I have organized a developmental timeline for Liev. As he gets older and I watch other children, I can clearly see he is different. I will be posting information on my blog for future reference and to help me process where he fits in on the “normal” scale.
Liev’s first 17-18 months were normal. I’ll be focusing on recent history and his emerging development.
My pregnancy was normal, except for the week before his due date when my amniotic fluid became low. To monitor this, I went in for non-stress tests and ultrasounds every other day until I was induced on my due date. My delivery was uncomplicated, although the “pushing” phase lasted about 3 ½ hours.
Milestones in the First Year
Our next several months would be familiar to any new parent. Little sleep, poopy diapers, blissful moments. Keeping track of his development, I faithfully read Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler’s Your Baby’s First Year, Week by Week. Liev followed the development schedule outlined in the book. All our pediatrician well-visits were normal. Generally, Liev developed cognitive skills early, fine motor skills on time and was a touch slower to pick up gross motor skills; nevertheless, he was not delayed. He said “Mama” at five months, used it at seven, waved at eight, and used a handful of word approximations, pointing to communicate well before ten months. He walked on his first birthday to hearty applause.
Only two problems stand out from his first year, and both concerned eating. When he was an infant, he had reflux problems. He was never put on meds, and the pediatrician assured us that the issue would resolve when he was 4-5 months old. But we were proactive. It was distressing to hear him wail and moan as he fell asleep, frequently whimpering as he slept. Elevating his crib helped moderately. Since I breastfed him, I found that changing my diet practically eliminated the problem. If I gave up dairy and gluten, he had minimal colic. If I supplemented with formula, only Nutramigen would work. If I cheated on my diet, the reflux would be back, especially if I ate dairy. I never wanted a gooey pizza so much!!! Our pediatrician supported my diet changes, saying that sometimes it helped.
As our pediatrician predicted, his problems resolved when he started solids (4-5 months). Liev loved solids, and we followed the doctor’s recommendations religiously. The only problem we had with solids was texture. He refused chunky textured foods (crunchy finger foods okay) until 15 months, then he embraced chunky foods and usually refused table food (until 17 months). For the next two months, he needed “applesauce inducement” to eat. Even now, applesauce does help the meat go down, although he eats a variety of table food with moderate enthusiasm.
Not Talking Much at 17 Months
We were amid a major life change last winter, so Liev had a final appointment with his pediatrician in January, serving as his eighteen-month well visit. My only concern was that he was not speaking much. He had spoken many words, but he seemed to lose them–he used to say “mama,” “boo-ah” (papa), and “gaa-a” (our dog) frequently, but these words vanished. Our pediatrician reminded me that children in dual language households often talk later. She also stated that at 18-19 months, he would have a developmental “language explosion,” and everything would level out—he would learn a few new words every day. She said that some children do loose “mama” and “papa” at this age, but it will return soon–don’t worry until closer to his two-year well visit. Liev always had a good relationship with Dr. Settles–good eye contact, curiosity and a touch of affection from the start, so she did not feel there was anything I needed to be concerned about.
Despite the huge changes associated with the move from New Mexico to New Hampshire, Liev did exceptionally well. In late February, the two of us were scheduled to stay in our house for a week without furniture (except his crib and changing table) before flying out. After the movers came, and Liev saw that everything was gone he explored each room cautiously and then went on a running and laughing hyper-spree. I settled him down, but sleep did not come easily to him. The following day, he adjusted to the newness by nightfall. The ensuing parade of Merry Maids, carpet cleaners, maintenance men, realtors, and prospective homebuyers, however, caused Liev more distress than the lack of furnishings. A friendly housekeeper triggered twenty minutes of inconsolable crying, unlike which I’d never seen before. Heh. That was nothing!
The Airplane Ride
I bet every parent whose kid has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder has a moment of shocked disbelief when they first suspected that their child was not typical. This would be my moment. Instinctively, I knew that the flight would distress Liev more than the “average” child. I prepared for the sixteen-hour ordeal extensively. I read “traveling with children” books and printed out material from the internet. I jammed our carry-ons with toys, meals, lollipops, pacifiers and enough books to make my spine shoot sparks a week later.
Liev was an angel for eight hours in, right until we hit the waiting lounge at Atlanta. Let me stress that, not a single problem until after eight hours! He had his first meltdown after I took a toy from him. The toy was newish and seemed to frustrate him. He squalled piercingly for ten minutes (I don’t give back a toy once I’ve taken it away).
Numerous intense fits struck later, like aftershocks from an earthquake. Mortified and perplexed, I tried everything I could think of to soothe or distract him—comforting, reading, wheeling him about. The more I tried, the worse it got. He eventually cried himself out, and I parked us in a quiet corner while he sucked vigorously on his pacifier.
Oddly enough, other “stressful” events did not bother him. Take-offs and landings were placid. Trips up and down the crowded aisles were unproblematic and filled with sympathetic smiles from other moms. Seat-kicking bothered me more than the lady in front of us. Finally, Liev did not fuss when he was separated from as we boarded the plane across the tarmac. A burly skycap carried him, car seat and all, through pouring rain and up steep steps into the plane. I sensed that it was great fun for Liev. As the skycap fitted him into his seat, Liev watched him and smiling and touched his face.
The remainder of the flight was uneventful until landing in Manchester. I waited until everyone had disembarked before removing Liev, who was playing with my cell phone. The moment I took the phone away from him, he had the mother of all meltdowns. I’ve seen nothing like it before or since. He screamed, cried, and thrashed with such intensity I was genuinely alarmed.
To make matters worse, the car seat fastener became entangled with the plane’s seatbelt. My backpack fell, toys clattered everywhere. Three concerned flight attendants looked on, confused and cautious while Liev continued with his category five meltdown. Looking into our faces and listening to Liev, I genuinely felt that maybe all this was wrong and that something was wrong with my son. A few minutes later, a stalwart senior flight attendant arrived and helped us out.
After the big meltdown, Liev recovered quickly and settled in unequivocally into his new room. Our entire move to temporary housing did not seem to trouble him. He just said little and would point, fuss, or help himself when he wanted something. It is worth mentioning that I took pains to have a similar crib with familiar sheets, and bedtime toys present for his arrival. I also shipped or packed his best-loved books and toys to minimize the impact of the move.
Overall our life went back to normal with no resurgence of uncharacteristic meltdowns. The transition from temporary housing to our new home six weeks later was a breeze. Liev was “hyper” upon exploring our new home, but that was a normal thing for him.
Life at temporary housing was the start of an intellectual burst for Liev. Since our pediatrician in New Mexico had stated that he would have a burst of language at this time (17-18 months), we just assumed this burst of ability was a variation on normal.
Liev pointed out colors and to identify alphabet, shapes, and numbers 1-10 at about 18 months. Over the summer he became obsessed with reading, books, and page numbers. We had behavior problems (sleep disruptions, meltdowns) in May when Egor’s mother came from Russia to stay for two months. Since I recalled similar difficulties when she came before, I thought little about it. I assumed it came from the divergence of parenting styles and personality.