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  • Writer's pictureHeidi Renee


AJ has been in school for a month already. I can't believe it. We also can't believe the tremendous progress he's made. There have been multiple days where I have picked him up after school and sat in shock. Shock as to how awesome his school is. Shocked at how much more awesome his teacher and her staff are. I mean we knew she was awesome, but seriously? Awesome! Shocked and thankful he is in this program. Many have said to us, I'm glad you fought to get him into his school. SO ARE WE. SO ARE WE.

This last month was a challenge for both us as parents and his teaching staff. It was hard to hear the reality that AJ is so far behind his peers. Its not as if we didn't know already, but it still stung. When it becomes unclear as to whether he will continue cognitively, fear sets in. It was hard to pick him up and hear he had a bad day. For some reason, we remember the bad days more than the good sometimes. Why is that? It's annoying!

We spent a few days worrying about it, and then tackled the challenge ahead full-on. Jer and I sat down and reviewed AJ's "testing scores" again, to familiarize ourselves with where he is, and to see what we need to work on. I pulled out my trusty white board and we wrote out goals for each area. We sorted his toys here at home. I raided the dollar bins (I know, again, SHOCKING!)and began doing activities that mirrored the theme of the week at school and created an easy flow from school to home. I organized the art bin and began making an list of things we could do each day, making sure to incorporate our goals.

At school, AJ seemed to be doing his usual thing with "new people". I mean new people that are handling him. He wet-noodles, won't listen, pushes buttons, throws tantrums, the works. Over time, he has become familiar with the routine at school, has shown anticipation as to what the next activity is (he knows!), he's more comfortable with the staff, has had a major decrease in tantrums, arching his back when upset, self-stimulation, crying, and the biggest of them ALL: he's transitioning from activity to activity much easier and doing much better with his peers.

I sat back on Friday and looked at a list I had started and sent to school with AJ earlier in the week. I wanted to share what I was seeing with AJ's teacher. He's shown me parallel ideas. Like, he climbed onto the platform swing at therapy the other day-which he's never done. I know he's been on the platform swing in the sensory room at school. He made that connection. On Thursday his teacher shared that they had been seeing the progress as well. He's making steps, although they are little, there is something everyday. I mean something every day. So, I've added to the list, since of course, he's added skills.

We still have a long way to go and are absolutely certain that he'll get there. To worry about it leads me down into a dark scary place that I absolutely hate. If he needs anyone in his corner, its Jer and I. We need to be his advocates and say HE CAN DO. Why should his special needs automatically place limitations on him? I think not! Now, us aknowledging that he has a long way to go is not me saying I don't care about the gains he's made over the last month. We are absolutely amazed at how well he has done in just a month at school! But there is always a goal before us.

Here is the list:

-Fantastic/more consistent eye contact, beginning to seek it out.

-Made some great eye contact with his orthotist at our appointment. AJ vocalized back to “C” when “C” was talking to him.

-Walked into clinic for AFO appt, AJ walked over to the school bus on the floor, actively began playing with it. Had interest in other toys in the waiting area.

-increased spontaneous vocalizations: with changes in pitch, voice quality, intensity, rate, and duration

-walked directly into therapy gym from waiting room, went to trampoline, then ball pit, then saw platform swing. Climbed onto platform swing, spent a few minutes there, climbed off on his own, back over to ball pit, climbed in pit by himself.

-able to climb up playground (both at home and the park) and push himself down the slide, get off slide, walk around, repeat

-using left hand to try and hold plate/stabilize the food so he can scoop/stab with spoon/fork

-while playing with puppy that sits and flips he turned the dog right-side-up after it flipped over and did not land correctly

-placed object in bin when asked “put it in”/he did this for me 5x, using both left and right hands

-Recognized bubble (Chris Barton) song instantly when sung, established eye contact with me!! I asked if he wanted bubbles and he kept starring at me, then starring at my hands as if to say ‘where are they?!’

-called his name, he turned and walked to me, purposefully dropped toy and climbed on couch for cuddle

-saw swings at the park from 10-15 feet away, began walking toward them

-Giving items “up” much easier/understanding ‘ALL DONE’ with ease, understanding when we say “no” to him playing with a non-toy (ie my cell phone). Gives up with ease and moves on to his own toys.

-Playing functionally with more toys

-Imitated clicking sticks tonight

-Did not imitate raspberries, but saw tongue movement and saw his tongue protrude forward 2x. Increased tongue movement during the activity.

-Walked over to yoga ball and tried to pull it out of corner, came to me for help

-Turning faster to novel toy sounds

-Listens to a sound (ie fire engine toy that is hidden behind me) and searches for it till he finds it, knows where the sound is coming from. *With toys he’s played with before. But he knows the shaker is different than the fire engine toy.

-understands auditory cues for “sit down”, “chair”, “wait”, “up”, “all done” and “bath”. “One more” is emerging quickly!

-We tried his tricycle for the first time. He immediately sat down and started backing up.

-Seems to be understanding/following directions much better. ie “No, lets go this way”, “Come here”, “Climb up”, etc.

-had a playdate with twin boys, 2 ½ on Friday. Walked into new space (their house) and had absolutely no problems. Found the stairs, went up to the playroom. Enjoyed the playroom. No major meltdowns. He took notice of the other Mom’s voice and was actively watching the boys. Here’s the best part: AJ found a farm animal puzzle and started playing with it. I mean playing, he took a piece out, then another, then another. Then paused, then picked up the cow and starting moving it around to see where it fit. One of the boys came over and sat right next to AJ to play with the same puzzle. I’m holding my breath thinking about the water/washing dogs incident….AJ gently reaches out for the puzzle piece “C” has. I say “No, no, “C” has that piece,” or something along those lines, and he puts his hand down. He reaches out again for a different piece, I say something again, he puts his hand down. I reached down to get a piece that was in front of him and he whined thinking I was taking it away, but he was fine when I gave it to him and said “Here’s a piece for AJ,” or whatever I said. He did so great! They even ate lunch together at the table. I was so proud.

-Recognized piggy bank/coin toy at playdate and looked around for coins to put into the toy. Tried to place plastic cookie in toy, when that did not work, he searched for coins. He even opened it up to look inside. No coins. Moved on to different toy, but I was amazed he knew what to do with it and moved on when there were no coins.

-Actively played with me doing an 8-piece chunky shapes puzzle.

-Placed toothbrush under water in-between brushing (he’s never done that before), then placed hands under running water after brushing his teeth to wash his hands (again, a new thing).

-Enjoyed a red-delicious apple. Would not bite the whole apple, but did enjoy the pieces w/out skin.

-Although he seems tired at the end of his school day, he is not napping until 3pm most days now. When we first began school he was napping earlier, but even on days with PT/Speech and then PT/OT later outside of school, he’s still not napping until then.

-Figured out how to back-up on his tricycle all on his own. Repeated during PT at school on a riding toy, surprising the staff

-Steady decrease in tantrums, crying, and rough transitions at school!

-Responded to point-cue when playing with hammer and ball toy, pounded ball with hammer when his teacher pointed to the ball. Played with peer and teacher during this activity.

-Played at water table with peer at school today!

-Long periods of eye contact over the last few days

-Playing in the hallway, heard me turn on the water in the bathtub, stopped playing, looked up at me while listening, came into bathroom for bath. Water/tub was NOT in his line of sight.

-Major increase in eye contact with Jer or I while he’s in the bathtub.

-Noticing when his CI has fallen off and he all of a sudden can’t hear things!!!!!

-When his teacher took a cup and tapped it on the table with the cue “tap, tap, tap”, he took the cup and repeated the action

-Walked up the steps in front of school, using lower railing, all by himself. 6 average steps, but very long steps (take about AJ 4-6 paces to get to the next step up)

-Watching the TV more and more, realizing that sound comes from it-watching people talk.

-Attempted to get into ball pit at therapy on his own, could not, turned around and asked PT for help by establishing eye contact pulling up her arms

-Enjoyed new therapy tool-swinging bolster. Fantastic eye contact and communicative intent with the PT that was working with him, as well as his OT and Mom while we were in front on him. It was almost like he was saying, “Look at me!” with his eyes/facial expressions.

-Bit and chewed a crouton

-Chewed grapes instead of swallowing whole

-Gathering/Carrying multiple items in his hands, able to carry 2 or more objects in EITHER hand

-Increased use of left hand, especially during eating and gathering of toys

-Better balance while dressing in standing

-Tolerates new left hand splint just fine

-Seems to understand the purpose of taking turns vocalizing with the flashlight (used like a microphone-turn on when you vocalize, off when you don’t). More “attempts” to vocalize on AJ’s part rather than just constantly shoving the flashlight at me to vocalize. You can see the wheels turning.


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