My son is very rapidly approaching his second birthday, and has progressed so much developmentally. The rate of development obviously slowed since his first year of life, as there is so much that happens in the first year. You may wonder what development has to do with autism, and why this topic is so important. The bottom line is that it has everything to do with autism. All kids develop, but at different rates. It’s common to continue pushing kids to the next level regardless of the speed of development. Kids with autism (and many others as well) continue to develop whether or not all the foundations are in place, and therefore are missing many of the fundamental foundations necessary for appropriate development. That’s why we step back to look at each child individually to determine what foundations are missing: What developed out of place? Once we determine this, it becomes obvious why a child may be having a hard time reading, writing, socializing, emotionally regulating, and/or functioning in dynamic settings. If the foundations of development are not in place, these things become extremely difficult. Here is what I’ve seen in my son’s second year of development.
- Motor skills have come a long way! You learned to stand, climb, walk, and run. You also see your sisters doing a lot of fun things like jumping and kicking. You love to kick balls (once you learned it was not ok to kick other people). When you jump, your feet don’t even leave the ground – but you think that you are flying! When you go down the stairs, you still go down backwards on your stomach; but if there is something to hold on to like a railing or a hand, you prefer to move forward just as everybody else does. You are starting to use markers and crayons (not on the wall yet, but I anticipate that will happen). You accidentally made an oval in your scribbles the other day, and were so excited that you made a “fuba” (aka a football). Not everything motorically is natural yet, so there is still a lot of processing that needs to take place for some movements. The other day, for instance, you were asked to close your eyes. This of course happens several times a day without thinking about it; but once you had to think about it and try it, you could not do it. You were rolling your eyes in the back of your head, but could not think about how to close the lids. Eventually you just covered your eyes with your hands.
- Communication has come a long way. You use several forms of communication at once, which makes you very dynamic in your speech. One of the most fun things is watching you listen to your sisters tell stories. Once they are done, you look at us and tell your own story. You have a lot of single words, but those don’t come out in these stories. What we do hear is a lot of changing in your intonations, facial expressions, and gestures. I can tell a story is being told, but can’t understand a word of it. Oh, we laugh so hard! It’s fun to watch you practice these forms of communication while your speech is slowly developing. The words you do use are full of meaning, and appropriate to context.
- Emotionally you stay pretty regulated throughout the day. You rarely cry or get upset, unless you want to do it by yourself or your sisters are tormenting you. However, the temper tantrums are starting when you really, really want something. This is normal for your age, however as you are learning that you are a “self” and can have your own opinion. If I have to leave you for any reason, you are fine with it – unless it’s with somebody that you don’t know. You cry for a short period of time, and then are able to regulate yourself and move on. Some kids at this age still have a hard time with this, but I think it helps that you have older sisters around to help out! If you get hurt, you simply need a hug, and then you are ok and run off again. Most of the time you just rub the spot and say, “bonk” – and that seems to be enough to make it better again.
- Socially you love to be in the spotlight. You love to make people laugh with your stories or your actions. If you do something that makes others laugh, you continue to do it because you love the attention. Most of your play is in imitation of your sisters, or physical wrestling or chasing. With peers, it’s mostly parallel play; but you love to be around other kids – as long as they don’t touch your stuff!
It’s been such a joy watching my kids grow up, and what an awesome job I have seeing kids progress as their developmental holes are filled through the remediation process!