18 months home (and one week and five days) On September 2, we celebrated Nasko's birthday and his 18-month adoption anniversary. I wanted to write a developmental update on his progress, so here it finally is!
Cognitive: Things seem like they are really starting to click with Nasko. He's interested in learning and he's interested in things associated with academics all of a sudden. He asks to be read to and actually wants to do most (not all, but most) of the school work I set out for him.
Nasko can properly identify and name most colors (including grey and brown) and all the shapes. He is just gaining the ability to identify letters of the alphabet and some numbers.
Receptive Language: I no longer worry about whether or not Nasko understands what I am telling him. (If he's paying attention) he responds appropriately to most 1-2 step directions. He also surprises us by appropriately chiming in on "adult" conversations between Chance and I.
Nasko can identify most noun objects - in real life or illustrations.
Expressive Language: My mother laughed at me the other day when I called the doctor because of a possible ear infection for Nasko. I referred to him as "my non-verbal son" because he still isn't 100% reliable in telling us about his pain. It was the biggest lie I've ever told though. Nasko is anything but non-verbal. He talks alllllll the time. And if Nasko's talking, he's saying something important. Others don't always understand him (heck, we still don't ALWAYS understand him) but he's saying something with intent and meaning.
I can't even begin to guess how many words Nasko has in his expressive vocabulary. The newer words he's learning seem to be pronounced more clearly than the words he's said since early on. We're working hard to help him correct those old ones though, as he seems to have gotten lazy and hasn't worked to improve the pronunciation of those much.
Nasko started using pronouns a month or so ago, but he's just started using them correctly. He began by getting the pronouns backwards in conversation. For example, he'd come and get me to show me something in his room by grabbing my hand and saying "Show me!" Or when playing outside, he wanted me to watch him perform some trick and he'd say, "Watch you!" Now he seems to be understanding these better and using them appropriately. The other day at the park he pointed to something and proudly announced "I'll try it!"
Nasko no longer speaks in single-words or even short sentences. Everything is shared in paragraph form. For example, he likes to plan out his day when he wakes up, so he'll come barreling into our room at 7:00 am and say the following:
"Taty - no work today. Stay home. Take a shower? Nasko no shower. All done shower. Pants on? Too hot? Go outside? Ride car? Tattttttyyyyy... [because our tired minds are still resting and are ignoring him] stay home? Ride bike? Car car wash? [that's how he says "go to somewhere." He repeats the first word.] Ride bike car car wash? See brown puppies? Empty dog house? Nasko too big. [On the boys' bike route, there are multiple houses with dogs and no dog houses, but one has a dog house and no dogs. Nasko can't quite figure that one out.] Tatttttttyyyyy! [Still no answer. Moves to my side of the bed.] Mama! Baby Louis 'wake? Change diaper? Nasko snap [the onesies]. Eat donut? Stay in bed green light. Mama's van. Casey's. Eat donut. Chocolate rectangle. Mama lup! [get up.] All done night-night. Fan off. Mammmmmmmaaaaaa!"
See? I obviously lied when I called my son "non-verbal." Lord, forgive me.
Gross Motor: This domain has never been lacking, and it still isn't. Nasko has more physical strength and stamina than most children his age. Thankfully, he's slowed down quite a bit and become more obedient, so I don't have to keep up with him as well!
The day we brought Louis home from the hospital, Nasko was determined he was going to ride his bike without training wheels. Chance thought he'd take Nasko outside and help him practice. After twenty minutes, Nasko mastered the skill. His coordination is amazing if his determination is focused.
Nasko was able to learn to swim this summer too. We bought an Intex pool and it was the perfect height for him. One day he decided he was brave enough to swim across the pool independently. The next day, he learned how to do underwater front flips. Again, determination is key. He's still afraid to swim independently when he can't touch the bottom, but sometimes we appreciate seeing a bit of fear in his life, so we don't push him too much.
Fine motor: The strength in Nasko's fingers has increased greatly. He is finally able to efficiently use his silverware for entire meals. He holds a fat pencil with the proper grip and can draw circles, lines, crosses, and a few select letters. I can honestly say that his iPad has helped quite a bit with developing these muscles.
Social-Emotional: We still have lots of "undoing" to do in this category, but Nasko is slowly making progress. The other day at the park, he seemed interested in the other, unfamiliar children. He said "hi" to all of them, but obviously craved more. I pulled him aside and told him to ask the children, "What's your name?" Nasko ran off repeating the question over and over to himself (so as to not forget his line!) until he found a boy who seemed interesting. Nasko then blurted out, "What's your name?!" After some translation assistance from Mama, the boy said, "Sam." Well, Sam was missing his four front teeth, and that interested our future dentist, so he promptly stuck his finger into Sam's mouth. Later Mama pulled Nasko aside and explained that a more proper response would have been, "Nice to meet you. I'm Nasko."
Nasko has developed some healthy and age-appropriate fears lately. He is afraid of the dark! He now asks for us to leave the bathroom light turned on so that his room isn't as dark at night.
Nasko still talks about the orphanage once in a while. Certain foods or places trigger memories and he attempts to share them with us. He also still talks about "Koka," the mean caregiver. We think that she sometimes shows up in his dreams, because every night before bed, he wants Chance to hold him tight and say things like, "No Koka. Be nice. Love the boys and girls. Don't hurt them. You can't hurt Nasko. We keep him safe now." When things startle or frighten Nasko, we still hear him use her name. She had a very lasting impact on our boy.
On a lighter note though, he told us the other day that she wore low-cut shirts. Haha. Another reason not to like the woman...
Nasko has attached to us as his parents. Recently, we were at a birthday party with a giant blow-up obstacle course and slide. Nasko was running through the course with his friends while I was holding Louis and Chance was preparing snow cones. I asked a family friend to keep an eye on Nasko while I nursed Louis in the car. I realized though, that I forgot to inform Nasko of this plan. I could see Nasko from where I was, but he couldn't see me. Every time he went through the course, he'd come out and briefly look for us. He didn't really want to talk to us, he just wanted to know we were there. After a few minutes, he began to look slightly panicked. I hurried to finish up and reassure him that we were still there. He was fine after that reassurance!
Nasko is becoming more and more affectionate - in a genuine way. He's always been affectionate when in trouble or when trying to manipulate, but he honestly seeks physical touch when he's hurt or upset now. He seeks it the most from Chance. Taty is absolutely his favorite!
Self-Help: Nasko is SO independent now! I forgot how dependent he used to be, but not anymore! He can get himself completely dressed and ready. He can brush his own teeth. He would prepare his own meals, if we'd let him! He uses the phrase "Nasko do it. All by myself" hundreds of times everyday.
I honestly believe that Louis was a good addition for all of us. Nasko had to become more independent because he was no longer the only child. Chance and I had to encourage the independence, because, let's face it, we were exhausted!
Sensory: Nasko still has difficulty processing new and different environments. He occasionally reverts back to some orphanage behavior (mostly bolting away) if he's extremely tired. When life feels overwhelming to him, he focuses only on his hand to help him process. He's made great improvements and rarely demonstrates these moments of reverting back, but they're a great reminder of how far he's come and how much healing still needs to take place.
I recently reported on Facebook that Nasko no longer rocks himself to sleep. Our son, a former orphan, is overcoming some of the behaviors that have been ingrained in him since infancy, with the help of God's mighty healing.
We've been so blessed to be Nasko's parents for the past eighteen months (and one week, five days) and we're anxiously awaiting what God has in store for him - because we know it's going to be BIG!