Monday, September 19, 2011

don't sing please

Eric and I are both very sing song-y people. We'll sing in the house and we sing in the car. We will even answer each other in song. We beat box rhythms together (he being a drummer is naturally gifted with beat box). It's kind of discusting...we can't help it.

As speech comes in, first a child will name things. Nouns. Ball, swing, toy, car, etc. For us, the next step was to teach Calder how to ask for what he needed. Usually you begin to pair two words together: Want food, more milk, juice please, Mama help, then onto three word sentances etc... We decided it was important to give Calder words that he could use instead of just freaking out. Freaking out was one way to communicate, but a way no one really likes. Calder didn't begin to speak until around 3 years old. As an "older" kid learning to speak, he had already had quite a lot of anxieties and fears that would manifest through freaking out. He needed some words.

One phrase we decided to teach him was "don't talk please". "Don't talk" being the language we chose to help him, and "please" so that maybe it would sound nice....He learned this very fast and soon was using it for everything: He used it to mean "don't talk", but also to mean, "I don't like that ", "stop", "I don't like your answer", "I do it", "go away", "no".... He was basically using "don't talk" for any high stress situation. Sometimes when he said "don't talk" it was awkward and made no sense.

"Calder, do you want milk or juice?"..........."dont talk"
"lets go to the store with Mama"................."don't talk"
"Calder, where's my eyes?"........................"don't talk"

Then "don't talk", expanded to "don't sing". He would say "don't sing" for everything he did'nt want us to do. We spent a long time getting him to use "don't sing" appropriately. Now at 5 years old, he's got it down and says "don't sing" whenever Eric or I hum a tune or sing along with a song. You would think we'de know by now. We always forget and he always reminds us. "Don't sing". "Don't hum, Dada". Its a funny thing to teach your kid to differentiate "hum" from "sing", just so that he can tell you not to "hum" when you're humming. Well, at least he is not freaking out.

Our therapist thinks he's got perfect pitch and it is pitch he is sensitive in "Mom and Dad suck at singing". But really, we're not that bad. We can sing in tune. I look forward to the day when he can tell us why he does not like us singing. I have my theories. Don't get me wrong, HE likes to sing....sings all the time. I can sing directions to him or sing questions, just not songs...unless it's snuggle time in bed at night. That is the one SURE time of day I get to sing with him.

Friday, September 9, 2011


It was when C. was 2 years, 10 months old that I finally called New Vistas, an early intervention service here in Santa Fe. He had been hitting all his milestones pretty late, and some not at all since he was younger but it wasn't until I noticed the way he played that I had to be more proactive in getting him evaluated.

Among other delays, he crawled late and I said that he just wasn't motivated to move. He would sit in one place, where I would place him on his quilt on the floor. He would not move out of curiosity or motivation to another part of the room, or even to a different toy.

By around the age of two I noticed that he would play for an unusually long time by himself and be perfectly content....for hours. At first I would say "woo hoo, I can get so much done...he is so independant!"

But as he neared his third birthday, something in me changed. I watched him play with a bit of unease. Sure it was great he played so long by himself.....but really, is that alright? I noticed that he had rigid ways of playing with his toys. But the real clincher....he was lacking the joy that most other kids would find in their toys. His play was more strategic and I wondered " is he even having fun?" He would not smile or laugh. When he played by himself it seemed more "necessary" than joyful.

That's when I called. That's when I knew in my heart that something was off.

I am a huge believer in early intervention. If you could see C. now, you would never know what I have just described. He always wants us to join him in play and seldom sits and plays alone. He wants us to be involved. Our therapist once told us when we just started with New Vistas, "It's not that he doesn't want to play with's that he doesn't know how."

It's ok if he is introverted, shy or not very social....that's ok by me. But if a door in his mind is sealed shut because of some off wiring in his young brain, I certainly want to be the first person to hand him the key....just in case he needs it to open his door.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

our Giants

I stumbled upon this photo this morning and for some reason it really moved me.

I've always loved the saying "standing on the shoulders of giants". You can't see it very well but in this photo, C. is standing on all the names he has written. Everyone in our family. No one is perfect...but to a little kid, everyone is a giant. This is a very magic time in our little boy's life. There will come a day; a moment when the little boy will be gone and in his shoes stands a man. Childhood should be magical for every kid. Mine was. I was pretty lucky, magic lingered with me for quite a long time and I was mystified by the simplist of things.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

baby wipes

This post has nothing to do with kids....well, not really....

You know Borders is going out of business. Since there are less than 10 days left to shop deep discounts, I went by to see what was left. Now, how do I say this next part? Sometimes when the shopping is particularly exciting....well, I need to visit the ladies room. That being said as discreetly as I can, I was in such a rush I didn't check to see if there was toilet paper....

Of course they're not stocking the bathrooms. They are selling their shelving, cases, racks and ladders; everything. Not even a computer to look up who wrote Lonesome Dove. Now what was I to do stranded there with the baby's diaper bag. C'mon Melissa, get creative..what do I have? BABY WIPES! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. I looked over to my right and even the tampon recepticle had a sticky note on it, SOLD. Really? I wonder who felt like they needed a used tampon bin?

Regardless, I washed my hands (yes they still had soap)and got outta there to do my exciting shopping.

Goodbye corporate Borders. I think I may miss you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

tuning in....

Have you ever been waiting for that big game (insert favorite team here), or needed to see that sitcom. Or maybe you needed to know who won American Idol or Survivor? OK, so you turn on your TV, get it to your station....its the right time, and damn! the reception is bad. Really, bad reception? Isn't this the digital age? Things should work. You catch glimpses of your teams offensive plays, then the screen freezes in digital cubes, raining on the image distorting the play. Did they make the touchdown? I could go on and on here, but you get the picture....right? (no pun intended)

This is what it is like somedays trying to get my sons attention. I'll find myself asking him over and over"do you want to eat beans or quiche?"
When he was younger my Mom would say "don't repeat yourself. People always say things twice when they speak to kids. Just say it once". I understand this approach. It is to teach kids to listen.

Auditory processing malfunctions in some kids. The words get jumbled up in their head...words coming in, and words intended on coming out. Some kids with autism never speak, but actually have a lot to say. Many non-speaking kids are using Ipads to communicate and are able to go to school. Were lucky, our kid speaks.....a lot. But listening is a real challenge.

In Animals in Translation, author Temple Grandin (an amazing woman living with autism) describes it beautifully for us. Since our brain; our species is capable of higher functioning such as reasoning that we have to sacrifice ancient survivor skills that we don't need since we have evolved from caveman. For example, any given time during our day we are not paying attention to the changes in lighting, or the drone of traffic, or hearing all the appliances humming.

Sit there if you will and listen to all that ambient noise. Now feel the clothes on your body and the breeze on your skin. What about that cookie you just tasted or the headache you're having. Imagine the lady next to you having on too much perfume.
If you were inundated with all this stimulus and could never turn it off you would go mad. Our brains have to filter this stuff out so that we can focus on higher levels of thought.

So I try to go easy on my kid, knowing all this. Still in order to function in this society, or to simply be able to listen in school, I have to teach him listening skills. It's hard. I'm ignored a lot. It's frustrating. For years he didn't respond to his name very well and he didn't speak until 3. It's all about tuning in. One day I bursted out crying when I was able to play with a child and he was tuned into me. Conversing had a real flow to it. It wasn't strained. It was so easy! We'll get there one day. It'll just take a bit more work.