The stars have certainly been aligning and shining on Ethan these past several months. He has made enormous progress in areas like academics, behavior, self-help skills, hearing, and speech and language.
Parenting Ethan (or simply just watching the trajectory of his growth) has been the ultimate roller-coaster ride. We have always greeted hard news with optimism because Ethan always pulls through the obstacles put in his path. Hard times have consistently been followed with small victories in other areas. On the flip side, when things seem to be going smoothly, I’ve relished the days and been poised to accept the inevitable downhill aspect of the ride. But this time it feels different! We just keep going up. Sometimes we’ll even out, but rather than go back down, we stay and wait for the next big thing that he’ll say or do. He’s happier and more confident than ever.
2013 started out with the best mapping session Ethan has had in years. His faulty Ci in 2009 traumatized him to the point that he was terrified of going to the audiologist for the following 2.5 years. Our Child Life department shadowed us to the appointments and developed a picture book with pictures of Ethan and his audiologist to help him develop comfort with the process. After 3 years of baby steps, we finally got full cooperation from him during a session. The results: he’s hearing things for the first time and distinguishing between sounds like s/sh and many others. His speech is already much more clear and he attempts to say new things all the time. This all coincided with a huge cognitive shift in terms of his ability to understand and use language – not just produce the sounds of it. He is showing signs of reasoning and logic that we’ve never seen and that has resulted in far fewer meltdowns.
School could not be better. In the past, he has qualified easily for extended school year services over the summer break. This year I’m not so sure. He has had so many breakthroughs academically. Last year he didn’t understand the basic concepts of addition and now he is doing word problems in both addition and subtraction. Place value was understood almost overnight. It’s incredible to witness since we worried that maybe math was just too hard for him. He reads at grade level now as well, though comprehension is a much different story and harder to assess. Behavior at school has been terrific and I've been told that the kids love him.
Ethan has also showed great improvement in self-help skills. He is finally toilet trained! No accidents since November! (Nighttime is a different story.) He sees a tutor 3 days a week and loves to go to her house. He works so hard and now is dressing himself, putting on shoes, zipping up his coat, and eating with much better table manners. He also gets to play with her daughter and has developed some social skills as a result of their interactions. His tutor taught him how to do puzzles and now refers to him as the “puzzle master”.
Dazzler and Ethan are getting closer every day. He has learned how to put her into a variety of commands and she listens and does what he says. He has been mimicking me and calling her by nick names in a high-pitched voice – it’s too cute. We were at the store over the weekend and I forgot to take their tethering equipment, so I walked with Daz to my side and Ethan walked next to her. It seems the tethering experience has been imprinted on him because he stayed close and walked at our pace even without the physical connection between them. Considering the fact that he used to just sprint away from us, this was quite a big moment. We continue to be amazed by this dog and what she has done for Ethan and our family.
I’ve always dreaded summer breaks since Ethan does 100% better in the routine of school, but this year I feel a bit more excited about the time we’ll spend together. He has been such a happy, well-adjusted kid that he’s actually a joy to be around. It feels good after 7 years to be able to say that and honestly mean it. It’s not that he is challenge free, far from it. Now he is enjoying a level of stability in his moods and a surge in his progress and self-esteem has followed. We should all be so lucky!