Cognitive: Nasko wowed his early childhood teachers during his end-of-the-year evaluation by correctly identifying the numbers 1-4 and the color red. He obviously still has a ways to go in these skills, but they were encouraged to see his growth.
At home, we've been working on shapes. My mom made Nasko a batch of sugar cookies that are cut into five basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, star, heart). When Nasko wants a cookie, he has to identify the shape that he wants. This method may be backfiring however, because my mom was showing him a triangle and circle in a book the other day, and he said, "Cookie?" :–)
I'm am blown away every time Nasko demonstrates understanding of new words and phrases. We can speak to him in very simple, but complete sentences. Rarely does he ever miss a beat! Many times, I say phrases, but honestly don't expect the appropriate response; for example, I told Nasko to bring me some books that he could take with him to a church service. He quickly disappeared and reappeared with his Bible and a board book. He put those books into my purse and was ready to go!
Nasko came to us with a VERY short attention span. We have seen that lengthen recently. He is now able to sit and watch 15-20 minutes of different Barney episodes on my phone (it loses his attention if it's on the TV still). This week, he even was watching and then repeating some of the familiar words he was hearing in the show's dialogue.
We've started telling Nasko "___ more minutes" when we want him to extend an activity. Typically it's used when we want him to lie in bed for a little longer. He completely understands that we are counting down and that he will be rewarded at the end of the minutes. Every night at bedtime now, Nasko signs that he wants to lie down for just "three more minutes."
Nasko is defying odds daily. He came to us severely delayed in speech. He was attempting to say around five words in Bulgarian. A typically five year old should be saying closer to 3,500-4,000.
Recently, I was wondering how many words Nasko had gained since coming home. I was guessing that he probably had around fifty. When my mom and I sat down to make a list, we came up with over one hundred and fifty!!! We only counted the words that he is using spontaneously and appropriately. We also gave credit for words even if not all the sounds are made correctly (ex. "daydee" is "baby"). Nasko isn't communicating as well at school or at church, but I'm guessing that is because he is not always understood in those settings. (Those caregivers don't get to hear him talk all day, every day!) As his mouth muscles continue to develop and strengthen, I'm sure he will attempt to communicate more often.
I have recently become brave enough to take Nasko outside of our subdivision on his tricycle. He is obeying the "bike rules" much better these days. (Stay on the road/sidewalk, stop and wait when a car comes, don't get off the bike, don't touch mailboxes etc.) I am continually blown away by how far he can actually ride, especially compared to a typical five year old. We've explored much of our end of town, including the nearby cemetery.
Nasko regularly plays at a small table with an office chair that we have in his room. He uses this desk as his office while pretending to be the "teeth doctor" or Dr. Allen (our chiropractor). Recently he asked to use a pen at this "desk." I was leery to turn him lose, but it has become good practice for drawing and writing. So far (knock on wood) he has only drawn in the notebooks provided, and not on my walls!
I made a variation of this activity which uses water bottle caps and the letters of Nasko's name to help him match his letters. We keep the activity at our dining table and allow him to complete it when he is done eating and is struggling to remain in his seat while Chance and I (and possibly our guests) finish our food. He matches the letters well, and is beginning to learn to pronounce all of them.
We've been playing with water a lot since the weather has been warm here, so I've (of course) been intentional about some of those activities. One day, I wrote Nasko's name in chalk on our sidewalk. I then gave him a small paintbrush and a pail of water. The idea was that he would trace the letters to make his name "disappear." He did well in the beginning, but eventually realized that dumping the entire pail of water onto the chalk was much faster than using the paintbrush!
I also brought out a squirt bottle (from the dollar store) and filled it with water. The muscles used to squeeze the water out are those same finger muscles that are so weak on both of Nasko's hands. Nasko loved squirting the house, the windows, the dog (ahem), and his parents (another ahem).
At Nasko's end-of-the-year meeting with the school, his teachers reported that he has begun engaging in parallel play with the other children. This means that he will play alongside the children, with the same types of toys, but won't actually interact with them during play. This is very typical of 2-3 year olds. Hopefully Nasko will continue to progress in this area as his language and other skills also improve.
Nasko is very impulsive - much like a two year old who is exploring their environment. We've been encouraging Nasko to "stay with Mama/Taty" as we walk through our yard, to the trampoline. We sometimes have to ask him to slow down, but most days, he will stay near us. It's becoming more rare that he is distracted by the tractor, his bike, one of our cars, or a blade of grass! :–)
Nasko has completely mastered "turn left" and "turn right", but I noticed he doesn't understand when I tell him "put your left arm in your shirt" or "where is your right foot?" I need to get out "The Hokey Pokey" and practice it with him!
Nasko has gotten past the refrigerator lock(s) recently and he is interested in helping himself to snacks and drinks. We cleaned off one shelf of the door to store healthy, ready-made snacks that he can access easily.
Our insurance will only cover a limited amount of occupational therapy, so we're taking a break for much of the summer. Nasko continues to squeeze things when he is anxious or overwhelmed. We have allowed his bear pillow pet to be his "punching bag." This is the only thing he can squeeze, punch, pinch, and kick without getting into trouble. Allowing him a safe way to release his tension seems to be helping.
We cannot believe that Nasko has already been home almost three months. Most of all though, we cannot believe the progress he has made in such a short amount of time. God is good, and He is preparing our boy for great things. We can't wait to see what is next!