of weeks, and the video is up of him doing it.  He’s good enough at doing it that we still let him eat it while on the couch.  All he had to do was quit turning his spoon upside down.  To that end, we’ve had an occupational therapist coming once per week, and although she hasn’t been coming for long or even had too much interaction with Tristan, working with her has solved Tristan’s main problem.

He’s also become the hair police.  Now, with much regret, I admit that I have butchered my hair a bit.  I blame the home chemical-based dye jobs – they break my hair and then I have to cut all of the nice length off, so one of these years I will learn.  Anyway, one of the sentences that we taught Tristan to use was “Mommy, hair down please.”  And now, any time I dare to put my already too-short hair up in a scrunchie, Tristan busts out the full sentence.  How can I refuse that request?  Punkass kid makes me take the hair down in the bathtub, too, when I really don’t want to get it wet.  But that makes two distinct things he asks for verbally – my hair to be down, and his iPad aka “apple” or “p-apple.”

He’s now in the stage where he makes a strong effort to repeat words that he hears and to show off that he knows what things are called.  This was adorable when he noticed a duck-shaped sponge and said “duck” and when he picked up a toy frog and exclaimed “FROG!”  It was hilarious this morning when I was explaining to him that he was eating Peanut Butter Crunch cereal, and since he knows the word “penis” better than “peanut,” that’s what came out.  (He did not try to say “butter” or “crunch” – I don’t think I’d have been able to stop hysterical laughter if he’d actually said “penis butter.”)  I love that he’s talking and making sense of the language.  I realize that when he gets good at it, I will start to wish he’d stop talking from time to time.

I’m also really proud of how cooperative Tristan has gotten with regard to staying within physical boundaries.  By that, I mean that if we’re at a park or in a play area, I expect him to stay within the boundaries, and I don’t have to go chase him to retrieve him very often these days.  He’s also getting better at staying with me and not taking off immediately to explore the very second he has physical freedom.  We’ve been using a push tricycle to get around lately, and Tristan will mount the tricycle when I ask him to – and then he stays put and participates in the ride!  It’s SUCH a weight off my shoulders when I can count on Tristan not to disappear or instantly put his life in peril.

And he’s starting to get better at following verbal instructions without gestures!  Obviously not perfect, but he understands us a lot now.

Bad news about good news

We might live in the wrong area for Tristan to have access to good services once he’s 3.  However, that’s mostly a good thing; what we’re being told is that the district we live in does not have adequate services for high-functioning children with autism.

It’s kind of difficult to tell what to expect when your tiny (relatively) little toddler is diagnosed with autism.  First of all, professionals and friends all disagree on what they think autism is.  Second of all, the criteria for diagnosis have broadened.  Third of all, the age at which the telltale signs of autism are observable has gotten significantly earlier.  Fourth of all, the M-CHAT screening questionnaire is being administered at 18 month well visits and leading to detection of autism in children who did not otherwise seem at risk.  Fifth of all, we don’t have any other children and we didn’t know many other children early in Tristan’s life.

In other words, there is not a shitload of precedent for where we are.  And so a proclamation that our very intelligent and affectionate (and VERBAL) child with autism is “doin’ real well” is not something we were able to take for granted.  We suspected that he was “doin’ just fine” and able to handle most of life without special supports not given to typical kids.  But we don’t really know.  We have to take the word of professionals working with Tristan who perform assessments and scrutinize the data to tell us just where he is on that yardstick of handicap level.

So, when we bought our home, we used the school district as a heavy criterion.  We’re terribly classist (though I’d call it “gangist”); we know that property crime is lower in regions where school districts are rated higher.  We found that our current school district is one of the better ones.  But we may need to reevaluate our choice of location, depending on what we find out in the next few months.  I’m sure it will be no hurry, but it will be quite a quest if we decide to go down that road.

The good news has been very good, though.  His mind is definitely present.  He is definitely curious, aware, and really freaking smart.