Our family pays no heed to the milestone lists. While Nate hasn’t mastered many of the milestones that are published in books, he has forged his own bright path, creating new and inventive milestones that we think should be considered by scientists and doctors alike. (Ability to shoot hoops, anyone?) Nate does accomplish some of the published milestones though not necessarily in the age time frame that the publishers of many books suggest. However, when he does accomplish them, he hits them out of the park. Case in point: walking down stairs.
This is baby Nate. I couldn’t find a recent picture of him on the stairs so this will have to do….
With the help of physical therapy, Nate’s learned how to walk up stairs without crawling or without the aid of an adult. He sometimes uses the railing but, often, builds up enough steam to just plow right up to the top. Getting down, however, is another story. We have a baby gate at the top of the stairs to prevent Nate from hurling himself down stairs or from accidentally falling. However, out of the blue, Nate turned the stairs into a game. Now, he marches up the stairs, stops half way, and marches back down. Just like that. There’s some railing holding involved on the way down but he can go up and down stairs without an adult hovering to prevent a fall. And Nate’s pretty darn proud of his newfound freedom.
Nate’s also mastered drinking water from a cup. He had his last bottle at 18 months when he stopped drinking breast milk. Nate transitioned to sippy cups with a spout and, by age 3, had moved on to sippy cups with a straw. When he started public school, Ms. Susie and I started Nate on drinking from an open cup because that was age appropriate. Turned out, Nate wasn’t ready for it so we reverted back to the sippy cup with a straw (which is also age appropriate) and waited for Nate to tell us he’s ready for a change.
Over the winter break, Nate independently declared freedom from the toddler cup. We have a water dispenser on the inside of our refrigerator (you have to open the door to use it). Out of no where, Nate went to the drying rack, took a cup, opened the fridge, dispensed water, and downed it. Sometimes he totes the cup around carefully (filled to the tippy top, of course) but most often he just enjoys his cool refreshment. We’re still using sippy cups with straws, mainly to prevent a flying basketball from spilling the water or to keep Pete out of the cup, but Nate can now help himself to an open cup of chilled water whenever he’s thirsty.
Which leads me to the next milestone, apparently the milestone because it’s the one that everyone incessantly asks me about: potty training. I genuinely think that adults some how equate intelligence to age of potty training — or at least that’s how it comes across — because it’s a point of pride and a topic of constant conversation with people who do and do not have kids.
If you recall, we’ve been down this path before – twice before, in fact. We started potty training in September 2012 and it was derailed by the one-week power outage from Superstorm Sandy, which meant we had no heat. We resumed potty training last year at this exact same time and we worked on it for 7.5 months to no avail. He went every half hour at school and at home for 7.5 months. By the end, we learned that Nate had extremely strong bladder control (he was dry throughout the school day and overnight) but wouldn’t use that bladder control for good. By the time extended school year rolled around in July, Nate was angry every time he saw the toilet and it was no longer a positive experience. So we put a pin in it until the academic year began.
When we returned to Ms. Susie’s class, it still didn’t seem like the right time. Nate had significantly regressed in his skills over the summer and Susie was re-teaching skills that Nate had mastered in the previous academic year. Having a potty interruption every 1/2 hour on top of his hourly sensory diet left little focused time for academic work so we held off until the first major vacation of this year: winter break. Nate’s home for 1.5 weeks, plenty of time to practice his new skill. But then Nate was on medication so we lost the first few days. On the 26th, we got the go-ahead from Nate’s pediatrician and potty training began in full force.
I refuse to put pictures of Nate on the potty on his blog so here’s some cute shots of Nate when he was wee.
There are two primary reasons why we’re potty training. One, it’s age appropriate. Two, Nate’s in size 6 diapers. For those of you not in the know, that’s as big as they come – so once he outgrows these, we’re in trouble. (There’s apparently Good Nights pull ups that are bigger but, boy, are they expensive!) And, for kicks, I’ll throw in that we’re really, really, really tired of cleaning diapers. Nate is 4 years and 7 months of age. That’s a lot of diapers.
So we started, in earnest, and announced this enterprise on Facebook where friends of neurotypical children shared the hints and tricks that worked for them. Sticker charts. M&Ms. A diaper bye-bye party (which actually was pretty brilliant but Nate would only use the occasion to eat cake). Folks. We’re not dealing with the average bear, here. We’ve got sensory issues, we’ve got social issues, we’ve got issues. So, five days in, here’s what we’ve learned:
- Nate has stellar bladder control. He’s ready for this — but we just have to figure out how to get him to release the bladder control when he’s sitting on the potty. Case in point: this morning. Nate woke up after 11 hours of sleep dry. He sat on the potty for 45 minutes. We sat in silence, we sat in conversation, we watched the Daniel Tiger episode about going to the potty, and I read him the Tickle Monster book, which required me to tickle Nate multiple times. Nothing. Finally, we gave up and I put a diaper on him. He peed.
- Nate does not understand the concept of treats. His reward is a DumDum lollipop (we call them lollis). Friends and therapists said we should show Nate the treat so he knew what he was working for. He was excited to see the bag. He even picked out the one he wanted (blue raspberry) but he didn’t use the potty so he didn’t get one. So, Nate hurt himself in frustration. That was the end of us showing him the reward.
- Nate sat on the potty every 30 minutes for two days. We had no wins but the adults did have delicious cocktails each evening.
On her winter break, Ms. Susie has generously been checking in with us and we’ve shared the issues. So, we’ve come up with a new plan. Knowing that Nate doesn’t go potty in public (he comes home from school & shopping dry) or overnight, these are our best opportunities to score a needed win. That win will result in a lolli, which will hopefully trigger the “oh-I-get-a-lolli-if-I-pee” association. Throughout the day, Nate’s sitting on the potty to keep the habit up but it’s not with such intensive frequency (which was making Nate made) and we haven’t any expectation that something will happen. I always control when potty time is over – if he wants to get off the potty, we count to three and then he can get up.
They say third time is the charm but, really, Chad and I are jaded. Maybe jaded isn’t the right word — exhausted is more like it. During the break, we’ve had Nate just in underoos (he peed and was surprised but that was about it), in underoos under a diaper (which he doesn’t seem to mind if it’s wet then), and naked (even though we watched him like a hawk, Nate peed and we didn’t notice until Pete strolled through the puddle). Nate can’t just wear underoos at school because his ankle braces aren’t washable, so accidents will ruin them. Susie asked if we could go a few weeks without the braces, which we could in theory, but I haven’t much faith that this will all be wrapped up in a few weeks’ time seeing as we’ve worked toward this goal for nearly a year.
You’ll hear holler about the first win on Nate’s Facebook page. In the meantime, we’re just reveling in our newest milestone wins, which are the biggest accomplishments we can celebrate.