Archive for the ‘Sibling’ Category
If I was a graphics queen, there’d be an image of a Phineas and Ferb germinator right here. Sorry, all I’ve got is bad puns.
I haven’t done a Cubby is Funny post in a while. Not because he is any less funny, but because there is a whole lot of other stuff going on that pushes it to the back of my mind. And really, we all need the funny. It needs to be right at the very front. Life is just easier with a smile on your face.
Poor Cubby is ill right now. He has a cough, runny nose, fever and tummy ache. We’re waiting to go to the doctor in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, he and I have taken the opportunity to just relax together. Okay, I’ve taken the opportunity to relax. He has bursts of hyperactivity, then gets foetal on the floor. He is only one for cuddling on his terms (he gets that from me!) so I’m begging him to come to me like a needy girl does her bad boyfriend. This doesn’t appeal to him at all.
What he will do is sit on the sofa with me to watch Phineas and Ferb. As we watched Dr. Doofenshmirtz makes his latest evil -inator, I asked Cubby what kind of -inator he would make.
I had to laugh. Then I wondered, so…is this to take away all the germs that are making him sick?
“Yes…and then SHOOT them at people!”
He really is my boy, what with that sick sense of humour. Watch out, Heinz Doofenshmirtz, you’ve got competition.
Cubby, my two and a half bundle of energy is in what I call the puppy stage. I know this because he just bit me, and the last thing to bite me was a puppy. The time before that, it was Pudding, when she was going through her puppy phase. If you picture a puppy, wagging its tail in the air and nipping at your toes, you have my boy right now. He is testing the boundaries, and looking for a reaction. When he gets one, he finds it funny….at least until he goes on time out.
Last week his teacher talked to me about this behaviour at school. He has been hitting and crashing his bike into other children, and then laughing at their reactions. Oh dear. As a spectrummy mummy, I hear hitting and crashing, and I think sensory. He is looking for additional proprioceptive input, albeit in a very inappropriate way. But when I think of him laughing at other children in tears as a result of his actions, I worry.
Cubby is my verbose child. He understands emotions, and has demonstrated empathy. He is the first one to tell me if somebody has wronged him, in what way, and how that makes them naughty. Unlike children with a language delay who lash out in frustration, he can use his words to express himself. So why has he started to do this?
Is is Sensory or Behaviour?
If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you take a look at Hartley Steiner’s post on this very topic. Cubby’s advantage in life- his verbal skills- might actually work against him in this instance. I know I’m probably guilty of expecting too much from him. The ability to communicate well doesn’t preclude him from feeling overwhelmed in a new social situation. The demands of preschool with intense social interactions, and new sensory experiences might certainly be more than he can handle. I made my long overdue contact with an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration, and mow we’re waiting for an appointment.
Like a puppy, my boy is exploring his new environment with all of his senses. Like a puppy, he is testing the boundaries. The problem though, is that until recently, Cubby spent most of his time playing with the only other member of his litter: Pudding. Unlike most puppies (or children), Pudding doesn’t always respond in an expected way. Sometimes he would hit her and she wouldn’t notice. Frequently she would laugh. Sometimes, but quite rarely, she would hit him back. The same action on his part gets a variety of reactions. Often the only way to get Pudding to react to him was to get physical.
When Pudding went through this stage, I was the other member of the litter, and every time she bit or hit me, I reacted consistently. She learned very quickly that she shouldn’t hit or bite. Cubby’s learned behaviour is off, as a result of being a younger sibling to a child on the spectrum. He is taking what he learned through interacting with his sister and applying that to others. Something tells me that this puppy stage is going to be harder this time around.
Whether motivated by his sensory processing difficulties, or an atypically learned behaviour, the challenge now is to guide Cubby to more appropriate interactions with the people around him. The good news is the both puppies and little boys can be encouraged to adapt and respond to sensory stimuli in a socially appropriate way. Though I think our four-legged friends tend to be much more obedient. Either way, perhaps I should buy a whistle.
Our family finds it quite easy to see the funny side of life. It helps when Pudding and Cubby are frequently hilarious. My Facebook page features one of their gems almost every day, in fact, unless I manage to write them down, I forget half of the spectacular things they come out with . A little humour keeps us on an even keel, and encourages us to keep going on during tough times. But in our house, it has become even more than that.
The kids adore being silly, though strangely, Cubby hates to be called silly, and feels the need to assert that he is funny instead. They love it when we laugh, and once they find something that makes us giggle, they keep going with it. I’ve spent a lot of time with Pudding trying to get her to engage, so I love this role-reversal. It develops both her communication and social skills, and all I have to do is enjoy it.
What often happens, is that one of the kids will do something that makes us giggle, then the other will try it, and then they up the ante to get funnier and funnier. It turns into a kind of competition for our amusement. On these days, I’m so grateful that they are siblings. They can spur each other on in a way that we as parents could never do, and all we have to do is sit back and laugh.
I’m not doing a great job of explaining their interactions, so here is an example from this weekend to illustrate my point. Spectrummy Daddy had made a Tex-Mex feast for lunch. The kids were eating tortillas, and they thought their bite marks made interesting shapes.
Pudding: That’s a moon!
Cubby: That’s not a moon, it’s a circle.
Pudding: It’s not a circle, it’s a ‘O’.
Cubby: It’s not a ‘O” it’s a ‘J’.
Pudding: It’s Hello Kitty.
Cubby: It’s a kangaroo.
And just when you think the bite-shaped tortilla can’t become any more surreal…
Pudding: It’s a petrol station!
Where do you go from there? Well, if you’re Cubby, you take a small piece of the tortilla, place it on your knee, and say, “Mummy, I’ve got a band-aid on my boo-boo.”
Who could help but not laugh? This is a kind of family therapy, of the very best kind.
This post was written for S-O-S Best of the Best Edition 11.
Pudding has a new script as we drive in the car. She looks out of the window at the buildings. When she sees a house, she repeats:
That’s a house, and you remember this house.
And then we pass another house, and she’ll say it again:
That’s a house, and you remember this house.
Every time we pass a house. Every time. Sometimes we pass buildings that aren’t houses, and she demands to know what they are. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving in rush hour traffic with idiots on their phones who don’t look when they change lanes (calm down, Spectrummy Mummy); if we pass a building and she doesn’t know what it is, that must be rectified. Luckily she has that awesome memory on her, and a near GPS-like mapping skill, so once she has been told it is a hotel, or a mall, and then checked on the veracity of that a subsequent time, she is cool.
That’s a house, and you remember this house. That’s a house. That’s a house. That’s a hotel. That’s a coffee shop.
As I imagine it, she is talking through adding it to her mental map. Then each time, checking that map hasn’t changed, and adding a little more. It is pretty cool that she finds ways to make her world more ordered, so I don’t get too irritated by it, even though we spent a lot of time working on my motor skills.
Until Cubby does it too.
At first he would just immediately repeat everything she said, to Pudding’s great delight.
That’s a house. (That’s a house). That’s a house, and you remember this house. (That’s a house and you remember this house).
The two of them were greatly amused by this game of Driving Mama Crazy. But then Cubby started doing it when Pudding wasn’t around too. Using the exact same words as his sister. Echolalia of echolalia. I can generally distract him, but left to his own devices, he repeats the script at length throughout the journey. He repeats at other times too, but not consistently.
Does he have echolalia? Does his brain work in the same tape recorder way? Cubby has advanced language skills for his age, but he doesn’t always use his words socially or flexibly. Does echolalia fill a gap when he doesn’t have the skills to communicate effectively? At times echolalia seems to perform the same function as it does for Pudding.
Or is is something else? Is echolalia normal to him because that is what he has heard all his life from his big sister? Is it reinforced by her laughter and encouragement? If Pudding was no longer echolaic, would it die away with him too?
All these things pass through my mind whenever we’re in the car together. Is history repeating itself, or is is just my boy repeating my girl’s words? Echo echolalia. And can I tell myself that he is merely copying all those spectrummy behaviors that we see in him now? She spins in circles, flaps her hands, and has meltdowns, so why shouldn’t he? But what about the spinning wheels, his difficulty with transitions, the way he gets overwhelmed when there are more than a couple of kids around? These are things that Pudding doesn’t do. It is so hard to tell what actions are *his* and what are a result of being a younger sibling in our home.
Certainly this afternoon I’ll be thinking about these things some more, as I drive my grey-area kid to his IEP eligibility meeting. And yes, it is crazy that we’re going through this Incredibly Enervating Process again weeks before we move to another continent. But if we’re going to have a repetition of what happened last time we moved, I’m going to be prepared for it.
Sibling Saplings – by Spectrummy Mummy
I was born and raised in the same place. My roots grew deep into the soil. I shared a childhood with my friends, and with our years of shared experiences, we remained friends as we became adults together. My chosen sisters.
I wasn’t close to my brothers growing up, but planted side by side, as we’ve grown older, our branches have intertwined. Though I live on a different continent, I feel that we’re probably closer now than ever.
It is different for Third Culture Kids like mine. My little saplings are transplanted from one country to another every two or three years. Their roots don’t get a chance to bury into the ground, but spread like vines across the world.
Many Foreign Service children find it tough to make friends, and instead rely on the closeness of the sibling relationship-friendship with the only person to understand and share their life. It is not uncommon for such children to describe their brothers and sisters as best friends. That is how I imagined things would be for Pudding and Cubby.
The seeds were planted two years ago, when Cubby was born, but the signs of autism were emerging in Pudding. Pudding’s sheltered little world was disturbed by this chaotic, screaming, routine-breaking, parent-snatching, attention-stealing, unpredictable bundle of need. From the very beginning, she was conflicted about his arrival in her life, resenting and pursuing him at once.
Sensory-seeking Pudding was too boisterous in her attentions, and the sensitive-avoider Cubby would scream whenever she came near. Pudding would lash out at him, or withdraw into herself. A relationship between the two of them seemed impossible.
I would try to come up with games or sensory play that they might share in together. Inevitably, it led to fighting and tears. Everybody felt frustrated and miserable, myself included. Pretty pathetic for what was supposed to be fun for all. So I gave up.
I’d concentrate on one child at a time. Finding something else to occupy the other, or making the most of Cubby’s nap time, or the times that my husband was around so we could, at times, divide and enjoy our only children. I let go of my expectations of the kind of siblings they’d be, and let them just be.
Now things are really starting to change. Since Cubby turned two, the developmental gap between the two of them is closing. They find each other funny, get into trouble together, blame each other for their mischief, and fight too, of course.
But mostly, they play; sometimes side-by-side, sometimes even together. I didn’t need to teach them, they are figuring it out together, dare I say, like ordinary siblings. Ordinary being a word I don’t tend to associate with either of them.
I think of Cubby as a sort of hybrid plant. He has sensory processing differences, like his sister, but without the communication challenges. He can already tell us with his words the things that bother him, which Pudding would only show through her behavior at this age. The more I learn from and about one child, the more I can understand, and apply it to the other.
They are still very young, of course. I don’t know what will happen when Cubby’s development surpasses that of his sister. I don’t know if autism will create distance, or if moving will bring them closer.
All I do know is that they are experiencing the world together in a way that nobody else is. They have a unique connection. The shoots of a budding relationship have appeared.
It is a connection that grows organically, and is cultivated by the two of them alone. When Cubby couldn’t bear to be touched by his tactile-loving sister, she was the one who covered him in stickers, and he let her. Pudding struggled to do her yoga homework for occupational therapy, and Cubby was the one who motivated her.
She was the one he sought for a hug when he was distraught at his parents for a blood draw that went wrong. I just have to leave them to it, which is the part I find difficult.
In amongst the thicket of squabbling and demands, they are flourishing. They are still very young, and they have plenty of time to grow together. My hope is that if I can just stop trying to propagate a relationship between them, a beautiful togetherness will blossom. Perhaps it will be perennial.
Yesterday was the second portion of Cubby’s 24 months data point in the sibling study. We’ve been involved since Cubby was 10 months old. Each time he is subjected to several hours of testing, and it is intense for both of us, but definitely for a good cause. The work by the team at Kennedy Krieger is making huge strides in early detection of autism spectrum disorders. Though exhausting to go through, it is exciting to be part of such worthwhile research that will ultimately benefit countless families. There are many different developmental assessments. Some of them are widely in use, such as the ADOS or Peabody tests, but others are still experimental.
This time Cubby took part in a fascinating new study assessing eye tracking in infants and toddlers at risk for autism. He sat on a chair with me, with special cameras trained on his eyes which followed every movement as he watched a monitor. To get him comfortable, we initially watched puppets and animals, then the testing began. We were shown images of geometric shapes with slowly moving patterns, interspersed with clips of faces. In addition, extra targets popped up to see how well the eyes would saccade between the images. In between there was a video clip of a baby putting blocks in a container.
Cubby was very opinionated about what he saw, and felt the need to comment on everything. I don’t know where he gets that from! He was much more interested in the toys on the foreground of the video clip of the baby- trains and trucks. When that part was over he demanded to see more! He also was a bit creeped out by some of the faces he was shown. He repeatedly announced that he didn’t like one man’s face in particular. Oh yes, he was very vocal about that.
After the testing was complete, the research assistant came around to explain the results to us. (Just initial findings, like all the testing it is reviewed and scrutinized at length). Only at that point did I realize that the man’s face which Cubby found so objectionable bore a striking resemblance to that of the one conducting the experiment! Oh dear.
I was shown the targets of Cubby’s eye gazes throughout the testing, so I could see which images he looked at the most. He showed a strong preference for faces over the patterned shapes, and particularly the eyes and mouth areas. A very positive result. And of course, he had a strong preference for looking at the trains and trucks, which hardly surprises me at all (special interests!). In spite of that, this particular experiment gives me no real concern. So far Cubby has excellent eye contact, even with strangers.
Though it isn’t possible, I’d love to have seen what the results would have been for Pudding. She is very interested in faces, choosing to draw them over and over, and look at photos on her iPad or in albums. I wonder how well she’d have been able to shift from one image to another. This test may be able to find eye tracking difficulties in young infants. The question now is if it is consistently reliable in detecting an issue in children who are subsequently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This is where the siblings come in. The study we are involved in recruits children under the age of 18 months, but there are others looking for pregnant women who already have a child with autism. The earlier the detection, the earlier the intervention.
Ultimately, this could be an excellent non-invasive screening tool for the general population. The difficulty with many current assessments is that there is a considerable amount of researcher bias. Some children may be found to meet the criteria with one diagnostician, but not with another. A screening tool that would measure in a more objective way would be incredibly useful. I could see such apparatus in a pediatrician’s office, being used to screen every infant who comes into the clinic, deciding which ones require further assessment.
They just might want to find different faces for the more…selective participants.
One of my early posts was sharing some of Pudding’s words. Even though he doesn’t have the difficulties with language that his sister does, I thought it was about time I did the same for her brother. His quirky little personality is just starting to emerge. Here are some of the gems we’ve had lately:
To me showing him what I thought was a picture of a truck in a book:
No, that’s not a truck. It’s a backhoe. (To the mirth of nearby shoppers, who enjoy seeing a thirtysomething woman being smacked down by a toddler.)
At the playground, upon seeing the bichon frise dog that once bit me:
Mummy, I see a sheep!
Me: No, honey, it’s a dog.
[angrily, to me] No, it’s a sheep.
[To the dog] Baa baa. Baa baa. Sheep say baa. Sheep: say baa!
Daddy and I were in the car discussing pantaloons, a costume used in the period drama, Downton Abbey.
I want pant balloons, please!
While holding his boy parts as I changed him:
This is a carrot. (I think he misheard “privates”.)
One morning, at the breakfast table:
F&%K! F&%K! F&%K!
I need a F&%K! (After much hyperventilating, realizing that he is requesting a fork for his waffle. Phew. Not that he’d have gotten that word from me!)
Do you have any kid gems you’d like to share? It is going to be a long day, putting in the autism miles to get to the sibling study, so I could use a good laugh.