It seems over the past few weeks Jake has gotten so big. Obviously he is a big kid, I mean at his checkup 2 weeks ago he measured 4’2″ and weighed 67 lbs. But his appearance and actions have changed. His language skills have grown and he is able to use more words to express himself. Part of me doesn’t want the baby to leave but the biggest part of me is more than ready. Because Jake is developmentally delayed he acts more like a 4/5-year-old. At times his behaviors are that of a preschooler and so are his words.
Our phases or milestones take longer and take more time than typical kids. So when we enter a new phase or reach a new milestone it is a Big. Dot. Deal! I feel like we have entered a new phase with more milestones to meet. It is exciting for me to see him grow and to be able to do things that other kids can do. Jake is really maturing and I know I’ve said this before but the kid works hard. He does his best to correct his own behaviors before I have to and he tries his best to use the words he knows verses pointing or crying. But I think the greatest thing Jake is learning is how to work on his sensory issues and find his calm on his own. He will go and jump on the trampoline or work with the exercise ball. At times he will put on his earphones, lay on his bean bag with his weighted blanket in his room. He doesn’t really voice that he needs a break but he is clearly listening to his body and doing the things we have taught him over the past 4 years to find his calm. For me, it is so cool to see him do all of this on his own without any prompting from me. The other day he was being really quiet in his room. I went to check on him and he said “I just needed some quiet, I’ll be out in a minute.”
This summer I’ve been working with Jake on his self-help skills; something we work on all the time but I’m putting a lot more focus on these areas since we have more time. There has been a lot of tears and a lot of “I caaannn’ttt it’s tooooo haaaarrrddd” moments but he is doing really well. For the past several years I’ve been working with Jake to dress himself. This hasn’t been the easiest task due to lack of coordination and hand strength. But like everything else, he is slowly but surely getting there. This past Friday I laid Jake’s clothes out for him and asked him to get dressed. He cried, he ran away and he pleaded for me to do it for him. Then he grabbed his shorts and slipped them on with no problem. The whole time he was half crying and half smiling. Next came his shirt. This was a bit more difficult but after a few failures he had success! He was so pleased with himself, as he should have been. He walked around with his clothes on like they were the finest made t-shirt and shorts. He didn’t want to take them off at the end of the day. Needless to say, he was so proud of himself. This is the first time he has dressed himself from head to toe with only verbal cues from me.
One of the tools we use to help with challenging tasks are social stories. If Jake can visually see what is expected of him he has an easier time understanding and retaining the information spoken to him. Social stories are awesome and work wonders with kids like Jake and typical kids too. We make up our own and use ready-made ones as well. They don’t always work but, again, like everything else with time and patience some part of the story will work.
One of my favorite shows for Jake to watch is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. It is inspired by Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood; you know (if you’re old enough) when Mr. Roger sends trolley to the land of make-believe, the show is based on these characters. It is on PBS and geared toward preschoolers but Jake still loves it; I love it because it is packed full of social stories. The songs stick with Jake and when he gets into a situation many times we will sing one of the songs. An episode that was on recently was about making mistakes but if you keep trying you’ll get better. Click on the link and you can see the video of the song. One we sing a lot is “Just keep trying and you’ll get better“. Like many of us, Jake wants to succeed at his first attempt. But as we know sometimes it takes a few mistakes to get to the place where we want to be. We sing the above songs often when things get hard. By watching the social story on TV Jake can see how frustrated Daniel gets and how he deals with his emotions. It has really been a great resource for me when Jake is having a hard time. There have been times when I will put an episode on that is specific to something we are going through. Seriously, an awesome show and one that has helped us out a lot!!
Social skills don’t come easy to kids like Jake, they have to be taught. It is difficult for Jake to read emotions and social cues from others most of the time, especially from peers. He knows when I’m angry, cross or happy but I don’t think he understands when another child is experiencing these emotions. I am really excited about the social skills camp Jake will begin tomorrow (Monday). The camp is 4 days from 10-2 and Jake will attend it for 3 weeks. The curriculum that will be used is called Social Thinking. Through cartoon type characters it visually helps the kids see and identify different emotions they are feeling as well as their peers. Jake has been to social skills group therapy in the past and it has helped some. But going to a more intense camp should really help him understand social cues and the expected appropriate responses. Everything I’ve heard about this camp sounds perfect for Jake. Where he is right now developmentally I really do think Jake will learn a lot. He seems excited to go to camp and play and this mom is a tad bit excited too. I get a break 🙂