Thursday, 16 October 2014


It's been a full week since our meeting with our daycare special needs consultant about Jack and things we can do to make his life a little easier. Over the past week we've rolled up our sleeves to really start to work with him.  Here's how week one has gone and how we've adapted our routines to help Jack based on the suggestions we've received so far and some things we've learned along the way.

8 Things We've Learned  So Far in Our Journey to Manage Anxiety, Obsessive Tendencies and Encourage Speech Development:

1. Correct Jack's Incorrect Usage of Words, i.e. "that's Lego, that's not a plug".
In just the span of a week we've found the more we correct Jack about his wrong use of words, the less likely he is to throw a fit about it.  He tests on a regular basis but is generally eager to tell you what the object really is now, most of the time. (Yes we are aware that Lego is in fact technically a plug).

2. Set Boundaries Using First and Then Statements 
When we notice Jack obsessively playing with plugs, rocks, whatever, we need to take him to another activity.  To do this we've been using "First and Then Statements", an excellent tool, often used visually to help kids establish routines and transition from activity to activity.  We've found that "First and Then" helps Jack get over an obsessive moment - "First dinner, then potty, then plugs (if you'd like)".  It's also been helpful with both children to make transition to bed time easier with statements like "First bath, then pajamas, then stories, then bed" so they both have accurate expectations on what's next.

visual schedule for pre-school kids
Sample visual schedule for pre-school kids on Pinterest
(a pictoral version of First and Then Statements) care of Kim Simon.

3. Play with "Normal" Kids Toys 
Several times over the course of a day we've been taking Jack away from "plug or rock time" to play with puzzles, cars, tea party or other standard games that he can play with other children.  If he puts up resistance we reiterate the, "First puzzles, then cars, then plugs".  A lot of the time he has been forgetting about the plugs and continues to play with whatever we've been working on.

4. Expect Jealousy
On the first evening I sat down with Jack to play with some puzzles, Molly defintely noticed.  She was watching one of her favourite shows on TV but immediately joined in and eventually tried to take over once she saw that Jack was getting extra attention.  It became quickly apparent that Chris and I will need to divide and conquer to get Jack the time he needs.

5. Shut Down Commentary
Jack has a peanut gallery at his side constantly in his twin sister.  The special needs consultant commented that it was like he has a little wife, and he's only three.  When Jack is stressing or having a meltdown moment it's for a very different reason compared with his sister acting out.  He has trouble getting the words out to express his frustration and can shut down.  He does this often via a tantrum.  Since we have been reacting differently to tantrums for Jack and Molly, she has noticed and will comment that "Jack is being naughty" because we give her a lot of crap when she throws tantrums.  The trick here is calling her on the fact that this is none of her business without triggering a second tantrum in Sensitive Sally (noted calling Molly Sensitive Sally can also cause a tantrum).  Simply saying, "Who's job is it to talk to Jack about this tantrum?" and most of the time you'll get, "Mommy, Daddy and Jack." out of Molly without any tears.

6. Focus on Positive Attention
We've tried to praise Jack for all of his positive milestones as opposed to laying on a lot of attention when he acts out.

7. Research, but not Too Much  
The following items helped me feel better surrounding speech delays and challenges in general with kids.  I had to stop myself from over-analysing and falling down a deep Google black hole filled with "What ifs" about Jack, but these really helped me.

  1. Twins or multiples are more likely to have language delays when compared to singletons.  It's hypothosized that, "Parents are busier with two or more children the same age to care for and have less time to help them develop language skills. This means they may answer the children's questions more briefly, engage in less dialogue with just one child, brush over mispronunciations and generally have less time to be a good model for adult language. It does mean the children are better at understanding when something is said quickly!" says Curtin University
  2. A study, published in the journal “Nature Neuroscience,” reaffirmed gender differences in language delay. Analysis also confirmed that parents are not treating boys and girls any differently. The University of Washington publication also stated, "Boys are more at risk for this, just as they are for just about everything else."
  3. “We know half of them won’t have problems and will catch up with their peers. The other half will have problems and we would like to know how to identify those who won’t catch up. From this study, we know that part of the reason is genetic and we would like to look for specific genetic markers of both temporary and more enduring delay in future research.” said a University of Washington publication.

8. Laugh at Fun Moments, Especially During Challenging Times and Roll with it.
Jack has been showing noted improvement already in imagination play with other kids.  One of the workers at daycare gave him an item out of the lost and found box to take home for a while and play with as a reward his for good behaviour.  It is a Mr. T. In Your Pocket Talking Keychain.  On top of meeting so many of the milestones of language development at age three, our son can now say, "Don't Gimme No Back Talk, Sucka", "Shut Up, Fool." and "Quit your jibber jabber."  Jack likes to pretend this is his "phone" and he has frequent conversations with "First Name Mr., Middle Name Period, Last name T."

Mr. T Santa Clause and Nancy Reagan
How have I never seen this picture of Nancy Reagan and Mr. T. before? (courtesy of Wikipedia)

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