Symptom Check, 26 November 2011

Autism is defined by symptoms, and I observe Martin’s daily, so it seems reasonable to share regular updates on where Martin’s symptoms stand. Here is the status check, for Saturday, 26 November 2011.

Sleeping: No issues. We’ve been traveling more than a week. Martin has taken advantage of every hour of rest we’ve afforded him. A couple nights, when we were on a plane or rising early to catch a plane, he did not get nearly enough sleep. Our fault. Other than that, he’s been going down for twelve hours. He has appeared tired/fatigued during the day, which may be attributable to heat (it must be 87 degrees in Buenos Aires today), pollen (falling like raindrops from the blooming trees), or general over-excitement.

Attention: Not great. Name responsiveness is low. It’s been tough to get him to focus, or even to look at the camera for pictures. Granted, he’s been photographed eight million times in the last week and may be growing tired of it, but he usually does better.

Mood: Also not great. Cranky. Clingy. Doing a lot of complaining that he wants to “go back to the hotel” or “go back to New York.” I don’t blame him; traveling makes me cranky, too. And the appeals for hotel or home seem to be obvious responses to unfamiliar situations, and what Martin must perceive as chaos around him. Plus, his bad mood has resulted in some solid sentences, like, “I want to get in the airplane and go back to New York.”

Language: So-so. On the one hand, pronouns continue to be an issue. Lots of echolalia and its corollary, using “you” instead of “I”—such as “You want more water” when he means “I want more water.” On the other hand, we’ve been getting some unexpectedly original sentences. In addition to the aforementioned pleas to go home, there were “I see mountains through the window”; “There’s a flag on the boat”; and “That’s one sailboat. That’s two sailboats.”

Self-stimming: Today he’s been thrusting his jaw forward, some. Also he’s been tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling and tensing his facial features. But overall we’ve seen relatively little self-stimming this week.

Physicality: Of late, I think we’ve made the most progress in physicality. Martin appears more aware of his body. He’s now telling us when he’s hungry (although he doesn’t generally use the word “hungry”; in its place he says, “You [I] want to eat”). He’s doing a little better at keeping his “toddler training pant” dry, so long as we remember to sit him on the potty often. He’s steady on his feet and pacing himself well when holding hands with me or Adrian. When he walks or runs alone, there is some disorganization, but less than previously; in terms of movement, he looks more like a neurotypical kid.

Breakthroughs: Two points to note. First, for months, we’ve been working with Martin on learning to pucker and blow. He can blow a pinwheel now, though only in short bursts, and not a deep, extended exhale. This morning he discovered blowing bubbles with his straw in his beverage. Hurray for Martin! And what a pain for me and Adrian! All he’s wanted to do today is blow bubbles; I’m not sure he’s actually drunk an ounce.

Second (caution! graphic scatological content to follow:), after lunch today I sat Martin on the potty, where he “did his poopies.” When he had concluded (or so I thought), we had this exchange:

Me: “Are you all done?”
Martin: “No.”
Me: “Do you have more poopies?”
Martin: “Yes.”
Me: “Well, go ahead.”

Indeed, we had this exchange six consecutive times, and each time Martin in fact did have another bowel movement. We must have been in the bathroom fifteen minutes. Finally I asked again, “Are you all done?”, and he said, “Yes,” and climbed down from the potty. This may not sound like anything worth writing home about—or in my case, worth subjecting my blog readers to—but it really speaks to the improving body awareness. Good work, Martin.

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