Tag Archives: Tesser

Now We Know

I started thinking about it before she even existed. Long before she was born, I was thinking about it. When she came I was still thinking about it. And now the time has finally come to know for sure.

Tessa is on the autism spectrum. Her eval was last week and this week we got her diagnosis. 

Before she was born I was happy she was a girl, because I wanted a girl but also because girls have a lower incidence of autism. And after she was born I was happy that she was quiet and calm and looked at me.

But things changed. I started noticing things that weren’t quite right. I started making a list of them in my head. I brought in Early Intervention. I went back and forth on what to do, but I was always watching and considering.

Finally I felt like I knew what she was capable of. I just didn’t know if that meant autism or not. Her testing had virtually no surprises. I’ve seen the tests before and I knew what she’d be able to do and what she wouldn’t. I wasn’t surprised that her gross motor was a little behind but her fine motor was pretty impressive. 

So there it is. I’m already getting appointments scheduled. It looks like Tessa may be able to have one of the therapists Graham had before he aged out. I like that. I liked her, it’ll be nice to see her again. I have to figure out how we will fit therapy into our lives. It was a full-time job before, one I sat through hours of every day. That’s no longer possible. And I don’t really have anything beyond the vaguest idea of how to make it work. 

I’m not upset or angry. If anything, I’m relieved. A diagnosis means we have a path to take forward, one I’m familiar with. Without it I’d be wondering what I was supposed to do next to help her. I’m confident she’ll do well and be taken care of even if I don’t know exactly how it will happen.

The only strong emotion I fell was the giant exhale of finally knowing. It’s been in my head so long, causing me turmoil and worry and stress for so long, I’d already felt all that sadness. Now I’m happy to let it go and start moving forward.

Progress

With things in such upheaval, even normally “big” topics manage to get a little sidetracked. I haven’t talked about Tessa’s development since October, nearly 4 months ago.

I still haven’t had her evaluated.

That’s about to change.

I still can’t explain why I’ve been so ambivalent about her given my general gung-ho approach to early testing and diagnosis for autism and developmental delays. But I have. I suspect a lot of the delay has been due mostly to circumstances. The separation, divorce, working, moving Tessa to daycare, it’s all been distracting me. And giving me an excuse to delay. Let’s see how she’s doing. Let’s get her into a new situation and see what happens. She’s progressing, let’s see how she does.

But I’ve finally reached the point where it’s been long enough. She’s 2. We only have a year until her care is turned over to the school system. We need to move and if she qualifies for a diagnosis it’s time to get it.

I know it’s easy to see our pictures and think she’s a typical toddler. But she’s not. And it’s obvious to me. If you asked her, “Where’s your nose?” you wouldn’t get a response. Most likely she wouldn’t even look at you. 

Seeing all this, knowing it’s there, having known for a while, I’ve already moved into special-needs-parent mode. I celebrate all her small steps forward. I’m happy to see her develop in the ways she can. I appreciate her good humor when she has it. I don’t push my expectations beyond what she’s capable of.

So yeah. That’s where we stand. The paperwork is filled out. It’s getting sent off. And hopefully she’ll have an evaluation quickly. And hopefully I won’t be kicking myself for waiting this long further down the line.

 Progress

See that smile? That’s one of our newer developments. Happy Tessa has started to show up more and more over the last month or two. Happy Tessa isn’t the same as Easy Tessa, but there’s something about seeing your child smile when she normally has a vacant expression, it’s special.

And on the bright side? I see less of the gloom and doom, the worrying, the hand-wringing in myself. She is who she is. I want to help her be all she can. And maybe it’s just all the other crazy going on right now, but this feels like something I don’t need to feel anxious about. 

I guess she’s not the only one progressing.

Two Little Owls

I think it’s time for a little old-fashioned photo dumping.

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The elusive smiling Tesser Messer. So hard to get smiling pictures of this baby. It’s not that she doesn’t smile but they’re not as common as they once were and she doesn’t hold them for long. Luckily at the Halloween party we went to there was an indoor slide. Girl loves slides.

Girl has also been a good sport about her hair which continues to not part like a normal girl’s hair. She’s letting me put barrettes in it more often to keep it out of her eyes. But man I wish it would just part so it’s not always hanging down in her face.

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There was also much jumping. To me in these pictures Graham seems to look like he suddenly aged 5 years while I was looking the other way. 

The party was at Early Intervention. Graham’s old speech therapist was there. It was the first time she’d seen him in over a year. He is a totally different kid than the one she remembered. It was nice to be reminded of his progress. Graham didn’t remember her at all, I feel a little bad that these people who were so instrumental for us and for him are no longer a part of him that he knows.

My two little owls received many compliments. I am not much of a crafter, and on the day of Halloween I had to spend a few hours stitching on their feathers after they’d started to fall off. (Curse you fabric glue!) So I was grateful for the kind words. Graham enjoyed his costume, which was the most important thing. Tessa tolerated hers just fine, another win. Perhaps we can find a way to make our costumes out of hoodies every year?

Graham requested his costume be a rainbow owl. Which is just so totally him. I did my best to make his vision come alive.

 
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I haven’t been able to take many pictures lately and this was a perfect opportunity. I didn’t get much in the way of practice and working on framing and crafting an ideal image. But I got my two littles at ease and just as they are and that is just what I wanted.

One Problem, Two Solutions?

When Graham was 18 months old, he got an Autism diagnosis. He didn’t really have words. He didn’t understand much at all. He was often frustrated, regularly angry and difficult to calm. 

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Tessa is now 20 months old and I still haven’t taken her in for an evaluation. She is just now starting to show words. Her receptive understanding is limited. She is sometimes frustrated, usually mellow and has only the occasional meltdown.

 One Problem, Two Solutions?

I am trying to tell whether taking such different approaches to these two kids is a good idea. Mostly I’m trying to make sure that I’m not letting Tessa’s laid back attitude get in the way of her progress.

Part of me is stunned that I still haven’t taken her for an eval. I’ve had enough evidence to get one for months. I’m a huge believer in early diagnosis and therapy.

The problem is that part of me is watching her make progress on her own and thinking that it’s enough. 

Is it, though? She has things Graham didn’t have: a sibling who shows her so much more to model with language, play and behavior; parents who understand developmental delays and know how to interact with a child who has them; a group of peers at daycare where a bunch of the kids are close to her age. It’d be crazy to expect her to show as much of a problem as Graham had when she has so much that he didn’t. 

But once Graham was her age he started getting serious intervention. ABA 5 days a week for hours at a time. I just went back and read my post on Graham’s progress once he was getting 25 hours of therapy a week when he was 21 months old. I think of Tessa as being so much more advanced, but I can see that he’s basically caught up to her current state and with therapy he continued to make huge progress. Which means my baby girl, whose progress has been making me feel like she’s okay, will soon be lagging behind her brother. I should’ve known this, I should’ve recognized it. 

I don’t necessarily want to push her too hard. I don’t want therapy to take over our lives again. It was one of the reasons I quit my job last time and that’s not something that can happen again. 

On the other hand, I’m seeing her make progress on her own and I’m hoping she can keep going. Just this week her language has gone from occasional imitating of words as a game to doing them in conversation. Plus she’s finally starting to use words appropriately (“apple,” “no,” “mommy,” “daddy”). 

I don’t want to hold her back from her potential just because she’s so mellow that she doesn’t show her problems as easily. But I don’t want to step in and take over her life with therapy when she’s doing well on her own.

I basically don’t know what to think. Or rather, I’m thinking an awful lot of things and I don’t know what to do.

She’s always been a tiny and adorable mystery. And I still haven’t figured her out.

Brother and Sister Bonding

When you become a parent you don’t magically start enjoying things you didn’t enjoy before. Which means that even though I have a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old, I don’t suddenly enjoy playing the kinds of games that little ones enjoy. I know that part of parenting means doing stuff you don’t love, but the tedium of little kid games can wear on a girl.

Which is why I’m so thrilled about our latest sibling milestone: THEY PLAY WITH EACH OTHER.

I always knew I’d have more than one kid. And I always hoped I’d have kids who enjoyed each other. I know these things are hard to control, that there’s only so much you can do to make it happen. When I was little I was always solitary and preferred the company of adults to younger children, so I know this well. 

But you guys. My kids. They play with each other. They enjoy each other. The sibling annoyances are minimal. It is so freaking awesome.

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Tessa wants to do everything Graham does. She’s not always capable of it, but she holds her own most of the time. She likes the stuff he likes. We’re developing little rituals in our day. They play outside before Graham’s bus comes. After he gets home, Graham rides his balance bike around the sidewalk and Tessa pushes her little shopping cart. 

Often she just watches him, laughing with delight. 

He has become more tolerant of her when it comes to his beloved trains. 

In the car they’ve started tossing toys back and forth to each other and laughing.

We each hold one of Tessa’s hands when we walk.

It is supremely awesome.

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A lot of this has to do with Tessa finally getting comfortable enough walking that she can hold her own with him. She still has a little learning to do when it comes to going up and down stairs and ramps, but she’s competent. It also has to do with Graham’s growing appreciation of his peers. He loves playing with any kid and never notices if they’re his age or older or younger.

But so much of it is just that unpredictable unknowable stuff about your kids that you just have to let happen and see how it goes.

I know this may be short-lived. Tessa still isn’t talking and adding conversation to the mix could change things. There may be fights over toys and belongings. There may be more differences in what they enjoy as they get older.

They may never mesh again the way they do now, or they may always be close to each other. I don’t really know and all I can do is encourage them to care for each other and hope for the best.

Right now, though? I’m loving every minute. It fits with my parenting style. I tend to be minimally involved with the kids and their play. I tend to let them be independent and do things for themselves. I will play with them, but I encourage them to explore on their own.

I am trying not to get all invested in them as a super brother-sister team. I know in these early years things can change quickly.

So yeah. I’m enjoying it.

I’m enjoying the mornings Graham and I will wake up before Tessa. When we hear her voice Graham goes into the room and greets her and I melt.

I’m enjoying those mornings when Tessa and I wake up before Graham, how they spot each other when he comes quietly down the stairs and smile.

I’m enjoying when Graham’s bus comes, Tessa stops in wonder then runs towards it with delight, then cries when Graham gets on and she can’t join him.

The only thing I enjoy even more is the look on her face when the bus comes back in the afternoon and he climbs off. 

A Little Parental Catharsis

GAH.

You guys. This summer thing is not going so hot. I don’t know if it’s just today or this week or the weather or me or what. But today is not one of those good parenting days. Or good kid days. Or whatever you want to call it.

Tessa is her usual self. Long periods of contentment and independent play. But these sessions are punctuated by monumental freakouts where you are forced to think fast. Does she want milk? Does she want food? What kind of food? Does she need a diaper change? Is she cranky? If you do not figure this out correctly within 30 to 60 seconds, the meltdown can get bigger so that she will even refuse the thing she wants. It sucks. But I’m basically used to it and usually I can figure it out fast. This is exactly how Graham was except he was like that with everything, not just occasionally. 

The trick these days is working with Tessa, who could blow up at any time for no reason, at the same time as you’re working with Graham. He has a contrary streak that I just can’t figure out. Is it just a preschooler thing? An autism thing? A Graham thing? I have no idea. But it’s a thing I have no idea how to work with.

Discipline is something neither of us can figure out at the moment. I do not want to do it if he doesn’t understand it, but I have no idea if he understands it or not. 

Example: Graham throws something. He knows he gets in trouble for throwing. So I tell him not to throw or else there will be some kind of consequence, like losing a toy. (No big loss. He has many at his disposal.) His response is one of two things: a) he throws something else within a few seconds, while looking right at me, or b) he says, “I want my toy.”

Scenario A doesn’t really matter because if I warn him again, the whole thing starts over. If I take his toy he just freaks out and then eventually ends up in Scenario B.

Scenario B consists of the same thing every time.

Graham: I want my toy.

Me: Then stop throwing, please.

Graham: I want my toy.

Me: Then no more throwing.

And on and on. He gets stuck in some kind of feedback loop. I’ve tried other approaches. I’ll say, “Be nice,” or “Be quiet,” or “Okay,” or I’ll ignore him all together. Either way he continues to repeat. The repeats will get louder. And if he stops repeating he’ll start stomping feet or throwing or yelling. All while staring at me.

It seems like he wants me to know he’s angry. But I can’t figure out how I’m supposed to respond to make this stop.

Asking him “why” is useless as he doesn’t understand what that means, or if he does he can’t articulate his reasons. If he throws again and I remind him, “Graham I just told you not to throw or else you’ll lose a toy,” his immediate response is to start the “I want my toy!” cycle over again. 

We can go for days without this happening. But when it starts it tends to stick around for a while. Like I said, it’s some kind of feedback loop thing. 

I can handle either kid’s issues. I can handle both kid’s issues as long as they don’t happen at the same time. It’s that perfect storm of double freakouts that get me. Without some time to catch my breath and assess I tend to get frustrated, which only raises the level of Graham’s responses. 

I think we’re going to have to bring back the behavior chart. And positive reinforcement isn’t doing a whole lot either. If he’s stuck in a  loop of whatever kind, the promise of a positive thing doesn’t pull him out of it. It’s the exact same loop of “I want my toy!” Worse, he’s gotten in the habit of getting food and treats as a reward, which just make him more obsessive about getting them all the time. 

When we’re not stuck in that weird space in Graham’s head, it’s the usual stuff. “I’m hungry” every 5 minutes. “I’m thirsty” interspersed with that. The difficulty of trying to find something that will entertain a 1-year-old who has just started walking and an almost-4-year-old who turns on a dime. 

This morning we attempted a playground outing in an attempt to break the cycle and get everyone worn out a little bit. We arrived, Graham insisted on swings and was told to wait until I got Tessa settled. Luckily in her demanding squawks (stand? no. put you down? no. on the grass? no. the swing? yes.) she ended up on the swing. Gave her a few pushes, went to the other end of the swingset to get Graham seated in a big-kid swing. Then back and forth pushing them. (Because sitting right next to each other would be too easy.) Then Tessa starts a round of squawks. (out? yes. put you down? no. on the grass? no. standing with mom? no.) I eventually determined that she wanted to go to the little playground with the slide (she’s just had her first few goes down a slide and is fascinated with it) so we headed that direction. Of course she squawked the whole way because she didn’t understand that we had to go all the way around to get to the gate. Finally she settled. Graham tagged along. Set her on the little kid playground. She walked excitedly for a few steps. 

Then began the terrifying dance of spotting a 1-year-old on a playground where you’re standing behind them and then you have to get down as fast as you can to make sure you can guide them down the slide and they don’t fall off. Then back up, then jumping down, etc. T started a bizarre round of behaviors where she’d walk to the edge of the slide, I’d dash down and stand right next to it holding my hands out to her to help her down. Then she’d back up, squawk, flap her arms and rub her ears (what she does when she’s upset) and just stand there. This happened several times. We got maybe two little trips down the slide. And then when she was down the squawking began anew. I have no clue what it is she wants, but then again she doesn’t seem to know either so I guess we’re both in the same boat.

And in the midst of all this there is Graham to monitor as he has a tendency to start burying his trains in the dirt. 

Finally, at the 5th request for a drink we headed home amidst a chorus of whines. Ah, parenthood. We made it maybe 15 minutes max and were all drenched in sweat by the time we got back to the house. 

Oddly enough it seems to have worked. Graham’s taken it down a few notches. Tessa just went down for an impromptu nap (her morning one lasted only a half hour). 

And despite the fact that this morning drove me near the edge, I had a massively successful outing with the kids on Sunday. Every day doesn’t make me crazy. Just a few. More than usual. 

Also, writing this made me feel much better. So there’s that.