November 22nd, 2011
The first day I met him I was so very worried. He was completely blank, with no affect at all. No smile, no eye contact. Just a whole lot of nothing. I worried. Did he have autism? Would we ever be able to reach him through the severe damage done by 7 years of institutional care? I'll admit, my confidence was low.
That first day I estimated his overall skills to be somewhere around 9-12 months. He was SEVEN years old. SEVEN! I was going to arrive home on our doorstep with an infant in the body of a seven year old who was really the size of a 2 year old. This was going to be a big adjustment for our family.
This video was taken on the 2nd or 3rd day with him. It was VERY difficult to get any eye contact from him, and certainly there were no smiles. And if he had a dangly thing? You could pretty much forget any interaction. The thing that stands out most to me is his tongue. No wonder his ENT asked about reducing it! Look how hard he sucked on that thing!
It sure didn't take long for Asher to start coming out of his shell. He ADORES both Angela and Axel. As soon as he hears one of them playing in another room he's headed in there. Tonight, even though he was tired and snuggled up on Daddy's lap, he opted to investigate a new toy he heard Axel playing with. He's also very attentive when Axel (or anyone else) is trying to show him new signs, but Axel is his favorite teacher.
We just finished Asher's assessments for school. His skills now sit anywhere from 9 months (fine motor) to 2 years. However he can follow directions quite well, especially considering he's still learning English. He's also starting to categorize things. For example, I might say, "We're going for a ride in the car. Get your shoes." and he'll come back with his jacket. LOL That just shows he understood we were going somewhere and knows he needs certain items in order to go. He's also started telling me things that he wants, like bringing me my purse to say he wants to go somewhere.
We started potty training a couple weeks ago, but it's really been tough when there is hardly a day when we're home all day long! But, he will now stand and pee at the toilet almost as soon as I get him there!!! That is HUGE, and especially funny to me since another young man in the house wanting nothing to do with standing! LOL Asher still has to figure out when NOT to go, but we're very close. Today we had to run all over the place to a couple different doctor's offices, so he was in a diaper, but he kept that diaper dry all day long, even through a nap! He peed on the toilet every time I brought him. If I can really stay focused (because it's all about the mom not getting distracted) he might just go to school next week in underwear. Oh, that would be so nice!
Asher is also starting to make more spontaneous sounds. Getting his tonsils out has played a huge roll in this. He couldn't get sound past them since they were completely obstructing his mouth. He also has more room for his tongue in there now too. He's consistently saying "mama" paired with the sign. His speech therapists will be thrilled to know he's now answering "yes" to some questions, although if you didn't know him you wouldn't recognize his sign for yes! LOL He does it kind of backward, and by throwing his arm in the air. Here's a list of signs he uses on his own now:
eat more bath all done
shoes socks jacket milk
potty shirt jump yes
go ball car bed
pillow mom dad Axel
Asher's motor skills are really coming along too. Here's a video of him walking during one of my first visits with him in Serbia. You'll notice he's very toddler-like in his walking, hands in the air for both balance and because he couldn't see.
I took this video a couple days ago. Totally cracks me up as he's trying to figure out this business of swinging his arms. But there is more to it than that. This is a video of a little boy who once had very limited exposure to the outdoors. He's just HAPPY in this video. One very happy little boy.
He totally "gets" jumping now, and if you hold his hands for balance he can get both feet off the ground! YAY Asher!
Here's another fun video from today. Axel was standing behind me making funny faces and Asher was imitating him.
But this one totally cracked me up. A video of Asher watching a video of himself. (so when you're hearing me talk, you're actually hearing the video.) He LOVES watching videos of himself now, and if I want him to practice making sounds I just need to put it on video and he'll do it. LOL
Asher has come so very far in such a short time. We are thrilled with his development so far and can't wait to see what the months ahead will bring for him. We're anxious for him to start school and be around other kids who are jabbering away, and he's so eager to learn! We often talk about that lost little boy I met just a few short months ago, and how he'd still be sitting in that same room dancing the same pieces of thread day after day. Instead he's here, with us!!! This child radiates PURE JOY!!!! Every single morning when he wakes up I thank God for giving me the pleasure of seeing his adorable smile yet again. At least once every day Asher will come strolling through the living room and suddenly grin. It's as if he's thinking to himself, "I can't believe this is my life!"