In preparing for the meeting, his Teacher prepared a draft report for me to review before the meeting. All in all, I'm thrilled at how well he's doing and all the things he's learning right now. He seems to be having a major language growth spurt, in addition to his cognitive and motor skills. Language is especially an area where he is clearly trying to communicate more by pointing, signing, making sounds, sometimes using word approximations, or just going to the object he wants and getting it. Sometimes, we can't figure out what he wants or what he's pointing to, which makes us both a little frustrated. Which is why we are increasing our Speech Therapy from 2x/month to 3x/month. It has been recommended by a speech therapy evaluation last month that John Michael receive ST weekly now. I'm still wrestling with the idea of adding more therapy to our schedule, but I think this is where his biggest learning is happening right now. And it's important to meet him where his interest lies. If the ST's schedule opens up more, we can go to 1x/week.
Reading the report, my heart always sinks when I read the relative age of where he is right now. For instance, his fine and gross motor skills fall in the 14 to 18 month range. I think he's doing amazingly well, especially considering his first year was spent on the floor or sitting on his bottom. He didn't start crawling until the week after he turned 1 and it took most of his 2nd year to learn to walk. When you compare him to a typical child, yes, he's just starting to catch up to the 18 month olds, but that doesn't bother me. I think the numbers are annoying for comparison because our children will always "seem" behind when compared to the typical chart, and since he does have Down syndrome, I often wonder how he's doing compared with other kids who have Ds. That would be a better indicator to me.
Last month at the Down syndrome clinic, the doctor there told me that it's important for John Michael's height, weight, and head circumference to be marked on the Down syndrome growth chart. I always was thrilled that he was on the typical chart for height and weight, but Dr. W. told me that kids with Ds follow a different growth curve and that it's important to note that John Michael is following the Ds curve rather than "falling off" the typical growth curves.
Cognitive: "According to the IDA, HAWAII (developmental indicator), parent report and teacher observation, John Michael is demonstrating skills in the 18-24 month age range." To me, this is awesome! He's 26 months old physically, and cognitively is just behind where other kids might be. He understands so much and follows through with simple commands. He rights books and pictures and usually figures out how something works without having to be shown. I love that his attention span is growing and he can do complicated learning toys for a good length of time without frustration.
Gross Motor: You should see this kid walk FAST, almost jogging, climbing ladders (not that we let him...), spin in circles because his older brother showed him how and it makes him giggle, ballroom dance with Greta, rock out at the first sound of music or pretend he's singing into a microphone. Climb into and out of chairs, climb up steps and go belly down backwards. He's throwing, bouncing or rolling a ball in the direction of the person catching most of the time.
Fine Motor: I started giving John Michael a fork or spoon at every meal since he no longer flings his bowl or plate off the high chair. That was a pain! He seems genuinely interested in self-feeding with utensils. We still feed him breakfast cereal, his fave is Raisin Bran right now, so he doesn't spill the milk, but he can spoon thick soup, pudding, yogurt, thicker oatmeal, applesauce and softer ice cream. With a fork, he doesn't scoop his food yet, but as long as it can be poked, like scrambled eggs or cut-up hotdogs, etc, he can do it. He was on a breakfast eating strike for a while there. Nothing appealed to him, so I gave him a spoon for his oatmeal and he started eating. Whatever works...
Like I said, all in all, everything is going very well here. We are so fortunate with his health as some of his buddies have had open heart surgery and one has had Leukemia when he was younger. I am enjoying life with this little guy and am convinced that he has taught me more about life, love, and compassion in his short 2 years than any other person in my life at any time. It's an amazing journey, really. I'm enjoying being a peer counselor to other moms who are just learning of their prenatal diagnosis of Ds for their baby as well as meeting new moms to babies with Ds. I think this is the direction I'm headed for the future. I can't say for sure how it will all pan out with another baby on the way, but my life's vocation becomes clearer each day.
Stay tuned to find out if John Michael will be a big brother to a baby sister or brother. We find out on the 25th. Happy New Year!
I've been married for 20 years to my wonderful husband, Doug. I'm a Catholic SAHM to 5 children. Our 4th child, John Michael, was born in November 2007, and has opened us up to the amazing world of Down syndrome. We are grateful to God for the blessings He's given us and the journey He's put us on. When I'm not spending time with my family, I sing with RSVP, an amazing vocal group, educate on Down syndrome, have my own health and wellness business, and blog about our life.