Assessment 2017--Little Brother
The kids have been after me for a while now to change Little Brother's internet name to Beowulf. So, as this is as good a time as any, I'll do it now.
Beowulf is 4 1/2 years old. Our primary goals for him this year have been to :
1. Get him potty-trained
2. Establish healthy sleep patterns
3. Dress himself
4. Help him with anger management.
For a brief week, we thought we'd achieved potty-training success . . . but we were wrong. Beowulf just doesn't care if he's wet, dry, or messy. He's perfectly comfortable in any state, and even seems unaware of the difference in any of these conditions. This is probably a sensory perception issue.
I remember coming into his room one morning to get him up for the day, only to be overwhelmed by the smell of a bowel movement. When I asked, he told me he was completely clean and had no idea what the smell was. He was shocked when I opened his pull-up and showed him the poop.
That was fairly common 6 months ago, but recently he has been 100% successful at having bowel movements on the toilet.
Urinating, however, continues to be a problem. He uses the toilet the majority of the time, but if he gets mad or just plain too interested in what he's doing, he'll go without even knowing it's happening. His pull-ups have those designs on them that disappear if he's wet himself, and he has to look at them each night to know if he's dry or not.
We've stopped actively pursuing complete toilet training success. Instead we're continuing to buy pull-ups for Beowulf, reminding him to use the toilet often, and accepting that a child who cannot tell the difference between wet and dry is going to take a good while longer to be truly potty-trained.
Healthy Sleep Patterns
When Beowulf joined our family not-quite two years ago, he was in the habit of getting up at night to play. He'd turn on the light, wake up anybody else he could find, and invite them to party with him. He also wanted to nap for many hours in the middle of the day, he wouldn't go to bed at night, and he got up before dawn no matter how much or how little sleep he got.
It was exhausting and unsafe.
The first think we did was cut out his naps. This helped a little, but not a lot.
Then we moved him to his own room with nothing in it but his bed (this is easier said than done). We put an alarm on his bedroom door that scared him senseless when it went off. This kept him in the bedroom and unable to wake the rest of the family. We all slept better knowing where Beowulf was at all hours, and he seemed to be bored enough to sleep.
Circumstances led us to have to put Brother in the bedroom with him, but this began the mess of having him want to jump and play and scream instead of going to sleep. The developmental pediatrician recommended Melatonin. I was hesitant. But desperation won out over hesitancy, and Melatonin helped a great deal. We'd dose him about half an hour before bedtime, and he'd be too sleepy to play when his head hit the pillow.
This did not keep him asleep through the night, however.
We kept enforcing the rule that kids are to stay quietly in bed until 7:00 am. He's rarely successful at staying quiet or in bed, but every bedtime we repeat, "What do you do if you wake up before Mom comes?"
"Stay in bed, quiet mouth, quiet hands, quiet feet."
And 6 out of 7 mornings I hear him yelling in play at 5:00 or so in the morning (once it was 3:45 am), and I go to him and say, "What are you supposed to do?"
"Stay in bed, quiet mouth, quiet hands, quiet feet."
He knows the answers, he just can't make his body do what his brain knows.
The early waking wouldn't be a problem if he weren't exhausted by 4:00 pm. He can't nap or he'll be up all night. So we just keep slogging along, putting him to bed at 6:30 or 7:00 pm because that gives him the maximum number of sleep hours before affecting his wake up time.
Once he falls asleep--totally easy if he's alone, totally impossible if he has any company (we use Melatonin sparingly)--he's sleeping soundly through the night, and his early waking may simply be a part of his personal make up. I keep telling myself there will come a day in a decade or so when I'll be begging him to get up on time instead of begging him to sleep a little longer.
Beowulf takes upwards of 20 minutes to change his clothes--i.e. from loose-fitting pajamas into a t-shirt and elastic waist shorts. The clothes he's going to put on must be right side out and have an easily distinguished front and back. Every movement takes careful, focused thought and attention.
But he can put on these soft clothes, and earlier in the school year, he could not.
Buttoning and zipping a fly on a pair of pants is totally beyond him.
But, just this past Sunday he conquered the buttons on his dress shirt! I did the top button for him, which left him 4 small buttons. I've been encouraging him to button one or two buttons here and there through the year, sometimes guiding his fingers in how to grasp the button and push it through the button hole. It has been tremendously hard work.
Church was starting a little later than usual due to stake conference. We were actually ahead of schedule getting dressed, so after buttoning the top button, I left Beowulf to work on his other buttons. It took him 40 minutes, lots of tears, much encouragement, and so much hard work, but he finished the remaining 4 buttons all by himself!
I did a happy dance for him, high-fived him twice, and got him to shout out, "I can do it! I can do it!" with his arms in the air.
He's still got a fair bit of work toward independent dressing, but he's on his way, and I'm proud of his accomplishments so far.
Our Beowulf has a hair-trigger, powerful temper. The slightest touch or smallest word can send him screaming to the floor.
Oddly, though, I've watched Baymax whomp Beowulf in the head with a toy, and Beowulf has done nothing more than cry quietly. We don't let Baymax do that without an appropriate consequence, and we do comfort Beowulf, but I'm always perplexed at what makes him fall apart and what doesn't.
Because of his years of violent screaming, his voice is permanently hoarse--he sounds like he's recovering from laryngitis. The pediatrician says give him more water, but he drinks tons of water, and his voice is the same. His tantrums are definitely fewer and farther apart than they were at the beginning of the year. He's really doing much, much better, and I wonder if his voice box will heal someday.
Most people find his hoarseness appealing in such a small boy. :)
Tantrums used to last longer than they do now, too. His quiet place is one corner of our front porch where he has 3 different textures--concrete on the floor, wood on one wall, and brick on the other wall--to touch and ground him, and he has the fresh air, trees, wildlife, flowers, grass, etc. to look at and calm him. I used to try to hold him through the tantrums, but he's too strong, and we both would end up all sweaty and covered in other bodily fluids, and it was just too hard on us both. Now that he's learned to use the quiet place, he gets calm much faster, and he's really a happier kid over all.
We've been working on using words to ask for needs to be met. He's probably almost as successful as the average 4-year-old at remembering that words work better than crying. We do a lot of reminding that words are the communication tool of choice in our home.
He has a short emotional fuse when trying to cope with challenges. If a crayon won't fit into the box or a train piece won't fit onto the track, he'll collapse on the floor crying, but that was truer earlier in the year than it is now. He's learning to keep trying even when activities are hard, and I admire him for that.
I've been casually administering ASQ-3 screenings to Beowulf every 6 months or so, and I just administered the 54 month test recently. As usual he scores as high as possible in gross-motor skills. He is awesome at gross-motor skills! He's improved from low-average scores in problem-solving, communication, and personal-social to high-average scores. His weakest area continues to be fine-motor skills, but he's improved from well-below the cutoff at 36 and 42 months, to being in the middle of the cutoff range at 48 months, to almost meeting the cutoff at 54 months. That tells me that my system of following the advice I read in Balanced and Barefoot a year or so ago, is working.
He still holds a crayon with a fist grip, but he's improving, and I have no plans to change what we're doing with Beowulf.
If he's like Brother, he'll suddenly be ready to learn to read in another 5-8 months, but he's is own person, so we'll wait for him to grow into himself. We're in no hurry for academics here.
He loves to identify letters, and he loves to count things in his world. He enjoys his bedtime story, and he's learned that outside play is waaaaay cooler than inside play (even when it's hot out). He's still totally enamored with trains, and shows no signs of outgrowing this particular passion.
He cannot retell a story that he's heard, even immediately after hearing it, but he can remember a few highlights from a very familiar and beloved story (as in one we've read at least 50 times). He can pray a simple, sweet prayer. He hates having his head touched (haircuts make him cry), but he loves to sit in my (or any) lap, and he likes how my hair and skin feel under his hands. He sits quietly through an entire sacrament meeting (over an hour) as long as he has a small toy car in his hands.
He's passionately alive in water.
He is constantly seeking tactile stimulation with his whole body (i.e. throwing his body against the couch with a flying leap and sliding down it so that every inch of his body rubs against it), and he is often unaware of the space his body is filling (he seems genuinely surprised to find that he's smashing a toy with his foot as he stands or kicking a sibling in the head as he lolls about on the floor).
If it has an engine, it is cool--be it motorcycle, trash truck, or sewing machine.
The funny thing is about loving things with engines, is that he's crazy sensitive to noise. The blender both repels and fascinates him, and he throws his hands over his ears, making grotesque faces and contorting his body as he tiptoes closer and closer to the irresistible machine.
It's the same with the vacuum.
I feel that socially, Lola and Baymax are catching up to him, while Brother is moving beyond him. He and Brother are still best friends, and short of separating them nothing can make them stop giggling once they get started. When it comes to outdoor play, he can keep up with the "big" boys, but in quiet play, I see him relating more and more with Baymax--2 years his junior.
In my opinion, Beowulf shows mild signs of FASD. We're not sure what his future holds, but he's learning and growing in remarkable ways.