Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Man Sized Jumps

There are so many developmental milestones that Tate did not reach on time. Many of them I noticed, but some I never even missed. Being an experienced mother I am sometimes shocked at some of the ones I let slide by without wondering about. Once in a while Tate will do something that he has never done before and I’ll think, “WOW! This is huge (several years late, but so cool)!” About a month ago, Tate started jumping from the second step on the staircase, skipping the bottom step. My other kids did this long before kindergarten. Tate is twelve years old and six feet, two inches tall. This is one of those activities that I waited for but it just never developed. Levi is only three years older than Tate, and Sydney is two years younger, so they were often jumping off of steps, small retaining walls, the porch, and many other things. I tried to teach Tate to jump many times but he just could not do it. He could “sort of” jump if he was on a flat surface, no drop involved, but even then one of his feet always followed the other so that it was a hop or a skip and not really a jump.

My other kids would holler, “look at me!” or “watch me mommy!” as they jumped off of things or ran through the house and jumped over things. There’s that joint attention that I often talk about, once again. Tate never wanted my attention in the way a typically developing child would, so he never asked me to watch him do anything. But truthfully, there was not a lot of excitement going on in his world to watch. Don’t misunderstand. I am head over heels in love with my guy Tate and he did not have to “do” anything to impress me. I spent more time with him than any of the other children, teaching him things, helping him with things, trying to pull him out of his private world constantly. He mostly wanted to sit and stim or stare at something. And now, I’m off topic again…  This post is about why Tate did not jump, not about why he did not ask me to watch him jump.  (See: Look What I Can Do!)

I believe that Tate has found it so hard to jump for the same reason he struggles with many things. It is called spatial awareness. Have you ever had your arms really full and tried to walk down steps without being able to hang on to a rail or to see exactly where your feet are? It can be a little uncomfortable. Have you ever missed the bottom step because you miscounted? Maybe you thought there was one more step but you were at the bottom already? Or you thought you were at the bottom but there was one more step there? That awful feeling you get when you cannot tell exactly where your foot is or if you are going to fall or not is probably an approximation of what Tate felt for years just walking up and down the stairs. It took him a very long time to be able to walk up or down stairs without a tight grip on a railing. He would walk up one step at a time, bringing both feet on to the step but never alternating feet and climbing stairs quickly as his peers did. Finally, long after he should have, he mastered the stairs. 

Tate does not balance well. Like many people with autism, Tate needs both feet firmly on the ground in order to feel safe. He has a really hard time feeling comfortable if he is leaning back or standing on one foot. Remember my last post about his first trip to the dentist? Lying back in the chair that moved was so frightening to him. We had to practice at home. Here's the link to that post.

Why has Tate suddenly started jumping? It probably has a lot to do with the development of some of that spatial awareness lately. Remember the bike camp I have talked about? He learned to ride a bike this summer! (See the link here.) I think the bike riding may have taught him a lot about spatial awareness. He can balance on the bike and has gotten so much more confident surefooted across the board. After Tate started jumping off the stairs it wasn’t long until he was jumping into the pool. I had all but given up on that ever happening! Big things are happening at our house. They may be baby steps at your house but they are man-sized jumps in ours, literally.

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