The developmental pediatrician ruled out Autism. She said he was too open and friendly toward her. (Go figure the one time in his life he was ever cooperative with a doctor/stranger.) Around this same time, Monkey entered our world. With far less fanfare than his brother. We were worried Mr. Man would react poorly to this new little intrusion, but were surprised, for the most part, he really didn’t notice his presence or decided to ignore it entirely. Developmental pediatrics wanted ST to continue and wanted him enrolled in a preschool where Mr. Man could hear language used by other children. So for the next few months, Mr. Man went to class a few days a week, had ST and life continued as “normal”. He didn’t talk and we walked on eggshells as to not upset “the beast” which typically resulted in the fear our neighbors would call CPS from hearing the prolonged raging or something hard being thrown at our heads (Kid has always had very good aim).
Just shy of his 3rd birthday, the developmental pediatrician told us a she believed Mr. Man had Developmental Apraxia of Speech…. Ensue mama research mode. Apraxia-kids
At three, state services would no longer cover Mr. Man’s speech therapy. He was referred to the local public school’s priority preschool. He received further evaluation and I was introduced to my first IEP meeting, from the parent side of the table. Mr. Man qualified for the preschool program with delays in Speech, Fine Motor, Cognitive, and Adaptive Skills. Although we were not concerned with his cognitive ability, we chose not to question the evaluator because the results helped qualify him for a program that would give him the speech therapy he needed. I was told that his scores in receptive language were actually lower than his expressive language, which I laughed at because the child didn’t speak! How was that even possible?! I was told this was because he did not respond to what the evaluator asked him to do. Of course he didn’t, they were strangers. But we move on….
Mr. Man loved his school. The teacher always said he was such a great helper and never showed any anger. He went to his priority preschool 3 mornings a week and the rest of the time he went to a “regular” preschool with “typically developing peers”. He was doing great in speech and blew through his IEP goals. His speech took off. What an exciting year, to hear his little personality come out. Mr. Man was excited about everything, and what a sense of humor! It was interesting to hear how he looked at the world, as he has a very unique perspective on things.
The doctors told us that his intense anger was frustration due to his inability to communicate his wants and needs. We expected to see the anger subside as his language improved. However, this was not the case. His anger was intense and sudden. It would come and go like flipping a switch, suddenly and dramatically. Often, there was no obvious trigger. When he got angry, he would also become very impulsive and act without thinking. He was getting bigger and stronger. I began to worry that he was going to hurt himself or his brother. As suggested by previous doctors, we decided it was time to take him to a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist felt that his anger was the manifestation of underlying anxiety. He suggested some medication and we agreed to try. (I am not a fan of medication, especially for children. But, at this point, something needed to change and I was willing to try anything!) It took awhile to adjust the dosage…we had some low moments, but eventually we began to see some improvements. For the first time since he was born, I began sleeping through the night. Mr. Man was a horrible sleeper and usually woke me up throughout the night. Monkey had been sleeping through the night for about a year and Mr. Man was still keeping me up! The medication helped him relax and sleep…..thank goodness. We also noticed a great improvement to his impulsivity. While he still gets angry (a lot!), we’ve noticed that he now stays present during his fits. This allows us to talk him through the anger and help him understand reasoning and appropriate ways to behave in given situations. We have a long way to go with this…..but he’s working so hard. The most exciting improvement (to me) is seeing a complete change in his focus. He can now attend to what he’s doing in a way that I never realized was an issue before. All of his fine motor delays, disappeared. He went from scribbling (not able to even draw a line) to drawing circles and coloring in the lines, overnight. He’s working on learning to write his name and is currently tracing his letters superbly.
As we quickly approach Mr. Man’s 4th Birthday, I realize that we still have quite a way to go before he is “where he should be”. He talks a ton now, but it is still very difficult for those outside of our family to understand him. Socially, he has quite a bit of catching up to do. But I am confident, with the amount of improvement he’s made this year, he will get there. He will and this is our journey…..