Tuesday, January 10, 2006

History pt. 2- The Toddler years...

My dear friend/Elder Sister Paula & I were chatting this morning about the toddler years with our Aspergers boys (for more Paula info, see my "First day..." entry, almost last paragraph). Paula's son is 18 & a senior in high school, so she has preceded me in all of the stages of raising a child with a diagnosis of Aspergers. She's the first person we called when B got his diagnosis (from the same neurologist as her son's- I guess we are a rather small town, neurologist-wise :) & we have gained greatly from her insights over the intervening years. I have been trying to regain snapshot memories of B's toddler stage, but have ended-up with something resembling a Monet or Seurat instead- impressions & blips of images of life with young B. Talking to Paula helped & I was impressed by the similarities of our experiences.

Neither of our boys was able to play on their own for very long at that age, so we had to entertain them. B didn't even like sitting in the stroller much, so I had to sing or converse with him when we went on walks. He had a toy stash in a bottom drawer in the kitchen, but rarely went in there himself to find anything, so I would pull something out & hope he would amuse himself with it while I made dinner, looked at the mail, etc. He had busy-boxes that had pictures, & bells, & spinners, but never looked at them or used them unless we did it with him. We read to him, but he never looked at books independantly. We had crayons & colouring books which he had absolutely no interest in. It all makes sense now, of course, but at the time I just couldn't understand why he wasn't behaving the way the children of our friends were. B was very tactile. He loved manipulating objects & was always holding our ears & touching our faces. His favourite stuffies were called Baby & Sister rabbit & he carried them everywhere. I lived in terror of losing one of them when we were out, & he did drop Baby in Borders one day, when he fell asleep in the stroller, but she was turned-in to the lost & found- thankfully!!- & I had her back before he woke up.

It probably goes without saying that our pediatrician never noticed any of our son's differences at this early age. As I mentioned in my previous post, B was born without binocular vision, which explains his interest in only what was in front of him (although he could miraculously "spot" a backhoe any time we were out in the car by listening for it), as well as his lack of interest in crayons & picture books. So I was caring for a very challenging child with no notion that he was in any way different from other kids, which left me feeling not only exhausted but inadequate. What saved my sanity was my fibre & craft work, particularly- at that time- sewing. When B was about a year old I realised that much of his clothing was being made in Third-World sweatshops by children not much older than he was, which horrified me. I had been making some of my own clothes since college (my mom made most of my clothes when I was a girl & I learned to sew from her), so we bought me a new Kenmore machine with cool, programmed-in stitches & I was ready to go. I had the best time making B's clothes. I could choose whatever fabrics I liked, make matching sets, applique his shirts to match his pants- I'm enjoying just remembering it! I made the jumpsuit he's wearing in the picture at the top of this post & the vest he's wearing in the "History pt. 1" picture. In addition, I knitted loads of little sweaters for him & knitted all of his socks, mittens, & hats. You see, when I was sewing (knitting, handspinning...) he wasn't hanging off my body like a satellite around its sun. And when he wore what I made, it made up for the feelings of inadequacy, too. Heck, I might not understand him, but I could clothe him! He might behave a bit oddly in public, but he sure looked cute!

When B was 3 1/2 I was convinced by my husband, friends, & society in general to put him in preschool 2 days a week. It was horrible at first. To be honest, I still feel guilty about doing it, even though it was a good thing to do. (I feel stupid even saying how bad I felt about it, since it was an important step in his socialisation, but I can't get around the fact that it was the last thing I wanted to do.) I never felt comfortable giving him over to other folks to take care of, probably because I wasn't quite sure how to do it properly myself. We had some false starts, but eventually found a good place for him, with people who cared about growing children even more than they cared about profits... I finally found a sense of comfort with sharing the job of raising B with someone other than his dad, which was a good thing, considering the size of the "village" we share him with today.


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