Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Marty vs. My NT [typically developing child)


My oldest child, Max, has always been advanced in his development and milestones. He was a very strong infant that quickly developed into a very active toddler. Max spoke his first word at around 8 months old. He had a vocabulary of well over 100 words by the time he was 15 months old. He liked sports at an early age and participated in many sports activities as a toddler. He has consistently been the fastest, the strongest, and the most athletic in most of his team sports. Max is thoughtful, witty, and very social. He loves his friends and takes pride in doing nice things for them. He takes after his mommy; but, he is very, very, very sensitive:  he cries over the slightest injury or pain, he becomes very emotion when he disappointed or his feelings are hurt. Likewise, he hates injustice and will intervene when one of his classmates is picking on his friend. I think he provides a perfect balance for Marty. Max has patience with Marty during his meltdowns, he takes interest in trains, and enjoys watching his younger brother become a big boy.
Marty was a strong infant, but Marty is not athletic. In fact, I have never seen him catch a ball. He loves to run, but his running is not purposeful; it is more spontaneous. Surprisingly, Marty was able to ride a tricycle at 2 years old. He rode a bike with training wheels when he turned 3. We used to ride bikes frequently, but lately, Marty prefers to be inside the house with his trains. Every since he was able to 'verbalize', Marty has been defensive and resistant. I remember him as a 18 month old arguing in 'baby talk' when I told him to do something. For instance, I'd say, "Marty its time to put the toys back in the toy box," Marty would reply, "You neber dut, dut, dut!" I times it was funny because I am thinking, "what in the world is he saying." But, this resistance and angry stance became more frequent and annoying, especially after he learned more words.
Marty did not speak any words until he was well over 15 months; and his first word was his brother’s name. Marty was more sensitive to textures and patterns. Although he wasn’t as picky with eating as his brother, he noticed subtle variations in food. He is the kind of kid that hates to see different foods touching on a plate. He will try new foods, but usually turns them down; his older brother Max used to gag when he tried new foods. He is what I consider an extreme picky eater. Marty and Max love being brothers, and Marty is very protective and generous with his older brother.
Marty’s obsession with trains began at a very young age because he was exposed to trains and cars when he was an infant. I have pictures of him as a baby reaching for his brother’s trains. Max outgrew his fascination with trains when he was around 3 years old. Like most preschool boys, he loved playing with dinosaurs, action figures, race cars, puzzles and games. Now, at 7, he is all about remote controlled helicopters and video games.  Marty shows no interest in video games. He plays his Thomas the train computer game, but he rarely asked to play video games with his brother. Marty loves to watch youtube videos featuring Thomas the train as well as “trains with no faces.” Max enjoys entertaining friends; so most of his friends are aware of Marty’s fascination with trains and will often ask Marty why he likes trains so much [he’s a “train freak”].
The other day Marty was playing with his trains when his brother brought some friends into the play room. The children began to play games on the computer. I could hear them asking about different things in the room. The boys have many toys, and video games; plus I have a Barbie doll collection. Well, Marty joins the children at the computer. All is well, as I hear them laughing and talking about the characters on the game. Then Marty begins hitting one of the girls on the top of their head…over and over. I hear her yell for him to stop. I approach Marty and demand that he not hit. He giggles and places his hands on the side of his body. He loves children, but can’t seem to connect with them. He relies on doing things that he thinks are funny to get children’s attention. Of course, his brand of funny is usually not appropriate at the time or does not consider the context and name calling isn’t nice on any occasion. Marty just doesn’t seem to understand this. He gets locked out of the playroom on many occasions for calling Max’s friends “Stupid” or repeatedly saying, “You’re fired!” He giggles and laughs at times when no one else is laughing and nothing is funny.  On occasion, some of Max’s friends have shown interest in Marty’s massive train track layout and will take the time to assist Marty and play along with him. Marty loves this, and will talk all day about how so-and-so played trains with him and, “so-and-so really likes trains.”
Even though Marty has trouble making friends, he is very excited to see other children in the house. He relishes any opportunity to talk to other kids about his trains. He also likes to “hang out” with children, but usually gets banned from the playroom for being inappropriate. Therefore, he is content with playing by himself. I observe his feelings of being disappointed when children ‘don’t like him’ or run from him. He wants to have friends but doesn’t quite understand the rules of socialization. He relies on humor perhaps it is easier to laugh and giggle then take interest in topics that are ambiguous for him.  Also, Marty has a heightened "fight or flight" response, so he goes from fear to terrified or from annoyed to angry in mere moments.
When I drop Marty off at school, several little girls will approach him to say hi. Marty will growl or hiss at them, scream “scared” or "shy" and hide behind my legs. I talk to him about not being rude and to apologize to the girls. He is seemingly “impolite” to these girls; yet, these are the same girls that Marty calls his “girlfriends.” I wonder how much longer they will tolerate his quirky morning ritual. At some point, will their silence turn into ridicule and teasing? Only time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, I contemplate how to get Marty to be more friendly and inviting and less offensive and unpleasant.

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