It's very easy to get caught up in River's problem areas, the things he can't do, the areas he's delayed in and the worries that he may never learn to do these things. But when you take a step back and look at where he was 6 months ago, it suddenly becomes apparent that he is making lots of progress-just usually very subtly. And occasionally, he will hit a milestone that is very significant-and that progress is very obvious. It's a fabulous feeling! So I'm going to list a few of his successes that seemed so out of reach just a few months ago.
- Books. River spent a long time chewing, throwing or spinning books whilst all his peers were enjoying stories. He has so many lovely books, and there was a time when I wondered if he'd ever look at them. But now, he's really into books. He doesn't have enough receptive language skills for a story, but he likes turning the pages and looking up at me to tell him what the pictures are.
- Eye contact. River has always been pretty good with eye contact, but it was fleeting and was never because he was interested in my reactions or my words. Yet now, River will look at a book or see something on the TV and stare at me expectantly, wanting me to tell him what the word is that matches what he's seeing.
- Sharing interests. A few months ago, my friends would come round with children the same age as River and the children would be constantly bringing me toys as if to say, "What's this?" or "Show me how to play with this toy" or "Look what I've got!" They had this inbuilt desire to learn, communicate & socialise. River never did this. It was one of the first signs of autism- he never brought me anything, never wanted to share his interests with me. Now, he'll bring me things. Not to show me yet, but because he wants to learn. He'll bring me a yellow ball then stare at me until I say, "Yellow." Then give me a different coloured ball & do the same. He brings me books and points things out, then looks at me until I tell him what it is. He has that desire to want to learn. That's massive.
- Kisses. Every bedtime River insists on Tim taking him to bed, which is very sweet. However, he always kisses me goodnight 3 or 4 times first. I say, "Mummy kiss?" And he looks at me then kisses me on the lips. This is the only time he ever kisses me, so it's very very special.
- Dragging me around the house. Now to most people, this would probably be quite irritating. A toddler constantly taking your hand and dragging you to whatever they want. All the time. Usually to the highchair or snacks cupboard. But for us, this is amazing. A few months ago, he would stand still and scream. There was no way of knowing what he wanted. We knew this had to change, so when I knew he wanted to go in the ball pit, I'd pick him up and touch it with his hand before putting him in. After a couple of weeks, I'd stand a foot away from it, take him by the hand, and make him walk a couple of steps to it before touching it with his hand and putting him in. Another couple of weeks, and he would stand next to it, grab my hand and put our hands on it. This progressed until eventually he would find me in the kitchen, take my hand and lead me to the ball pit/highchair/front door. Finally, a way of letting us know what he wants! Massive achievement.
- Pointing. This is the biggest one of all. I've been desperate for him to learn to point. So when looking at books, I used to point to a picture and say what it was. After some time, River would move my finger onto the picture he was interested in. I'd then wait until he made eye contact before telling him what it was. Eventually, I took my hand away and he learnt to use his whole hand to select a picture. Once he learnt that this got results, I started moulding his hand into a point each time. Then, he would grab my hand (think he needed it as a prop) and I would hold his wrist as he pointed. He'd often point with his middle finger, so I'd mould it into a proper point & continue. We also used lots of musical books with buttons to practice pointing. Eventually, he got it! And he can now point to things in books with no prompting from me! Such a massive milestone. Here he is in action, pointing at shapes & colours and then making eye contact for me to tell him what it is Xx
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