Friday, December 18, 2009

Little Breakthroughs

There was a study out just recently about people's happiness and the gist of it was, "If you think you're happy, you are." That's so simple, yet so profound. I understand the benefits of positive thinking now better than ever.

I could choose right now to think about how other kids Ethan's age are speaking in sentences. Or I could look at the strides he's making and feel the joy bubble over. These are some little things for which I am profoundly grateful:

- Improved joint attention, just in this past month. Joint attention means, when I point at something and tell him to look, does he look or just keep on staring at whatever he wants to stare at? This has really improved in particular in the last week. Joint attention means he cares enough to leave his own little world and check out what someone else is suggesting.

- New words and a return to words he was saying but had stopped saying (like kitty). Waving and saying bye-bye. Today I got a "hi" for the first time in a loooooong time. Lately I've been hearing lots of animal and food words. And my favorite - CD - is clear as day.

- His newfound love of hide and seek, complete with him saying the word hide or seek, and looking for me with pure joy on his face. He'll play this game with anyone at any time.

- This one was so cool. In occupational therapy today she was going through some of the usual things that are part of this assessment form called the Peabody that she's using to track his skills. At our outpatient appointment she really works on the skills rather than social stuff. His gross and fine motor skills are for the most part either on target or not that far behind. Well, as part of the assessment, she had him play with blocks, and the first step is to get him to stack 6, which he can do. The next level they check for right at 24 months is if they can imitate the person making the blocks into a train shape, complete with a block whistle, and then begin to move it and pretend it's a train. The first few times Diane did this (she tries it about one a month) he didn't even pay attention and didn't get that part at all. Today I could sense that he was watching more closely. Then, when Diane was done, he began to put the blocks in a row, attempted to create a whistle, and even said his own version of "Choo! Choo!" Both of us had our eyes bugging out of our heads, and I almost had tears in my eyes, I was so proud. That, right there, is the birth of pretend play. I can't tell you how proud I was of him.

I am amazed how play, or thinking about play, is dominating my life now, so much more than when Anna was Ethan's age. I'll give an example of how play with Ethan is fun and work at the same time. Today he wanted to play in the giant cardboard box again (from a printer we just bought; both he and Anna love it). So I thought about what we could do with the box that we hadn't done before. Balls came to mind. I found every ball of every shape I could and began putting them in with Ethan already in there. First I worked on the concept of "in" and "out," saying the word each time I put them in and he put them out. Then I worked on labeling the balls by color, size, etc. Then I switched it to counting the balls. Last I worked on having Ethan "call" the balls back to the box, to compliment the other work I've been doing to help him learn how to call people to him.

You have to switch up games with Ethan or he takes the game very literally and thinks you only play it that one single way. This teaches him to "think outside the box" (pun very much intended!) and also flexibility. We played these varying versions of the ball game for a half an hour, and he could've done it longer. For that, I am also grateful. Thirty full minutes of play with my little guy. Thirty minutes of him engaged with me, wanting to be with me. When Anna was little I hate to say I'd have been wanting to get away and check the internet or something. But Ethan is reminding me of the simple, refreshing joy of losing oneself completely in play and being complely immersed in any given moment.


SuzGriffin said...

Wow Deb, so awesome! Sounds like he's doing some great things!!!! I'm so proud of him, and YOU. You are doing so great Deb, and so is Ethan. You're a lucky mommy to have such great little kiddos! :)

Deb said...

Thanks for the feedback and encouragement. I appreciate it more than you may know! :)