Lately Hannah's been saying, "Mommy, I have a question. . . . " and then proceeding to either ask me something or tell me something that is on her mind. Sometimes she uses it as a stalling technique to delay doing something she doesn't want to do, but other times it's just her lead in to tell me what is rolling around inside her little head. The cute part is that before each new question or thought that she wants to tell me she repeats, "Mommy, I have a question. . . " Tonight before bed she asked about an unusual sound we heard coming from the apartment next door, decided it might be either a dog or a wolf, asked where wolves live and when they live there, asked if wolves lived in apartments, if they just lived in forests at night, why they also lived there in the daytime, told me wolves were like dogs, but they were scary, that wolves howled and woke up bunnies (have no idea where the waking up bunnies part came from), and finally declared that wolves were cute and that it was most definitely a cute wolf next door that would wake up a bunny and her when she tried to sleep. All this transpired just in the space of brushing her teeth and washing her face and of course before each new segment came the words, "Mommy, I have a question. . . " She even pauses for dramatic effect which cracks me up.
Yesterday at church Hannah had a fantastic day. She sat quietly and read her Bible or colored during the whole first part of the service before they released the children for children's church and then walked by herself with the class over to the other building where their classrooms are. After church there was a whole congregation lunch and hymn sing. Kyle told Hannah to find one of her friends to sit by. She immediately said, "I want to sit next to Jasmine." I was blown away. She actually chose a child to sit next to and then when we walked over there she really did want to sit right next to her. All throughout the meal she chatted with Jasmine and colored with her and shared her books with her. At one point Jasmine turned to me and said, "Can Hannah come to my house and play?" Hannah just got asked on a play date by another child!!!! It wasn't orchestrated by me or Jasmine's grandma, JASMINE asked if Hannah could come play and then several minutes later she asked Hannah, "Hannah, will you come to my Ariel birthday party?" (Jasmine will be 5 next month) and Hannah answered, "Sure!" I was almost in tears. During the hymn sing, Jasmine asked to sit next to us and she and Hannah read her Bible and Hannah's church social story together and Hannah kept scooting over closer and closer to Jasmine and then she started giving her hugs! She must have given her 15 hugs! Then she said, "I love you Jasmine." and kissed her on the arm. Jasmine just smiled and they both giggled. Then Hannah, sensing acceptance pushed it a bit too far and kept on hugging and touching Jasmine over and over and finally Jasmine had had enough and moved to sit next to her grandma instead of Hannah. She must not have held it against Hannah too much though because when it was time to leave she waved at Hannah and said she'd see her next week. I was so happy for my little girl. I think she has a genuine friend. We'll definitely have to continue working on boundaries and appropriate touching, but it was a big thing for her to even want to touch or show affection for someone other than family and an even bigger deal for her to do it unprompted. We worked for almost 2 years to get her to hug her best friend from Indiana either prompted or unprompted so for her to just decide to hug (repeatedly) a girl she has only known a month and only seen on Sundays was a HUGE deal.
Today Hannah had both speech and OT. At speech this morning the SLP gave her a standardized language test that they need to pass along to the public school system once she transfers out of early intervention at 3 years old in July. Hannah did a fantastic job and scored well above age level on the test. It was funny because Tracy, her SLP, was giving the test without even looking at the testing booklet until she reached a certain part and then she said, "In all my years working here I've never made it past this part. I'm going to have to read the book now!" She intended to test Hannah until she hit the ceiling of the test (basically maxed out as far as what she knew), but Hannah grew antsy and needed a break before that since she'd been testing for almost an hour straight and we were also out of time for her session so Tracy just ended the test there. When she stopped Hannah was at 4 years 7 months. Tracy said that she guessed (in her professional opinion) that Hannah would have maxed out at 5 or 5 1/2 years old! She's only 2 1/2! That really blew my mind. I knew Hannah was ahead of other kids her age verbally and even had an inkling that she was way ahead of other kids, but I had no idea that she was light years ahead of the curve. Three years ahead in language skills is quite a bit ahead I would say. The interesting thing is that although verbally Hannah has such a firm grasp on language, she has very little ability to decode (or even notice) nonverbal communication (this doesn't count sign language though, she's quite good at sign). Another thing Tracy discovered that she said is very typical of people with Asperger's is that she interprets language very literally. Idioms, metaphors, sarcasm are things that she will probably have trouble with down the road. She already displays a below average grasp of idioms. For example, Hannah coughed a really nasty sounding cough (remnants of the pneumonia) and Tracy said, "Do you have a frog in your throat?" Hannah looked at her like she was an idiot and said, "No, I have a cough in my throat." She was dead serious. Tracy explained to me that while at Hannah's age she wouldn't be expected necessarily to know exactly what "a frog in your throat" meant, she should understand that Tracy did not mean did she literally have a frog in her throat. We've noticed Hannah's literal interpretation of language for a long time, but never thought too much about it. I always just figured that it was developmentally appropriate for her age and left it at that. Apparently not in all the cases.
At OT Hannah got to try out several of the swings they had in their OT room. Kyle and I had planned to buy Hannah one of the therapy swings once we got settled into our new house and had even picked out one we thought would be good for Hannah. It turns out that they had that exact swing, along with several others and they let Hannah take them all for a test drive while they did a few informal tests on Hannah to get a sense for where her sensory needs lie. Hannah swung or spun on one of 3 swings (mostly she gravitated towards 2 of them) for 50 minutes straight without ever wanting to stop! They asked me if she can ever get too much swinging or spinning input and I told them that I had never managed to give her enough that she wanted to stop. I always wear out well before she does! I had told them before that she was pretty much insatiable and I don't think they believed me. Now they are definitely believers! For one of the tests they did, the OT spun Hannah very rapidly for several minutes and then stopped her suddenly and studied her eyes. I don't remember all the technical words she used to explain it to me, but basically in a normal person your eyes would continue to shift back and forth for a little while after you stopped until your body caught up with the fact that you had stopped spinning. If your eyes either don't shift back and forth at all or shift for too long then it is a sign that there is something off with your vestibular system. Apparently Hannah's eye shifting was very delayed and minimal. The OT said this explains why Hannah craves that kind of input and can tolerate all that spinning and swinging without getting nauseous or dizzy. When we were leaving the OT's assistant said good-bye to Hannah and asked her if she could see her again next week. Hannah shook her head and said, "No, I just want to see Stacy." Stacy is the head OT. The assistant, Katie, made a sad face and said, "Aww Hannah, that's too bad I really wanted to see you again because you are very intriguing." That made me smile because I thought it was a very good way to describe my little girl. It seems like all medical professionals, therapy providers, and educators find Hannah intriguing in some way or the other and I definitely find her intriguing! She intrigues me every single day!
Yesterday we finished fully implementing the Nurtured Heart Approach to discipline with Hannah. The consequences part of the approach has been rough for Hannah. The past two nights she has managed to spend all of her credits that she had saved up for bedtime privileges (books and song) on refusing to go to or stay in time out and having to be escorted there or helped to stay in the chair. I do think her empty bag of pennies each night has been effective and quite the eye opener for her. She has known each night why there were no books or song and I haven't had to be the bad guy by taking away privileges. She simply hasn't had any credits left at the end of the day to buy any bedtime privileges. It's too soon to say exactly how this is going to work for Hannah, but I have a hunch that it's going to work quite well. I'll keep you all informed on how it goes.
On a positive note, we've had several nights in a row where Hannah has stayed in bed once we left the room. There have been no incidents of intentional wetting, pooping, or throwing up in over a week and screaming has slowed down a bit too. Again, it's too soon to say if this is a definite trend or not. She tends to cycle through rough and easier(I can't say easy, but at least easier) patches of bedtime behavior, but maybe just maybe we are starting to get a handle on this and maybe the surgery actually had the physical effect we were hoping it would have.
Now, for my autism blogger of the day, JoyMama who writes Elvis Sightings. She writes about her two daughters and their life. Her youngest daughter, Joy has autism and is mostly nonverbal although she communicates quite effectively with picture cards and a switch with prerecorded choices programmed in. Her posts are always eloquent and sometimes even heart wrenching. Please check her out. Today I also have another favorite autism blogger to give a shout out to because her most recent post today made me bawl like a big ole baby. I honestly don't know how anyone can read it and keep dry eyes. So, please also head on over and check out Rhema's Hope who writes at Autism in a Word. I can promise you that you won't be disappointed.