Development sometimes seems so elusive and immeasurable. When you’re with your child every day, it is often difficult to see any development. For me, it becomes more apparent when Nigel returns after visiting his father for seven weeks every summer. It is then that I notice changes in development. Some are subtle, such as a slight increase in speech, and some are more obvious, such as being two inches taller. Every year Nigel progresses, whether it is obvious or not.
I keep a file (several, actually) of his school records, IEP reports, and my own writing describing his development over the years. I have been looking through the files this week and am enjoying reading about his development, marveling at how far he has come. This is an excerpt from ‘Nigel at Six:’
I had intended to start writing this sooner. Pictures are not enough to remember these early years. Videos help immensely, but they do not capture thoughts and dreams, concerns and hopes.
All people change and grow, but I think I will spend my entire life learning about Nigel. Who is this little boy? Part genius, part tough, all loving. He has been with Child Development Center for two years now, and I can communicate with him levels above how I did when he started. He is a wondrous person, a gentle soul. Trusting, yet fearful of new situations. I can’t explain to him why he needs to sit at the table in restaurants and stay near me in the grocery store. Of course, I must remind myself that it has gotten better. He understands more of what I tell him, but too often I don’t think of what to tell him until it is too late. Last time we tried to eat in a restaurant, he went up to some other patrons at their table, got right in their faces and proclaimed, “Balto!” because he had watched that video earlier in the day.
He is starting to use pronouns now, usually at home where he is comfortable, although he confuses which one to use when, “I” for “you” and vice versa. We are still hearing nonsensical words, words he uses when he’s trying to imitate a line from a video and he doesn’t know what was actually said. For example, in The Lion King when Simba tells Zazu “Hurry!” in an urgent voice, because he needed help. Nigel thought it was said in an angry voice, so whenever he’s angry, he yells, “Urr-reee!” and has for about two years now. Or he would say, also in anger, “It’s my gun, you’ve got no right to take it!” from the Swiss Family Robinson. Fortunately that was short-lived. Another good one was from the Scooby-Doo video. When Aidan split his chin open, we had to go to the doctor for stitches, and the regular doctor had just moved to a new location. So we got to the new office and were just about to walk in the front door when Nigel stopped and said, “I don’t like it,” as Shaggy had said when they were about to go into a haunted house. Nigel had used the phrase in perfect context as a way to indicate his fear about a new situation.
He’s even come up with some phrases on his own, emerging spontaneous, non-echolalic speech, which is wonderful. When I got back from a three-day trip to Paris, he emptied my backpack and filled it with his own shoes and clothes, put it on and walked around the room saying, “Nigel go to Paris. Nigel is tripping [meaning, going on a trip].” He has learned in school to comment whenever someone participates by saying, “Good catching,” “Good throwing,” “Good drawing,” “Good sitting down,” and when he can’t describe something specifically, he says, “Good job in doing,” which I love.
And the boy who taught himself to read at three and a half is sounding out words he doesn’t even know. Yes, it’s hyperlexia, but at least he shows cognitive strength in that. Unfortunately, he seems to have difficulty with holding pens – even fat ones – and trying to write. He is very resistant. He loves to watch other people write, but he freaks out if I try to put my hand over his to get him to do it. It’s a shame, because I think that once he learns to write, that will liberate him to no end.