I've been working on this update since Lucas turned 4 in October because it provides tremendous perspective to look at the leaps in his development, in this case between 36 and 48 months. Lucas is weighing 36 pounds and is 39 inches tall -- he's at nearly the 50th percentile for weight and 20th percentile for height for typically-developing kids his age.
At 4, most mornings, Lucas greets me with a huge smile and enthusiastic "hi mommy!" and often an unsolicited hug and kiss. He's energetic, lovable and always curious...I guess most people would call him "busy" as he can go from one activity to the next, although I've noticed lately, he can also play for 15 minutes at a time with his animals and/or Toy Story bunch. He is friendly and quick with a smile and "hi" to people in the grocery store, in the zoo, at school, everywhere! If you (or he) get a boo-boo, he's the first to kiss it and make it better. Although not fast, he's active...he loves to run around outside, especially chasing Roscoe, and can spend hours on the playground. He loves attention...often calling me into his playroom so I can see the puzzle he's working on or watch him sing, dance, or recite portions of the movie...if I'm on the couch, he'll say "get up, mommy" so I can join in.
Lucas started preK-3 at Silver Bluff Elementary on August 23, 2010. He is in a "reverse mainstream" class, which means there will be 12-14 children with an IEP (individualized education plan/some sort of disability) in the class with 3-4 "role models" (typically developing kids). Most of the children are older than Lucas and he's the only one with Down syndrome. The teacher, Ms. Morales, is a good partner and we're on our way to a productive first year in elementary school. Another great piece of news is that we hired an afternoon nanny, Stephanie, who picks Lucas up from school (at 1:50) and is with him until we get home around 5 -- Lucas loves her and she's a former teacher and dedicated to helping further Lucas' development...she's been a great addition!
He's become such a "boy" -- his favorite things to do now are wrestling with Daddy, Roscoe, as well as his "friends" (Buzz, Woody, Mickey Mouse, Handy Manny, etc.). He enjoys reading books and stories and watching Disney movies, especially Finding Nemo, Madagascar 1 and 2 as well as the Toy Story triology not to mention the "Mickey Mouse Sing-a-longs" (thanks to Nanny!). We're excited to have Lucas start playing games, such as dominos (the Toy Story version). We're getting him a computer soon as he's very fond of the website, Starfall (key to learning his alphabet and certain words), and is learning how to navigate using a mouse and keypad. He re-discovered his new favorite book "Where the Wild Things Are" and can "read" along to the entire story.
Lucas now can identify colors, shapes, and both the capital and small case letters of the alphabet. He also has a good grip on the phonetic sounds of many of the letters and often uses them when sounding out words as we read or he sight reads. For instance, he'll go "ppp" "pig" or "ttt" "tiger". Lucas loves playing "ABCs" using a magnetic board to have me spell words as he guesses them -- teaching him how to sound them out.
As with most kids with Down syndrome, his language continues to be the slowest area of development, and as a result, our primary focus. He continues to expand his vocabulary and has several hundred words in his vocabulary; he speaks in 3-4 word phrases or short sentences most of the time. One of his IEP goals is articulation of the "g" and "k" or the gutural sounds. We can carry on brief conversations such as "What is your name?" and he'll respond "Lucas Rhyneer"-- he can answer other questions such as "How old are you?" "Who is your teacher" "Who are your friends?" etc. He also knows I am "Sandy" and Daddy is "Tom" and his sister is "Tay-tay." He's also posing questions such as "Mommy, doing?" and "Where Roscoe?" with an inflection in his voice.
Lucas has a good handle on the concept of opposites. We're also working on sequencing (X happens first, followed by Y, and then Z) and rhyming words. He loves puzzles so we're using 24-piece floor puzzles to develop his hand-eye coordination, problem solving and fine motor skills.
He can count to 10 and even to 20 (the latter with more prompting and he sometimes skips a number or two), but we're working more on getting him to count "things" so the numbers have real meaning. He can count to 5 with some accuracy -- toes, fingers, etc.
Lucas has finally decided wearing glasses is helpful and sometimes even requests them. Behavior continues to be another area of focus for us. Lucas is listening more carefully and following directions better -- sometimes even 3-4 step directions. However, he still is very willful and theatrical when he doesn't get his way.
In the fine motor skills area, we're working on cutting with scissors and more coloring and drawing/copying lines. He knows how to eat with a spoon and fork, and although still a messy eater, he's getting better about it, especially when eating pasta (his favorite food). He's become more interested in helping with chores and the moment he feels I need help with anything says "Mommy, helper" and runs to my aid...he's also very helpful at the grocery store and can put his clothes in the hamper, get his pajamas and shoes, wash his hands and face, dry them, turn on/off the lights, and get on/off potty and flush (among other things), with little or no prompting. He can put on his clothes, including shoes, with little assistance, and can take everything off.
Unfortunately, Lucas lost physical therapy as a part of his IEP this year, which is usually the first of the supportive therapies to go. Although he's mastered going up and down stairs with alternating legs, we're still working on riding a tricycle and jumping. It's mostly about building up his strength, especially in his core. He can jump on a trampoline, but not from the ground -- even though he says "jump" and understands the concept, but can't execute it correctly. He loves the playground and gets around independently; he especially enjoys rock climbing (which is a great activity given it builds eye-hand coordination, strength, and reciprocal movement).
A big milestone is potty training. We started on "Black Friday" last Thanksgiving and over the course of 3 days, he went from Pull-ups to undies...and we were thrilled! He still has occasional accidents, and we're still working on getting him to request to use the restroom, which is coming along slowly.
Lucas has come a long way, baby! We're so proud of all of his milestones and look forward to continued progress and great memories in the coming year.