Monthly Archives: May 2008

A definite plus

Jamie recently discovered the joys of addition sums.  Take two numbers and, purely by interposing the word 'plus', you can find yourself with a whole extra number, like some sort of wonderful three-for-two offer at the local shop.  You can imagine how much fun he found this.  For a while, it became yet another of his hobbies.

"What's one plus one?" he would demand.

"Two."

"What's two plus two?"

"Four."

"What's three plus three?"

And so on.  And on.  And on.  On one occasion, interspersing a regular stream of sequential addition requests into his bath-and-bed routine, he got all the way up to "What's eighty plus eighty?" before Barry told him goodnight and switched off the lights. The next morning, Barry went in to get him up as usual and was greeted with "What's eighty-one plus eighty-one?" as soon as Jamie opened his eyes.

This could, of course, be just a mite less fascinating for Jamie's parents than it was for Jamie, and Barry – who took the brunt of it – did understandably like to place some limitations on the number of addition sums he had to answer at any one session.  "Okay, Jamie," he told him on one occasion when Jamie started this, "we'll go as far as forty plus forty and then we'll stop."  Jamie, accordingly, having worked his way up to forty plus forty and been given the answer, declared "And that is the end of the numbers.  And now," he continued, "we will start again with some new numbers.  What's forty-one plus forty-one?"

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How nursery’s going these days

This post is in reply to Sidheag's query, which I was pleased to get as it gives me a handy excuse to blog about a couple of things that are not the stuff of which nail-bitingly thrilling blog posts are made but that I like recording for myself. (I haven't forgotten that I also promised to write another post on autism, by the way – but that's a little way down my list of planned blog posts, and a long way down my depressingly long to-do list in general.)

Jamie's hours at nursery have increased – as of a few weeks before the recent Easter holiday, he's now there for a day and a half each week instead of just a half day.  I'm delighted about this; I've thought for a long time that he was ready for more time there and would benefit from it, but, unfortunately, the only free sessions clashed with Tumbletots, which I didn't want him to have to give up.  I'd resigned myself to having to wait until September before he could extend his hours, but then another child left and Manda, the supervisor, had already arranged for Jamie to be at the top of the list for any free places that came up.  So now, once a week, he heads in with packed lunch in his backpack to spend a stretch of almost six hours engaged in exciting pursuits such as planting a mini-garden, cooking gooseberry crumble, or making a sandwich.  Then he goes back the next morning for more.

The other thing worthy of passing mention is that Jamie had his IEP (a sort of action plan thingy that children with special needs get – I think it stands for Individualised Educational Plan) last Easter.  I'd anticipated that this would be worth a post, but in fact it was a bit of a non-event, as it happened.  It just means that the stuff Manda – the nursery supervisor – had already been talking about trying with him is now written down on a complicated-looking official form.  Manda stayed behind after the nursery session just before the Easter weekend to discuss it with me and we chatted about it while I changed and fed Katie and Jamie played with some of the toys.  She'd picked two goals – I think the first was building up more of a relationship with Jamie herself by doing things like chasing games and the like, which he enjoys.  The second was encouraging him to get to build up a bit more of a relationship with other children there, and she was going to start this by getting him to hold hands with the other children during activities like singing or going for walks.  She'd left the space for the third goal blank so that I could put one in, but I couldn't think of any current short-term goals I have (my long-term goal, of course, is the ongoing and constant one of getting him to turn out as a decent, moral, productive, happy person, but that seemed a bit complex to put on an IEP) so we just left that one blank.  We spent a bit of time discussing all this in between dealing with nappies and finding Jamie stuff to play with, and then I signed the form and took Jamie home.  That's about it.  I haven't actually seen her since as I'm now back at work (I had the day off on that day), but they've been great about letting us know when there's anything they want to discuss, so I'm sure they'll alert Barry at drop-off or pick-up if they feel there's anything else we need to know.

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Braggin’ on my kid

We got our copy of the speech therapist’s report.  As measured by the test she did on his understanding of language (presumably the third of the three tests she did; for those who are interested, it’s apparently called the Reynell Developmental Language Skills 3), he understood language structures at the level of an average four and a half year old.  This puts him just over a year ahead of his chronological age in language comprehension.

<pause for smug smile>

Since Sidheag asked: it seems that the signs of autism she thought he was showing during the assessment were problems with his social interaction – reduced eye contact and ‘tendencies not to initiate social interaction or shared play’.  She also wrote, however, that his intellect will enable him to learn appropriate social behaviours and conversation over time.  Which is pretty much what I think, as well (hey, it worked for me…)  She’s going to liaise with the nursery about using something called the Early Years Toolkit for social and communication difficulties, and get a colleague of hers who visits children at nurseries to do a repeat assessment in the autumn term.  I shall look forward to seeing what further complimentary things are said at that point about my brilliant son.

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And the little one said…

Katie rolled from her back to her stomach twice this weekend (stomach to back is, of course, old hat by now).  The first time she got her arm stuck under her, and the second she ended up with both arms down by her sides and didn’t seem quite clear on how to bring them back round in front of her, so I would not go so far as to say she’s mastered the skill yet.  However, it’s good to know that she can now, theoretically at least, rotate a full 360 degrees round her long axis.

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Speech therapist

Jamie had his appointment with the speech therapist last Tuesday.  To clarify the momentousness of this, I will explain that we were put on the speech therapy waiting list over fourteen months ago, after having made our first initial inquiries about Jamie’s (at the time) near-nonexistent speech development a couple of months before that.  Of course, soon after the referral was made it became a moot point due to Jamie’s sudden decision to condense over a year’s worth of speech development into a few weeks, and I am assured by our health visitor that if that hadn’t been the case then she would have been liaising with the speech therapist for advice on what we could do to help him while he was waiting to be seen.  Which is, um… slightly reassuring.  Anyway, Tuesday’s appointment was not in fact due to him finally reaching the top of the list (last February’s referral will presumably just be discarded now, so we will never know how long we would have waited) but to the second referral, the one made by Dr M. after we saw him.  Presumably this got Jamie onto some kind of special super-duper list that leads to people actually being seen, as opposed to just ignored in hopes that they’ll go away.

So, from one who has actually made it through the hallowed portals to a speech therapy appointment, here is what happened: First of all, the speech therapist explained that this initial appointment was for her to assess him and work out a treatment plan.  She asked us several questions about his interactions with other children and his speech, while Jamie entertained himself playing with her toy train and then moving on to reduce to chaos explore her other toys, her speech therapy materials, and anything else he could get his hands on. Then, she started on the actual testing, for which she sat the two of them down facing each other across a little table, with a cardboard posting box to hand.

She started with a box of cards with small pictures of ordinary everyday objects, asking him to pick out the items she named from the cards she held up and post the cards he picked into the post box.  The test moved on rapidly through more difficult questions, holding up three or four cards instead of two, asking him for several items instead of one, and sometimes describing them rather than naming them ("Can you find me the one we eat and the one we wear?"). The next test consisted of a set of pictures of people doing things, which she handed to Jamie one by one, asking him to tell her what each picture was of.  Finally, she got a book with flip-over pages, each one showing four pictures, and asked him to choose one picture each time.  This one, again, started off simply – she asked for things like the red car, or the little clown – and moved on through more complex vocabulary and eventually to some very complicated concepts ("All the girls, except one, were eating dinner."  "Which horse is not inside the field?")

Jamie did fine, managing to do nearly all of the assessment apart from the request for a list of four items in the first test and some of the most difficult questions in the third test.  I think he enjoyed it – at any rate, when she’d finished and left him to play for a bit while
she talked to us, he brought one of her sets of pictures back to the
table saying "Which one should you point at now?", which is his way of
saying he wanted the game to continue.  In the second test, when he described the first picture as "Someone building a tower" and she asked him whether it was a boy or a girl, he not only told her but went on to include that information in his description of each of the other pictures she gave him.  In the third test, one of the questions involved picking out the girl who was splashing.  "She’s splashing water on the ‘b’," Jamie said.  He’d noticed the tiny identifying letters at the bottom of each of the four pictures – the picture in question did indeed have a ‘b’ appended to it.

The speech therapist’s verdict is that he does indeed have features of autism.  She thinks his history of late talking would fit the profile of ‘high-functioning autism’ better than that of Asperger’s.  Overall, his current language skills are very good – although she didn’t have time to work out the formal score within the assessment, she says he was going well past normal three-year-old standards – and currently she doesn’t feel he needs any treatment from her.  Her plan is to assess him again at intervals and see how things are going, particularly once he starts school.

So, now we’re waiting on the Interview Of The Three Hundred Questions, for which we do not yet have a date.  I’m still boggled by trying to work out how on earth it’s possible to think of three hundred different questions to ask someone on the subject of their child, but I suppose I’ll find out.

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