Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lucas at Five = Mr. Independent

This new year, I'm recommitting myself to blogging to keep Lucas' fans posted on his latest adventures, especially since this is "the" big year of transition to kindergarten. Gasp! There are days I can barely wrap my head around how much he's grown and how quickly the time has flown as it was just yesterday he was in the NICU and we were praying to get him home.

Lucas turned 5 on October 15th with the following stats: 38 pounds and 40.5 inches -- a nice size kid (especially for one with Down syndrome). He continues to be lovable, curious, and every day, more fiercely independent with his own opinion about what he wants to do and how he's going to do it. He's developing his own personality which includes a silly sense of humor...he loves to crack us up and make others laugh with him and at him. He's even developed an "angry" face which he shows off on command, especially when you don't agree with him or let him have his way, which is often!

Lucas started preK-4 at Coconut Grove Elementary in August 2011, in an inclusive setting where half the kids have an IEP (individualized education plan/some sort of disability) with the others serving as "role models" (typically developing kids) -- Lucas is the only one with Down syndrome. His teacher, Ms. Michele, is militant -- but kind -- with high expectations and a duty to ensure she prepares all her kids for kindergarten, which is exactly what Lucas needs. He has been responding so well to the buddy system in school, as he's been paired with a friend who provides support and encouragement in areas where Lucas struggles. The after-care situation has been tough. Although Lucas (and we) loved his nanny, Stephanie, who was with us for nearly a year, she left for graduate school and her replacement, Logan, was only with us for a few months until she found full-time employment. School lets out at 1:50 PM so we've opted to drive him (thanks to my sister) to private preschool in the afternoons, where he's enjoying making new friends.

He's currently into (in no particular order):
  • Animals (farm and wild) -- Lucas is an animal-lover extraordinaire...he loves the zoo, loves to feed them, brush them, ride them (including Roscoe if he gets a chance), "read" about them, and loves a Sprout show called "Zaboomafoo" -- his favorites are horses as he loves to feed them apples and carrots, lions and monkeys, although he has a thing for penguins too (he's my kid after all!)
  • Puzzles (floor and table-top) -- he loves building maps of the US and the world and knows where all his favorite people live, from Seattle to Miami! He's starting to build 63 piece puzzles, which require patience on both our parts
  • Wrestling (especially with Daddy and Roscoe)
  • Playing games such as Uno Moo, dominoes, Don't Spill the Beans
  • Playing with his train sets and Playmobil "safari" structure/animals/people (he does a lot of imaginative play)
  • Toy Story triology -- Lucas loves anything TS and his buddies Woody & Buzz.
  • "Where the Wild Things Are?" book, animation, stuffed thing/animal
  • He could live off pasta, quesadillas, tacos, tomatoes, grapes, oranges and bananas!
  • Like his mom, the kid likes to travel! 
  • Quite the film buff, Lucas requests countless replays of his favorites (usually involving animals), including Toy Story, Lion King, Kung Fu Panda, Lilo and Stitch, Curious George -- although he's not allowed any movies during the week
  • The iPad and iPhone, navigating through educational apps and on Netflix to play his favorite movies or kids' shows
  • The water...beach, pool, water name it! He started swimming independently this past summer and is a good judge of how far he can swim before he needs to retreat back to the edge
  • The playground/jungle gyms...from swings to slides to rock climbing and when he's feeling brave, trying monkey bars
  • Tae Kwon Do...he's a white belt and starting to following commands and learn to kick, chop, and sit like a little warrior
As I mention every year and as is true of most kids with Down syndrome, his language continues to be the slowest area of development...however, he continues to grow his vocabulary and is mostly speaking in 4-6 word phrases or short sentences. He's started using pronouns and connectors, such as "of" and "on" and even "and"...he often strings a bunch of words together to form a "Lucas" sentence so needs a lot of reminders to "use all your words." His articulation is also improving and now he's understood by most people, most of the time...the "hard" sounds such as "g" and "k" still allude him...but he's showing improvements there too as he's finally able to say things like "cat" clearly. He's asking more "what" "where" questions. He knows the days of the weeks -- his favorite is Friday which means "pizza and a movie" as he'll remind us every Friday morning.

A very exciting milestone is that Lucas is really starting to read...we've been using "Hooked on Phonics" (thanks to my friend, Kerra, who used it with her daughter) and he's starting to get the "an" (pan, can, ran) and "at" words (bat, cat, rat) and reading short sentences with those words. I can see the wheels turning as he sounds out letters and strings words together! He also knows a bunch of sight words. We've been working with him to build some reading skills so he'll be a little ahead of the game when he starts kindergarten, since reading is such an important academic skill in that grade.

He can now rote count to 20 (and is understanding counting beyond as in 21, 22, 23, etc.) and even counts objects past 10. We recently took him to the eye doctor and although his vision is bad, it hasn't gotten worse in the past year...we're still kicking ourselves for not buying stock in 4-eyes because although knows glasses help him see, he has an endless supply of frames that are trashed.

Lucas' attention span and focus has improved significantly and he can now concentrate on a task for longer, even one he's not as interested in. We often hear he's well behaved with others, saving his brattiness for his parents...he continues to be willful and theatrical when he doesn't get his way...wonder if he'll ever grow out of that?! Another area of focus for us now is teaching Lucas to "keep your hands to yourself" as he lacks boundaries -- he will go up to a stranger and take their drink and drink from it (if we aren't there to stop him!) or touch/embrace someone if the mood strikes him -- I don't condone that behavior because although it can be "cute" when they're little, I certainly don't want a 15 or 25 year old who I don't know, hugging's not appropriate. Luckily, Lucas has never been a big huger or loving on strangers so I think this will be something we can curb before it becomes a problem as he gets older. The "keep your hands to yourself" is also working nicely on the playground when he wants to push thing is for sure, he's no shrinking violet...the kid stands up for himself!

The other program we're using is "Handwriting without Tears" which is a multi-sensory program to help with fine motor skills, specifically handwriting. I'm encouraged he's starting to write some letters independently, including "L" and "T" and "O" and has written most of the alphabet (and done a pretty good job) using this system. It also has a great CD to reinforce the concepts. We highly recommend it!
Although it sometimes takes a while to accomplish, Lucas can put on his clothes, including shoes, independently. He's such a boy as he selects his clothes based on what's at the top of the pile...although sometimes he does put together some cute outfits. Another huge milestone (drum roll please!)...he's finally potty trained! I can now tell him to go pee (he often needs reminders) and he can go all by himself and even wash his hands (most of the time!). Wiping is another story...he's actually not too bad, except for trying to use the whole roll of toilet paper if I'm not looking!

In the gross motor skills area, Lucas is now jumping OFF the ground! YAY! He's been wanting to jump for so long that it's satisfying to see him get it and the pleasure he gets out of doing it...especially jumping off any (not too tall!) structure. The next big goal is getting him on a bike.

Lucas' 5th year was filled with lots of triumphs, progress, change and maturity...for all of us. I sometimes reflect back to what it was like when we first heard his diagnosis -- when he wasn't even an hour old -- paralyzed by fear, where all I could see was the Down syndrome and not, my son. But, we've gotten to know our spunky little man and given how far he's come at just 5, I fully expect he will be able to accomplish many goals and fulfill his own dreams. For now, I remind myself as I look back to how far we've all come "I wish I would have known then what I know now" which gives me strength and hope when I start to worry about the future's thing is for sure, we will be his biggest cheerleaders, rooting him on every step of the way. Here's to another year full of health, happiness, growth, learning, new friends, great times and lots and lots of love!

Here's Lucas' annual "year in review" -- enjoy!

1 comment:

Jen Blume said...

Such a great kid - and great parents! You've come a long way and done it all with humor and grace. Can't wait to see what the next five years bring.

xoxo Jen