Language - When JD was diagnosed at 2, he had five words - chugga, choo choo, go, five and whee!! When we started speech therapy I could not even imagine a day when he would make a "request" - like saying the word cup when he was thirsty, or down when he wanted out of his high chair. At that point in time it seemed like no matter what we did, he would not use his words. I'm SO happy to say that he has a huge vocabulary now (so many that I no longer count!) and that he's stringing short sentences together! Now most of them have to be prompted (we have to say, "JD say I want down please) - but there are a lot of times that he's saying things without being prompted! We're working on pronouns now and verbs with -ing endings! HUGE PROGRESS!!!!
Behavior - This is a tricky one because I think it directly correlates to language. The better he can communicate the less tantrums he has. However, we do have many moments when he goes berserk, but he's still a toddler! What I'm happy about is the length of time he's patient BEFORE throwing a tantrum. For instance, when JD was first diagnosed he would throw a fit on the drop of a dime if he wanted something. He didn't understand "hold on" or "just a minute" - everything was URGENT. Now if he asks for something he'll wait patiently, or at least a few minutes, before getting frustrated. This gives me time to diffuse a situation before a screaming fit occurs!
Attention - WOW have we made progress here! When we started therapy a year ago JD couldn't focus on doing a task for more than a minute, and that's if we were lucky. Now he can sit at a table and work on a project for up to 30 minutes!!!!!!!!! He loves puzzles and books and crafts. I think his table time actually keeps him calm - it's very structured time for him.
Motor skills - Here's one area that JD was not too far behind, his gross motor skills were pretty good, but he's been working so hard at the fine motor skills. Holding a crayon, using a fork and spoon, counting his fingers, pointing to objects with the correct finger - they're all things that he's really had to work on over the past year. He's also learned how to jump with two feet off the ground and go up and down stairs with little assistance!
Listening - Another big area of progress! A year ago JD hardly moved if you called his name, it was like he didn't hear you. And if you did get his attention and asked him to do a simple request he had no clue what you were talking about. He's come a long way since then! If you ask him to bring you something he'll do it, at least most of the time! He's following directions better at school and I'm always happy when he comes home with a smiley face on his report!
Playing - Ahhh - probably our hardest area. JD's favorite place to play is at his little coffee table in our family room. It's like his little world. We've spent a lot of time trying to move him away from the table, to play "appropriately" as they call it, and just recently he started doing that. I'm so happy to watch him play with his trains on the floor now! That was a big step for him. We're also working on helping him in social situations. It's not easy for him to play with other kids his age, or younger. He's usually too rough or he doesn't understand normal social "cues" for instance - when he gets in someone's face or they want to stop playing - these are all things that he doesn't pick up on. But he's making progress but I can see that this will be a lifelong struggle for him. It just means that the friends he plays with are just that special, because they understand that he needs a little extra help in that department!
There's so much more that I could go on and on, but these are just the top areas. I'm SO excited to see what he accomplishes in the year ahead of him! We're looking forward to potty training, transitioning him into a "big boy's bed" and spending time on more social activities. For his third birthday Jason and I are taking him to Disney World for the first time - something we would have never tried in the past because of all the potential meltdowns!
My heart goes out to all the people that have helped us get where we are today. His pediatrician who saw the early signs, his specialist who was there when we cried at the diagnosis. All Therapy Connection - our home away from home - and everyone there. His prek teacher, April, his Occupational therapist, Tonina, his Speech therapists, Holly and Yvonne... What an amazing group of people they have there. Not to mention the other therapists and assistants that work with him there each week in group activities. His behavior therapist, Rachel, and her little boy who help him learn to play, our family who has helped us financially and emotionally, our friends who have stood by us and helped us when we were down, our neighbors that go out of their way to interact with JD and involve him in the little things, our facebook friends that read our posts and give us supportive words - all of you have made this journey a little easier! But there are two more people who have made a HUGE contribution and mean so much to us - these two people spend almost everyday with our children and go above and beyond to provide them with the love and support they need while Jason and I are at work - Katie Voss and Kati Hanes - by far the two most wonderful people I've encountered in my life. They have stepped into our lives and taken on the responsibility of helping to raise a little boy with very special needs. I can't begin to express how much I love them, respect them and admire them because they are like family to us!