My last post was about how Gio had made it into regular kindergarten. He is almost four months in and he's made INCREDIBLE progress. Although we've had much to celebrate, he had a minor setback in July. We went to Mexico with my dad and brother and were there for about a week and a half. Previously, Gio was saying several words and using his talker frequently. One of the last days we were in Mexico my brother noticed that Gio no longer wanted to say words he knew very well. He stopped saying "gracias" and "mas," two of his most frequent words. He would cry when he needed something which was strange for him to do. He isolated himself from the rest of the family, as well, even though he had become such a social person. I dismissed it thinking he probably just missed home. When we finally did get home, these new habits didn't go away. I became worried because old habits were seeping through. He started panicking at situations he had become comfortable with. He stopped completely verbalizing any sounds and started humming them instead. I could barely get him to use his sign language. He was starting to show less interest in being social and it worried me because school was starting soon. I made an appointment with a psychologist to see if my fear of him being dually diagnosed with Autism had come true. She commented on his growth and was very impressed with the progress he had made, but she also noticed how he had no interest in being verbal. She took away my fear by ruling Autism out, that wasn't her concern. Her concern was that he was not motivated to be verbal and that we had learned him so well that he no longer felt the need to communicate with us. She said we needed to push him to talk again, children with down syndrome, as well as any other child, will usually stop doing certain things if they feel it is unnecessary. Why put in more work than is needed? I needed to put him back in speech therapy as soon as possible to give him the extra support he needed to be motivated. Thea idea of going through speech therapy again tired me because we had struggled so much with the last therapist not speaking Spanish that I felt it was a waste of time. The psychologist assured me we would find someone who would be bilingual and could give Gio what he needed. I agreed to be put back on the waiting list and went home feeling a little hopeless.
Gio started kindergarten in August. His first day was probably more rough on me than it was on him. The first week was actually hard. Once he saw how big his class was he didn't want to go back. He cried the first two weeks of school at drop off every day. It hurt me so much to see how much he didn't want to be there, but his teachers assured me that he was fine throughout the day. As the days went by, it got easier. Now I drop him and my sister off at the front door and he walks himself to his classroom. He has many friends and everyone in his classroom looks out for him. He is an excellent student from what his teacher has told me, as well as the class clown. He loves making the other kids in class laugh. All of this has completely diminished my fears I had of him struggling in school and being anti social (and having Autism creep up on us). The first couple weeks when he was struggling, his teacher asked if I didn't think the classroom setting was too much for him. I immediately said no, that he was capable of being successful there. I had my doubts though. I felt bad for possibly giving him too much stress or anxiety. I questioned if I had done the right thing. This wasn't the case at all. Gio is making more progress than was expected out of him. Continuing to prove everyone wrong.
Four months into the school year and Gio recognizes every letter in the Spanish alphabet. He knows his numbers up to 20, and they are learning numbers up to 50. He can add single digits and he can write his name. He can make all the sounds of the letters and I'm almost positive he is starting to read. He continues to be extremely social and loves school. In speech thereapy, he is working on putting the sounds of letters together and with some help he is forming words again. Gio's confidence is shining. I believe he wouldn't have made such progress had I given into other people's opinions of my son's capability and put him in special Ed. If I had given into my fear of putting too much pressure on him, he wouldn't be where he is right now. I admit I have my doubts at time, but I haven't ever given up on him.
Gio isn't only excelling at school, he's growing as an individual. Gio is independent and loves to learn how to do things around the house. He and I live alone and, although he makes his messes as every child does, he helps me so much. I've had several talks with him letting him know that he needs to help around the house and he cannot be lazy. He has responsibilities and there are expectations. He has to pick up after himself and put his dishes in the sink. Although I have to remind him to do these things, he does them with no hesitation. When I'm not feeling well or if I'm tired, I just say the word and he quietly watches a movie next to me in bed. He doesn't go wild while I sleep and he will even hug me or bring me a water to make me feel better. One Saturday morning, I told him I wanted to sleep in and he went to the living room to watch a movie. A few minutes later, though, he brought me "breakfast." He got a carton of juice and a pop tart and put them next to me and tucked me in and tapped my head and went back to the living room. Gio has such a great understanding of his environment and I truly believe he has a sixth sense when it comes to how people around him are feeling and what they need from him. If you've read any of my earlier blogs you'll know how hard it was to do anything with him. He had so many misconceptions of his environment and was so miserable that it made doing anything extremely difficult. Something as simple as running to the store for milk was dreadful for me. I hated leaving the house with him because I never knew what was going to trigger an outburst from him. Now that he is older, he is actually who I lean on for many things. We've grown together. I've helped him deal with his surroundings and he helps me stay grounded and patient. Gio has taught me so many things about myself and the world in general. I can't ever repay him for all he's done for me. All I can do, is help guide him to continue being the amazing, charismatic, and happy child that he is.