Leelo in a Good Place

I have been trying to post this post for almost four weeks now, but then Leelo keeps coming out with more great language and behavior, so then I want to shoehorn them in too. But it would be good to post this before it becomes (even more) epic, as I do not think Bl0gger has a "continue reading" link-to feature.

Just today, for instance, even though he had more humming/vocalizations than usual (due to unlimited access to sugar-coated dried cranberries at Iron Gate, IMHO), he came up with the following unprecedented, spontaneous language and behaviors:
  • While sitting on the potty: "Babies wear diapers. I'm not a baby." Turns out Babysitter A and he had talked about this during pretend play with his baby dolls--four weeks ago.
  • During Circle Time, when Teacher P said, what does "Jambo" mean? Leelo said "Hello hello!" Apparently everyone turned around to look at him, in amazement. That is the first time he's participated verbally.
  • When Seymour came home, Leelo went and got a ball and asked Seymour to "Throw the ball?" and then spent a good five minutes playing catch on the stairs. With Leelo throwing, too! When Leelo got tired of that, he offered the orange ball to Seymour's mouth and said "Yummy yummy!" TOTALLY UNPRECEDENTED.
  • Leelo: "I WANT TOAST!" Squid: “Little dude, toast is cooking.” Leelo: “Toast is cooking in the toaster!”
  • When he's done his business: "Time to get off the potty!"
  • Therapist L also reported that he did some really incredible pretend play involving his Car3 Bears, pretending they were hungry and telling them what they needed to say if they were hungry, all with proper prepositions.
He is so affectionate and sweet. He is constantly asking to hug us and kiss us and be with us, asking us to "come here" by name, giving hugs and kisses (okay, and using his little razor-tipper fingers to grab our elbows).

His language and behavior leaps continued coming even though he had a bout of stomach flu a couple of weeks ago. Usually illness equals verbal and behavioral nosedives.

He's been making lots of potty progress. Minimal accidents, usually only when someone forgets to take him at the current interval of 40 minutes. Occasionally upon awaking, he will have a dry diaper AND ask to pee in the potty, emptying what is obviously a full bladder right into the pot. I never in my life thought I would be so excited about toilet training milestones.

Two weekends ago he pooped in the potty for both Babysitter A and Seymour. Supervisor M warned us that #2 is a whole different territory than #1, and Leelo thinks so too as he fought Seymour the whole time and then was shocked to see the results when he finally capitulated. I am shocked that he is finally developing awareness of his toilet needs, as it’s not something I was ever banking on. There may be a diaper-free future for our boy, after all.

Due to fluctuations in his therapists schedules as Iz's new school year began, I had a lot of recent mornings at home with just Leelo and Mali. Normally I would not feel anything but trepidation at the thought of staying home with my two youngests. Mali is very needy these days, and Leelo is usually beyond needy in his unique way.

But they turned out to be lovely mornings. Rather than requiring his usual micro-supervision, Leelo made up games that required only my verbal interaction--like a typical preschooler. He would tell me he wanted to dance on one of the various shapes I'd drawn on the deck. I would say "Dance on the ____, Leelo!" and he would hop to it. Meanwhile I could play with Mali, do laundry, and anything else I liked as long as I kept talking to him.

He had a good long spell of being obsessed with those porch shapes. He'd be dancing on the shapes. He'd be walking on them, too, all with narration. When we went to a restaurant with his magnadood1e, then Daddy's fingers got to dance on the shape of the moment. He was even having me substitute shapes for the animals who usually populate his Good Night song.

His Te1ebutties are enjoying a popularity renaissance. Not only did they get to do their time dancing and walking on the shapes. but he's also started incorporating them into his emerging pretend play scenarios. I get to watch the Te1ebutties hiding, riding a horse, riding in a wagon, sleeping, all that.

He also has been chasing Pat the Cat around with his Catbus. This is funnier than it reads. Also, he has begun playing with his favorite fish toy in Speech Therapist A’s office, instead of stimming on it as he’s done for the past two years. She was extraordinarily pleased. He is now having more good than bad days with her, as is also the case with lovely Speech Therapist Sage now that he is getting more familiar with her home office environment.

His ABA therapy team has done a great job of teaching him responses to social questions such as What’s your name? and Where do you go to school? He now has an entire repertoire of answers, though he is leaning on keywords rather than listening to the entire sentence:
  • Me: "Leelo, what's the name of your school?" Leelo: "Iron Gate!"
  • Me: **hmmm** "Leelo, are there zebras at your school?" Leelo: "Iron Gate!"
He’s been repeating everything everyone says. He did this a bit before, but not consistently as he is now. This type of echolalic language is a stereotypical autism symptom, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think he’s using repetition and imitation to process and retain language that previously didn’t register.
  • Good echolalia: Me: "Leelo, come dance with me." Leelo: "Dancing the night away..." (from Bear in the Big B1ue House)
Here are examples of some of the new, spontaneous language that has emerged over the past four weeks (and yes, he does mostly speak in exclamatory phrases):
  • It's time to go pee!
  • Nails are all done (when I took his hand and commented that his nails needed trimming)
  • I want to eat the pancakes (new generalization of "eat")
  • I want to read G00dnight Moon (new generalization of "read")
  • I want to dance with Mommy
  • Clean off catbus (after dropping said toy on very dirty/leaf-strewn back porch)
  • I want to hold! (if doesn't know name of object)
  • I want to sleep in the bed with Izzy
  • I want a towel...clean off shirt (after spilling water on himself)
  • LaLa is going to ride the wagon! (any teletubby, any rideable object)
  • Put the cat down!
  • Get off the bed, Daddy!
  • Where are the tenders? Tenders, where are you? (sing song)
and then...drumroll...

I am playing the guitar! (using the staircase posts--that's fucking self-initiated PRETEND PLAY, people). Therapist M says some ASD kids never get to this place. It's still primitive, but hey.

I am in such a good mood about him lately, because he has become so much more of a presence in our lives. So what if he still has so far to go. My lovely little boy is engaging us, he is responding to us, he is becoming a participating member of the family. That is more than we ever dared hope for.

Why is he doing so well? I can’t really say. We’ve been pretty good about avoiding sugar and simple starches, and cutting out whole dairy. His gluten intake is reduced, too, since he will only eat rice bread, although he does eat one whole wheat croissant each day.

B12 is another possible factor. I'd forgotten about his injections for most of August, but started them a week before he started consistently wowing us. Although I still only remember to give him about one shot per week as he is now aware of and scared shitless about them. Can't do them during diaper changes anymore or he'll not let me change his diaper for days.

His progress coincided with August’s month off from school, and consequent reintensification of his home ABA program. But the funny thing was that, due to various vacations and scheduling inconsistencies, he’d not had OT or ST for almost a month before the happy leaps began.

I had been wondering if OT was such a great thing, as he is doing so well without it. But a conversation with Supervisor M reminded me that OT is not just for sensory integration but also gross and fine motor work, two areas in which he definitely still needs help, especially if he's to go to kinder in the fall.

He still hasn't asked a question. I’m waiting for that. Although a few days ago when I tried to stop him from slamming our sliding closet doors, it did seem like he was asking/crying "WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?"

I am dying for him to tell me when he has a poo, instead of reaching down to itch his itchy poopy bottom and getting shit all over the back of his pants and inside of his shirt.


I still get depressed. Leelo’s schedule is the black hole that sucks away my time, and puts large portions of my personal and social lives on hold. He was technically supposed to start kindergarten this fall, and I get bitter watching all the Esperanza kinders scampering around the schoolyard when I pick up Iz, or hear a girl from Leelo's old Iron Gate class announce that she's just started kindergarten. I almost cried when I overheard Jo talking about her family going orienteering. That should be me, Iz, and Leelo, with Mali in a backpack, goddammit! I am the map chick! I should have the carto-brood! But Leelo at this point will neither cooperate nor care about such things, so any such adventures will have to take place without our missing piece. I fucking resent that.

But, overall, I am in a good place because he is in a good place. A very good place.

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