We’re on the last days of the age of four. I can’t believe my son is almost 5 years old. Looking at him, I remember the days of onesies and bottles. I remember wondering if the days of sterilizing those bottles in the microwave would ever end. Looking back, I’m sad, in a way, because my son is definitely leaving his babyhood behind.
Just last week he lost his third baby tooth. It was the first one I actually saw. He swallowed the first two. This one he spit into my hand. And what might seem gross to others, was wonderful and sweet to me. A little tiny baby tooth. No blood, just a little white bump. Like the first lock of hair we clipped, it goes into his little baby book.
My little boy has always been large for his age. At all his well visits he fell into the 99.99 percentile for height and size at the pediatrician’s office. I used to joke that I got the giant’s baby from the old Looney Tunes cartoon, Goo Goo Goliath. (Many of you are probably too young to understand this reference – you can refer to this synopsis of the cartoon (1954) or you can watch it at this Russian website – It is unavailable for download on You Tube).
Despite his size, my son took bottles of soy milk until he was 2.5 years old. The bottles would often be the only thing to calm him down when he would go into screaming, crying fits in the middle of the night. I did not sleep a full night until my son was nearly 3 years old, after he was diagnosed with asthma and started undergoing regular nebulizer treatments. Now, (knock on wood) he sleeps through the night without waking us and for that I am very, very grateful.
As he has grown and developed his own little personality, I have been amazed repeatedly by the many things he’s accomplished. Things that may seem so simple to those with children who are not special needs. These small hurdles are like climbing a huge mountain.
When we first got my son’s diagnosis, we’d just gotten through nearly three years of never sleeping through the night. We’d known that it was his trouble breathing that had kept him up all night but now we finally had the right medication for his asthma that allowed him some relief. We’d settled into sleeping. We were getting ready for Christmas and – boom- we were told “Your child, most likely, has autism.” – Merry Christmas!
It was like someone dropped us at the bottom of Mt. Everest in white-out conditions and said I’d better start climbing because my son’s life depended on it. So, I bundled us up and off we went. I had to create my own map – not having any idea where we were going – as we began our assent up the mountain called Autism.
We got lost quite a bit in those first few months. I took turns that I knew were wrong but I was forced to take by others who said they’d been up the mountain before and they knew which way to go. First, a hearing test but I knew this was not a problem. Next, people who told me my son may be cognitively impaired when I knew he was reading and spelling at age two. They made this decision because my son could not play birthday party with a doll at his evaluation. If they’d asked, he could recite the planets, including four outer dwarf planets, and recognize a supernova and black hole by sight at age 3, but they concluded by their “birthday party” test that he might be cognitively impaired. This was one of the dead ends. Wrong direction.
I took us off that path and redirected us to start climbing another. We began speech therapy. That therapist reassured me that she saw no cognitive impairment but definitely language and social skills delay.
Now we were making progress. With his speech therapy started, I could see we were making progress – going upwards. We were on the right track. That first step in the right direction led to more. Occupational therapy to help him deal with his sensory processing disorders.
The clouds at this elevation began to lift. I could now understand some of his reactions to sounds and touch, and his need for proprioceptive input. To run, to smash into walls, to find his body’s position in relation to the objects around him. It was making sense.
As we climbed upward, he grew. His clothes, with each season became too small. His tiny feet are now almost the size of mine. As he gets bigger, his development continues. Not as fast as a regular child but growing and developing nonetheless. We add in ABA and his behavior begins to change. His language is developing.
If I look back, I can see all the progress we’ve made. We’re out of the white-out in the snowstorm. We’ve reached a plateau above the clouds. There are beautiful things to be enjoyed here at this elevation. We are at the flag marked Age 5.
I welcome this stage. I wave downward to say goodbye to nightly screaming and constant sleepless nights. I wave good bye to nearly all pull-ups and diapers. We’re nearing the end of potty training. Just a few rough patches but the road is getting smoother.
I’m going to save a couple onesies, a lock of hair, and a baby tooth. The view is nice from here.