Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our story part 11: Cuddlebug's preschool progress

I wrote some about Bearhug's preschool experience previously, so I'm backtracking a bit here to share some of Cuddlebug's preschool experiences.

One that stands out is the first time Cuddlebug was able to offer some kind of explanation for one of his meltdowns.

We were in the parking lot at Walmart and Cuddlebug noticed that there were signs marking the row numbers. In all the times I'd been to Walmart before, I had never noticed that (guess that shows how observant I am, huh?). We often asked the boys to help us find a "good spot" and Cuddlebug kept saying, "mumber seben, mumber seben" but before we got there, we found a closer spot in row number 5 and pulled in.

Cuddlebug went ballistic in the backseat, screaming and kicking the seat. Dh and I looked at each other, decided it wasn't worth it, and pulled out to go find a spot in row number 7. We found one, and all was right with the world again. We asked Cuddlebug if it was a good spot, and he replied, "yes." (answering yes / no questions without just repeating back the question was something he'd been working on in therapy, yay!)

As we were walking into the store, we asked him why it was so important to park in the number 7 and he answered, "da mumber 7 Toby" (one of the Thomas characters). That was one of the early indications of how he grounded himself in numbers and made all kinds of associations from there... who else would think of a train from seeing a row marker in a Walmart parking lot?

We were so impressed that for the first time he'd actually offered some kind of explanation for his meltdown. I mean, clearly he'd wanted to park in row 7 but we had no idea why until he enlightened us. If we'd known that, we could have asked if parking in "number 5 James" would work since that spot was closer ;).

This new insight also helped with discipline in that we could tailor consequences more effectively. The typical stuff usually didn't work, so I wasted no time in putting this new little tidbit to good use. When Cuddlebug started acting up in the store later that day, I sternly told him if he didn't stop I was going outside to move the car OUT of "number 7 Toby." To my surprise, it actually worked! Mwahaha... score one for Mama ;).


A few months later, shortly after he started pre-K, we got a sobering reminder of how limited Cuddlebug's ability to share his thoughts really was, even with his burgeoning verbal skills.

One night as I sat in Bitty's room rocking him to sleep, Cuddlebug came in to see me. I started asking him about his day, hoping to engage him in a little conversation.

I asked him about his friends in class, and he said something about hitting (I don't remember his exact words). Concerned, I asked if someone had hit him. His response was jumbled. His sentences tended to have the words "out of order" compared with how we would normally expect to hear them, the words he chose were often descriptive but unconventional (enough to require some detective work, his phrases made perfect sense once you figured them out but were often a bit of a puzzle until then).

I knew that due to his sensory sensitivities, he may have interpreted a touch or bump as "hitting" even if that wasn't the intent, so I was trying not to freak out. I asked him if he had told them to stop. There was no emotion in his facial expression or his voice when he answered with "das not great idea." He had picked up the phrase, "that's a great idea" from cartoons, and when he didn't like something, he'd change it to "that's not a great idea." My heart broke for him...

The next day, I talked to his special needs teacher, since he'd been in her class the day before (he spent Tuesdays and Thursdays in the special needs class and Mon, Wed, Fri in his regular pre-K class). Neither she nor the parapros had seen anything out of the ordinary, and I trusted that they kept a watchful eye (and it was a small class so easier to keep track) so I was confused.

It occurred to me that Cuddlebug (and Bearhug for that matter) had a way of putting events out of "sequence" when speaking. Kind of like writing down a sequence of steps, then mixing them all up and reading them out of order, and expecting the listener to figure out the correct order on their own. Not only that, but Cuddlebug didn't really have the words to communicate timeframes yet. Add in his stream-of-consciousness way of thinking and I realized that the events he'd told me about could have occurred at any time. I had assumed it was earlier that day, but in fact it could have been the prior day, week, even several months ago.

I talked to his Pre-K teacher and she confirmed that they had a couple of kids in class with hitting issues (they were in process of working with those kids and their parents) although she said she hadn't seen any incident with Cuddlebug.

Cuddlebug didn't give any indication - verbal or otherwise - that it was anything other than a one-time thing, so I let it go. It worried me though, to know how difficult it would be for him to let us know if anything ever did happen to him while we weren't there.


On a more pleasant note... one last thought on Cuddlebug's obsession with numbers. At the end of the school year (pre-K), we visited Cuddlebug and Bearhug at school for their end of year party. While other children were eager to show off their desks, their artwork on the walls, and even the fish pond, Cuddlebug had other plans. He did show me the fish pond, but the main attraction on his personal tour was the smoke alarms.

You wouldn't notice them unless you were looking for them... or unless you were Cuddlebug. Each smoke alarm in the school had a small, unique number on it. He knew them all by heart. It was as though they were old friends, always in the same place, always with their numbers beckoning to him and guiding him throughout the school. He knew which number smoke alarm was closest to his classroom, which was near the media center, etc. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only parent who's ever been given a smoke alarm tour at the school :).

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Kim on May 26, 2009 at 8:42 PM said...

I know just what you were feeling. Meechi's inability to tell me what happens when I am not around is my biggest worry for him. If something bad were to happen he has no way of letting me know. It's the main reason I decided not to go back to work afterall. I just couldn't stand the idea of sending him to daycare when he couldn't tell me if the place was good or bad.

Online Printing on June 19, 2009 at 12:47 AM said...

The smoke alarm bit is so cool! I guess this provides him a sense of familiarity and comfort. You're pretty special, you get the very special tour of the school :)


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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