I have another son who is two years and nine months younger than Bubba. If you haven’t read Case One you should as it is a precursor to Bubby in many ways.
Bubby was also a normal baby, albeit small for his age, he had sweet calm that made him endearing. By the time he was fourteen months old he was walking, by eighteen months he was scaling slides. This was my first experience that allowed me to see this kid too was special. I remember very clearly walking upstairs to put laundry away. I set the basket in my room then made sure the baby and his brother were set up in their rooms to play. Bubby wanted to play in his Bubba’s room, and after watching him for a few minutes I figured this was alright.
Remember Bubba had received this lovely new bed not that long ago, one four feet tall with a ladder and a slide. My main concern with a toddling baby was whether he had any interest in the slide or the ladder. Not only was he a tiny kid, but these are hard metal and not worth watching him bust his mouth open on or falling down ending up with an injury.
I watched him carefully check out each item. He walked from the slide to the ladder and back again measuring his ability. I could nearly see the gears in his head turning, I knew then this kid is bright in a way a lot kids aren’t at this age. He’s actually scheming at this point. He wanted to the top, and after he quickly lost interest deciding this was too advanced for him he went to play trains. I went to put away clothes.
Less than two minutes later in comes Bubba, “He’s on my bed!” Of course I had to really think about what he said as he was hard to understand, but I remember eventually replying, “No he’s not.” Mommy brain said go look anyway. Sure enough, tall and proud on top of the slide is Bubby. He measured out his ability to do it, and he did just that. I grabbed him and set him on the ground carefully instructing him not to do it again, then I stepped out pretending to leave. Sure enough, I peek my head in to see him skim right back up the slick metal slide that even his brother still struggled with not slipping on. This should have been a very good warning.
Outside of being the smallest and generally the youngest kid climbing up walls, chains links, and other assorted climb equipment on the playground he too was not a communicator. Very early on we noticed instead of asking for his snack pack to be opened it was placed in our hands and after making sure we gripped the top edge pulled our hands apart to indicate opening. This was fairly clever, and while brilliant he wasn’t speaking.
At his year check up, I made note to the Dr.- no words yet. I made note again at his eighteen month appointment, at that point she wanted to wait until he was two to ensure it wasn’t him refusing to speak, but she also knew his older brother had issues with speech also.
Knowing what to look for really helped this time, we managed to avoid some of the same pitfalls we ran into with Bubba, but there were also whole new ones. By two he had said one thing that I could genuinely remember as words. He brought me a DVD case and said, “Here you go.” I thought okay maybe he is going to leap right into sentences. I know that some kids do this, but after Bubba we weren’t anticipating it.
After hearing tests came back clear we were instructed to start using sign language, and were given a referral to a local agency that does in-home speech therapy. So began his journey into words.
It was really interesting to watch him work with his therapist who eventually asked if we ever had his intelligence tested as he’s doing things that most kids don’t do until three or later such as categorizing. He would carry around little animals, if he had a whale he likely had sharks with it, if he had a giraffe he likely had a lion with it. He completely understood water animals, land animals, ironically even though it wasn’t intentionally geographical animals as well. He displayed amazing forethought and problem solving abilities generally unlearned until later in childhood. Remember he scaled a slide on his first try after planning it out at eighteen months. He would also scale onto the breakfast counter in the kitchen. Knowing he couldn’t get down on his own, he would sit quietly and wait for me or his father to retrieve him. Can’t tell you how many times I stepped into the kitchen and wondered just how long had he really been sitting there.
During sessions, his therapist would use the easily recognized toy that has four or more characters each one is inside until you flip the switch, push a button, or slide the dial. Using it she’d teach him up, down, and other easily associated words, also learning sign alongside it. He would watch her flip the switch, click the lever, and each character would pop up. On his turn he’d look at her almost bored and just flip the guys up, as in this is easier and it’s what you want. He always found shortcuts, mostly because he never wanted to play outside his own concepts of play.
As a toddler he was PERFECT! I swear, he went to his room to play quietly for hours if we let him. He was so involved with what he did he never needed a friend to play with him… hmm another sign here??
After his year at home in speech, he was old enough to be evaluated by the school district, and just like his brother we went back to the same early educator, speech pathologist, and psychologist. This time was a little more intriguing. He could clearly communicate without words or much question to what he wanted. He was very stubborn. In the psychologists office he refused most of her tests as they were not in his interest. A two piece puzzle garnered the are you kidding me look his speech teacher at home received on occasion. After her evaluation she admitted she could tell he knew how to perform most of the tasks, but he was simply not going to budge. He wanted HIS wants met, no compromising, and that came in the form of a ball popper on top of her filing cabinet.
He ended up in the early education center this all took place in on a half day, four days a week schedule. Bubba had only received therapy twice a week, and we drove him for an hour each time. Bubby was going to preschool. He turned three on a Saturday, and two days later he was boarding a bus for his first day of school.
In this school we lessened our sign language and began using PECS. At three he was at an eighteen month old speech level. A year later he hadn’t made real friends and was only using simple phrases consistently. Remember that sentence he used as a baby? We learned that in his mind that was a word, not a sentence and he never used it again. We noticed that a lot with his words one day there, next day gone. But by four he was really starting to not need PECS or consistent sign language with every day tasks. He could communicate even if the rest of the world didn’t understand him.
He spent two years in that first school until he graduated up a level to all verbal and mobile kids being placed in a new school. Over the years we’ve seen him make leaps and bounds over small steps verbally, today going on six soon and going into a real school for kindergarten, I still doubt his ability to perform many of the tasks he’ll be expected to. When he’s called on I’m not sure most would understand him. He does not know the entire alphabet, he hasn’t been able to retain it. He can count to four not to ten without help. Colors are finally becoming common, shapes not far behind. He can barely write his name, and while in many ways he does come across like a kindergartner, wait until he opens his mouth, or you try to play with him.
When he speaks now I hear something that resembles a three to four year old. He uses typical phrases now- “Brother pushed me.”, “Bad for ******.”, “****** not eat that.” (He refers to himself in third person.) It’s still broken language over all but it’s getting there. Most of our family members have recently decided he ‘can’ talk. It’s been a long road and the speech was only the largest bump.
After having two kids with speech and language problems I know there has to be an explanation. I realize it could be genetic, but I think it’s more than speech. Bubby has always played better alone, he’s very quiet aside from speech until you interrupt his play, then he screams so loud you’d think he was being slaughtered. Sharing never came easy, obviously, but he also never opts to join into group play. He’s just now even bothered to care about other kids and play opting for his fave teacher over kids his age. On top of all of that, there’s the special preferences with toys, food, and clothing. His brother has a touch of that himself.
There’s also the intelligence. Since he was a baby, he has always felt like an old soul, and you can feel there’s wisdom waiting to sneak out. He’s mostly engineer/technical minded. He builds all the time. His favorite toys are Legos, magnetic building pieces, and Tinker Toys. He will build a structure, and then rebuild the same structure, and then yes, rebuild it again. Some of them seem too complicated for his age, but then again that’s just him.
Our last Dr. appointment we were finally told possible Asperger’s. Part of the problem at this age and with him personally as far as obtaining a diagnosis comes from he’s already received so much early intervention he’s now starting to behave in a more common manner. Aside from speech and his impeccable building skills, it’s hard to tell there’s much else going on from the outside. However, I do think Kindergarten will be very telling, and he is already set up with his IEP. We’ll be paying close attention.
That aside, it would give him a shot at not having to have a diagnosis follow him through life if he finds a way to fit in with his current and continuing interventions without it. I’m still a little torn on this, I agree I want him to have a fair shot at school and life, but at the same time after having two kids, both uniquely special in some way, you sort of hope for the answer to why they are the way they are. You want that answer, but really even with a diagnosis he would end up exactly where he is at and where he has been. In the least, I am thankful for knowing that, and knowing either way he’s being bettered and learning from the right type of therapists and teachers.
Edited to add a gallery of some of Bubby’s Lego and Magneato buildings. Generally, I attempt to capture the ones that impress me, but I have missed some along the way. These impressive structures started much younger. Around the ages of three to four he began building mostly tombs. He’d make square structures with a closeable doorway to hide what we always referred to as his ‘guys’ in. Guys were anything from little animals to stretchy skeletons found on Halloween. He obsesses with collecting similar ‘guys.’
UPDATE 7/28/13: Bubby has come a very long way, and is now getting ready to enter the 1st grade. While his speech is still a little off he is doing well in school. He hasn’t made ‘close’ friends, but at least he is communicating with people the best he can. He’s even been to a few birthday parties, and is playing with all the neighbor kids. He is still the best kid at keeping himself busy most of the time, investing most of that time in buildings bigger than him in the form of Legos. He is definitely on the spectrum, we do not have a formal diagnosis, but have been told that is the case by professionals. If we want to know technically where on the spectrum we would have to visit a behavioral center for him as well. I have no desire to do so, as I have really known all along this was likely the case, and since we were capable to get early intervention with speech and other early instruction we have already made wonderful progress. Early intervention is the best solution, and engaging them in whatever they love to do than expanding that into the world around them. Some kids may never make leaps and bounds, some may seem to overcome most of their issues, but they all need someone to guide them. Be strong.