Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Little Professor: A timeline

As a baby, Marty wasn’t much of a crier, so it was difficult for me to gauge his needs. He never cried when he had a soiled diaper. He was fed on a routine basis, so he usually didn’t have an opportunity to cry for food.  When he was a few months old, I noticed that he rarely extended his left arm. In fact, he kept his left hand clinched most of the time. His pediatritian referred him to a specialist for an evaluation, and an occupational therapist gave me tips on how to help him extend and exercise his arm. Marty was a quiet baby who didn't cry or verbalize much. He appeared very content watching cartoons or watching his brother play with toys. He sat up at the expected age and crawled when he was supposed to. He loved to watch his brother play with cars and trains. He would flap his hands and slap his legs together in excitement.

He babbled as a baby, but didn’t speak audible words until he was around 18 months. His first word was his brother’s name. And, he probably said the names of his favorite Thomas the Train characters before he said, Mommy. He didn’t say Daddy until he was well over 2 years old. I don’t think he ever waved “bye bye”. I’d have to take his hand and force him to wave; he never thought to do this on his own. Marty was diagnosed with a receptive expressive speech disorder when he was 15 months old. He received speech therapy through the state’s early intervention services and was highly motivated to speak words when the therapist introduced Thomas and his train friends into the therapeutic process.
For several months after he began therapy he said, “Say - may I have some juice please, wait,” because this is what I would say to him to get him ask for juice politely. I would tell him to wait because he’d expect immediate delivery of the juice.  For some reason he did not understand that he didn’t have to use the word ‘say’ when he asked for juice. Most of the time I would have to tell him to wait after I told him how he should ask for juice, this is where the ‘please wait’ came from. When he learned to speak; he started to demand juice in the morning. He’d say, “juice” as soon as he woke up. He continues this habit to this day and has a grumpy fit if he doesn’t get the juice while he is still in his bedroom.

When he learned to walk, he liked to run around in circles. He also liked to spin around in the kitchen. He was obsessed with Thomas the train, and would play with his trains for hours. He loved to line them up, crash them into each other and create complex story lines while reenacting scenes from a Thomas DVD or a youtube clip.

Marty often complained about tags scratching his back and tried to cut the tags out of his shirts by himself. He notices subtle details that most others may not pay attention too. Like, if I change the style of my glasses or wear a different hairstyle.  New shoes are introduced slowly as he will complain that they are not his old shoes. He is very difficult to manage when his routine has been interrupted. He has tantrums when he feels that he has lost control of a situation. He had a major meltdown when I brought home new bunk beds for his and his brother’s room. He shouted for hours, “where is my bed, this is not my room!” He was so furious that he cried himself to sleep. He notices and is verbal about changes in routines. He does not like when his father drives the SUV that I drive on a regular basis. He is very vocal about how he wants mom to drive the car.

He loves to play with others at the playground, but often tries to bring his trains onto the play area, and ends up alienating or boring his peers. Marty is very particular about his friends. He chooses one or two and considers them his possessions. He gets offended if/when these friends play in length with other children. In preschool, his teacher mentioned that he was, “obsessed,” with one particular little boy.  Marty would have a tantrum if the little boy stopped playing with him to play with other children. He had a ‘best friend’ that he’d get angry and rude with when his friend wanted to do other things. He’d yell and scream that he was going to hit him. I told him that it wasn’t nice to do those things, and he said that he just wanted to play. He would often use inappropriate language and activities during play with other children too. ‘Stupid’ was (and still is) his favorite term of endearment when he’d get over stimulated or tired of playing. Still, he loves to play and enjoys when his friends take interest in Thomas the train.

When Marty turned 3, he would spontaneously imitate or mimic phrases that his brother or other children would say. His brother would often get annoyed with this behavior and tell Marty, “to stop copying him.” I believe this is behavior is Echolalia. For instance, my oldest son would say, “That book was kinda interesting,” seconds later, Marty would repeat the same phrase in the same tone of voice.

Marty appreciates parallel objects and geometric patterns. He loves stripes and will ask for clothing or items with stripes and plaids on them. He is thrilled to line up trains on a train table or count the number of tiles on a bathroom wall. Speaking of bathrooms, potty training was a nightmare. Marty was well over 3 ½ before he decided to go pee and poo in the toilet instead of his pull-up or underpants.

Because Marty can be very disruptive and loud in social settings, I do not like to take him out often. During our outings when he is ready to return home, he shouts, “I am ready to go.” And, repeatedly says, “this is not our home,” in a monotone voice. He prefers to play alone when he as at home as he has hundreds of toy trains and accessories to keep him busy for hours. He recently started talking to himself; it’s almost as if he is holding a conversation with himself or maybe rehearsing something he planned to say.
Marty started all-day kindergarten and it took 4 weeks for him to stop crying and pleading for me to keep him home. He said he hated, “new school,” and wanted to go back to his old school (preschool). He’d yell at the teachers and try to run out of the classroom on a daily basis. After 3 weeks of this behavior, his teacher told him that she would let him play with a train if he stopped crying about school. Marty stopped complaining about going home, and began to cooperate with his teachers, but he frequently mentions that his teachers still have not given him the train.  

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