For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know the struggles we’ve had with Cadet’s development. We’ve seen a handful of doctors, he’s been tested, we have a diagnosis, we have seen words lost, and we have made progress. Cadet has an amazing team of therapists, doctors, and teachers who are hard-working and knowledgeable.
And everyone who works with him has been amazed with his progress, especially over the last three months. This kid is blooming! McRuger and I have seen a big difference in how Cadet communicates with us and others. His tantrums and frustrations are nearly non-exsistant (unless he’s tired/sick). He’s a happy kid, who is using words together, playing with kids, interacting with adults, and is learning to control his stimming behaviors.
He has therapy or “school” every day of the week. Most days he has two appointments to go to. Playdates are hard to schedule, some days start really early, there’s always more things that we are working on, and new things to learn. Cadet’s energy level is high, even for a kid his age. He needs time to run, jump, throw, bounce, and dance. And even after he’s tired, he needs time to wind-down and feel balanced again. There are some days he refuses to sleep. Some days, he’s testing boundaries constantly (welcome to toddler-hood). I talk constantly to him; narrating what’s happening around us or what we’re doing. In the car, we are either talking or listening to NPR (because that’s where I get my news). We still have good and bad days (of course).
But…but…but…we have “mama” back!!!! He now asks for me, often saying “excuse me, mama”. When he’s upset and in McRuger’s arms…he’ll reach for me saying “mama” over and over again. In the morning, when he hears me coming down the hall, he’ll say “mama” and I will say his name/nickname…and he’ll giggle wildly. He’s even said “Love you” to me on a few occasions (it sounds like “dove 0000h”).
He’s started ordering Em (the dog) around. Telling her to go to the bedroom or go outside. Before Cadet leaves the house, he says “good bye” to his toys. He’s asking for the names of things, and tries to imitate the sounds. He knows his colors, he can count to 10 (although “one” is often missing), and he understands pretty much everything I say. When we’re shopping, or at the doctor’s, or even just taking a walk…Cadet waves and says “hello” to everyone he sees. He engages in imaginative play occasionally, even feeding his dolls and trucks. It’s not just progress, it’s a good deal of forward movement.
The thing is, most people wouldn’t understand 75% of his words. Last week, Rose came over and we went to the beach (Cadet had the day off of school). While she noted that she saw quite a bit more “words”, some of them were indistinguishable to her. And, that’s common, and very okay. His teachers and therapists occasionally have difficulty with certain words. For instance, when Cadet wants me to move and go with him, he says “oooo-vuh” or when he wants to play with his trains, he’ll say “Tee” over and over again. His speech therapist and I are working hard to get him to say more words in context…at this point it only matters that the intention is there.
And that’s what this part of his journey is all about…intention. The fact that Cadet wants to communicate and wants others to understand him is a huge deal. He is engaged in the world around him, and learning more and more each day.
I asked his OT on Friday, where she predicted he’d be in 5 years. She smiled and shook her head: “He’s going to be great. He’s got plenty of brains and lots of curiosity. That’s pretty much the ballgame. I’d say he will look and act like most other kids, because he’s going to learn how to control his sensory needs.”
Is he still delayed? Yep. Absolutely, compared to a majority of kids his age. Mostly speech, but it’s clear he’s got the cognitive power to work through that. This week, we will have a team meeting to discuss where Cadet is and observations about his progress. I will also get the results of the latest bout of testing done by his teachers. From there, we’ll refine his goals for the next six months.
Does he really have autism? To be honest, no one knows at this point. He certainly has the communication and sensory problems that are typical for kids with ASD. But, in pretty much all other categories, he’s a pretty normal kid. When we last saw Dr. Smiles (Cadet’s pediatrician), he was amazed at how “un-autistic” Cadet was. Cadet was engaged, curious, and verbal…even saying “Hi Doctor” and “Bye Doctor” appropriately. We’re currently thinking he simply has SPD (sensory processing disorder), but only time will tell.
In the world of “special needs”, it’s said over and over again that it’s important to focus on the child…not the diagnosis. I do that, every day. Cadet isn’t a diagnosis. McRuger and I spend a lot of time focusing on what Cadet needs. We have a rhythm. We’re moving (fast) in a forward direction. And, like I said, we have “mama” back.