Fretting on Three Levels

I can't help it. I parent, therefore I fret.

I fret about Mali because I want more eye contact than she's been wanting to give. Most likely she's avoiding looking at my eyes because I'm always two inches from her nose, and because she is tired and grumpy from busting out her second upper tooth this morning and therefore not napping properly for days. If I bring out a really exciting toy like Leelo's roaring lion flashlight, she squeals with delight and gawks right at me in amazed gratitude. I know I'm being a moron.

But, again, I can't help it. I vividly remember reading a newspaper article about the autism epidemic when Leelo was Mali's age and Iz was two, and thinking how lucky we were that our kids didn't show any of the described traits. What a relief!


Just yesterday I received a MYND Institute update on the infant siblings study. So far, less than 25% of the infants with autistic siblings have developed worrisome behaviors. Good news! But none of them had any symptoms at 6 months, when Mali had her first evaluation. When symptoms did appear, it was between 9 and 18 months. Mali is only 10 months old. Gaaah.

Also she is doing the funky asymmetrical right-leg-leading crawling that Leelo used to do and that Iz never did. I know typical kids do this too. But she also tends to keep her right hand clenched even when her left hand is relaxed, awake or asleep.

She has also definitely lost interest in eating items that are not fruits or starches. Initially she gobbled down almost everything, now I'm realizing she won't even touch former favorites like scrambled egg or avocado. She isn't eating much non-nursing food at all, and has visibly narrowed (though she is still meaty). Leelo did the same thing--his growth chart marks dropped dramatically between 6 and 12 months.

More worrisome is that she seems to have fallen off the Hyper-Social Baby pedestal. She used to seek out and greet people; now she lets them hold her but doesn't seem to be interacting as much. Possibly long-term grumpy teething baby effects? She needs to get some real daytime sleep. Poor tiny girl.

This week's autism research unearthed something I'd not read before, that autistic children and their family members usually have short index fingers compared to ring fingers, and that this is related to high levels in-utero testosterone/androgens exposure. My mom always commented on my stubby index finger, which Leelo has inherited. Mali seems to have it, too. Iz's index finger is nice and long. (I snuck into her room scanned it with her reading flashlight.)

The original study also suggests that women with bigger hips and smaller waists (indicating high estrogen and low testosterone) are more likely to have children without that bad, bad, stubby pointer finger. I may be stacked to the rafters, but I've got the hips and waist of a boy. (A well-fed boy.) If "hips" can also be said to include "ass," (which I also don't have), then perhaps my girls are safe after all, not only now but when and if they decide to breed. They've both got butt to spare. Leelo, sadly, has absolutely nothing back there--except a dark line of hair down his neck, which always did make me wonder about skewed hormones.


Leelo himself is still not at top form, but he continues to gain new language and skills. Today he was able to correctly follow the request "Leelo, pick up Mali's clothes and bring them to me," when asked only once, with no visual prompts or physical cuing, and while there was a good deal of other crap on the floor. Astounding, given his inability to consistently follow even one-step, highly prompted and aided directions only last year.

He's also demonstrating increasing social fluidity. This afternoon, while visiting Godmother Stacy's lovely palace of a home so we could stare at her almost-term twin-bearing-belly, we asked Leelo to say, "Thank you, Arnold," to Stacy's ever helpful spouse. Instead of staring straight ahead while rotely repeating the prompting statement, Leelo first looked around to see where Arnold was, and made eye contact (briefly, but hey).

Seymour and I agree that Leelo has integration issues, and is most likely a candidate for audio integration therapy, and that we should investigate it more. I am going to chat about it with Therapist M, his occupational therapist, tomorrow, to see if she has any leads on formal testing facilities.

I guess none of these Leelo items are fretting, exactly. We are happy with where Leelo is, and feel good about where he's going to be. Post-preschool, we don't feel that that place needs to be a regular, mainstream kindergarten unless Leelo is ready for it. We want him to be in the best environment for his needs, and if that is the special autism class that Ep recently found out about at Merlin's school, so be it.


I guess I'm fretting more about how having a special needs brother is affecting Iz. She is increasingly treating Leelo badly or ignoring his overtures to her while in public, which lights my britches on fire but is understandable. No child would choose to be the one with the odd little brother. I still kick her ass over it, though.

This issue makes me wonder if Big Noggin (the local 3-8 gifted public magnet school) would be better for Iz, next year. Wouldn't you think that the geeks would be more accepting of loopy siblings than the regular kids? Or maybe, since they're being culled and isolated before being properly socially cast out themselves, the geeks would use their mental powers to carry out greater cruelties. I tend to think not, though. I like to imagine Big Noggin as a happy cocoon of warm nerd love.

Seymour and I have lots of opinions to process regarding whether Iz should stay at Esperanza or jump ship to Big Noggin next year (assuming she gets in). Iz herself wants to jump so she can take more science, and have all her classes in English.

I don't think Iz is having the most pleasant social experience at Esperanza. She is still sad about being isolated from last year's friends, and about her social status in general. With the exception of Violet, no one from school has ever asked her on a play date.

I think she gets grief about being younger and shorter and smarter, I think the older kids in her grade take advantage of her naivete and temper to get her in more trouble than she would already encounter. These issues would deflate at Big Noggin.

However I don't know if Big Noggin will be able to support her Spanish skills. She is finally comfortable enough to use her Spanish in the real world, and I'd hate to see her lose it.

Badger opines that nerds thrive best together, with their own kind. I agree. Violet's mom, who used to be pro-Big Noggin, now thinks that it would be a shame for Violet to lose her Spanish, and wants her daughter to stay at Esperanza. I agree with her, too. Jo, whose Eliz is in her second Big Noggin year, would club me on the head if it would guarantee a Big Noggin choice for Iz, and I understand. Two other parents whose super-bright kids chose to stay at Esperanza think that now is the time to work on language skills, and that the kids can start Big Noggin in later grades if need be. I see their points. Sigh.

If I were to choose right now, Iz would be Big Noggin bound. She's going to be a fretter like her mom, and she would blend more and stress less at Big Noggin.

BTW, Iz had a milestone today: she said "fuck" in my hearing for the first time. It was part of a query, and was an accident (she says). I told her that it was just a word, but that she needed to be careful where she said it or she could get in really big trouble. Should be interesting to see how that experiment pans out.

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