Monday, June 30, 2008

The Big Payoff

Jacob has been making some fantastic progress. Five years of therapies and programs and attempts to teach him basic skills with very little improvement has been so discouraging. And in the past few weeks he has exploded with understanding and compliance.

We have had very few aggressive outbursts, which has made a world of difference for us here at home. A few months ago,when Jacob seemed to be attacking Madison nearly every time he saw her, we knew something needed to change quickly. Chris and I sat down with Tyler and Maddie and talked about what we could do to help Jacob be more gentle and how to deflect his hitting and pushing and steamrolling without running away and yelling, which just seems to encourage him more.

Our solution was that whenever Jacob started coming towards one of the other kids, they would put their arms out to hug him, and tell him he's a good boy and that they love him. Tyler and Madison worked really hard to do this, and after a few weeks we noticed a difference. Jacob was responding and enjoying the reaction he was getting from being affectionate more than the previous reaction that he was used to. And now he wants to hug every chance he gets. He still rams into you unaware of the force behind his size, and we all have to be prepared to get knocked off balance, but it is a huge improvement and we are very pleased.

Jacob's receptive language is increasing more and more every day. We have been using the same terms and simple 3 word commands for so long. Years of Jacob only understanding the most basic requests had us doubting he'd learn to communicate any better. But, miracle of miracles, he is responding to our speech and surprising us every day.

Although his expressive language has not changed, this surge of understanding has made daily life much easier. We are more able to request things of him, and he is realizing what we expect.
Doesn't mean he always listens, autistic kids have a remarkable way of completely ignoring you, acting like you are not even there, when they are focusing on something else.

Jacob has had a fascination with Spongebob for several years. He has been drawing Spongebob and Gary over and over, improving the detail of his art each time. A few days ago I was trying to distract him from TV for a bit, and we got down on the floor to draw. I asked him to draw Spongebob, which he easily does on request, and then I continued with the other cartoon characters. I know he recognizes them by picture, but I was unsure if he would recognize them by name only. As I said, "Draw Squidward" (and Mr. Crabs, Patrick, Plankton, a Crabby Patty, a car, school bus) he knew exactly what I was asking of him and drew them all. And today we had a sitter here for a few hours, and she asked him to draw a flower, and he did. It proves how much he is beginning to understand words, and it is making me incredibly happy.

He has been stuck at the developmental age of about 18 months old for 5 years. All these years of trying to teach him these same things. All the disappointment when he did not understand despite hours and hours of attempts at teaching him, and finally it is paying off. He is making progress. Slowly, sometimes painfully slow, but progress nonetheless. I'm anxious to see how he continues to grow. I'm so proud of him.


Heidi said...


TC said...

That is so good to hear. It sounds like you guys are doing well. I am happy that you are happy.

Jaime said...

Love the hug idea! I wonder if this would work for everyone?!?

Jaime said...

Love the hug idea! I wonder if this would work for everyone?!?

Julie said...

We were so surprised and happy to see Jacob's behavior just as you described. This is the happiest we have seen him since he was 18 months old. And his understanding of language has advanced so quickly. We watched in fascination as he responded to full sentences. True, it is mostly command/respond now, but the wonderful thing is that he actually does understand and acts properly on it. Things can only get better!
Your family

The Mathews Four said...

What wonderful progress! I'm so excited for you and your family. The joy you must be feeling. I love you!

Amber said...

I can't fathom how proud you are of him, and I hope of yourselves, for all that hard work that you guys never gave up on!! Way To Go to your family!! That truly is wonderful news!!