Today’s been a full day, and it’s only 3pm.
Since Asher’s been doing so well with us, we felt it was okay to bring him out into the community. Today there was a magician assembly at the school, so we brought him. Inevitably, he got a lot of attention. There were a number of times that he turned his head when we introduced him to people similarly to how he did it when he first met us. It was apparent that having so much attention from so many people was a little overwhelming at times. But all in all, he did wonderfully – better than we could have expected. Interestingly (or not?), he took to the children at the school faster than he did to the adults. Even with adults with Asian features like his own, he just doesn’t want to associate a whole lot at first. Our Mandarin speaking friends even have trouble getting words out of him, though it’s probably because he’s just meeting them for the first time. We toted him around the school for a bit and let him play on the playground. He even got to join the girls during their recess, which was great fun for him and them. They love showing him off. Here’s a video of Asher going down the slides on the playground:
We walked home after that, and we wanted to spend some time reading to him. One of our language goals for him is to get him to learn his colors. Whenever we’re outside, we try to point to things that are yellow and get him to repeat the word. He’s had trouble with that – he just starts calling everything yellow. So, we wanted to use a book and some legos to help him understand the concept. We tried to read a couple of books, but he has no patience for that, so we moved on to the legos. We put some legos on the board separated by color and pointed to each, saying their name. Again, we started with yellow, and asked him to find yellow ones. He kept bringing different color ones, so we modeled yellow for him a number of times. With how well he’s grasped other words, we figured this would be an easy one for him, but after 5 or so minutes of practice, he still wasn’t really consistent in pointing out yellow blocks (got it a few times, but could be just guessing). We looked up the Mandarin word for color – yanse – and we would go to each color saying “yellow yanse, blue yanse, red yanse” etc. He still didn’t seem to understand. At this point, I wasn’t so much getting frustrated, but wondering why there was a hang up. A few thoughts occurred to me: 1) he might not have learned his colors at all yet (though his original medical file from 6 months ago says he can recognize the color red), 2) his dialectical word for “color” might not be the same as standard Mandarin, and we might have a problem with translation, or 3) he might be color blind (though again, the medical file says he could recognize red 6 months ago). As a last ditch effort, we called over our house keeper, Sun, to have her talk to him. We asked her to ask him some questions, none of which he could answer:
- Where is the yellow/green/red block?
- What color is this? (pointing to different colors – he couldn’t answer)
- Are these two colors the same? (holding up both a red and a green one – he said yes)
- What is your favorite color? (no answer)
It was so odd to us that he couldn’t do this as he’s been so capable in just about every other area. We’ll work on it some more later, but I (Russell) have this sneaking suspicion that he’s color blind. He’s usually fairly organized with his things, but in the compartmentalized lego tray we got him, he mixed up all of the colors indiscriminately. That along with the color difficulties just don’t seem to add up. Time will tell – not too worried about it at this point.
Following the color activity, we asked him if he wanted to do an ABC puzzle with us. We got it out and started working on it, and he joined, but quickly lost interest when we tried to help. So, he started pushing the pieces around messily where we were building. I asked him not to, but he continued, so I picked him up and set him down away from the puzzle. In Mandarin, I asked him if he wanted to do the puzzle and he said no. That was fine, we continued to work. He went over to the telephone and started pushing buttons. From where we were, I told him no in a firm but calm voice. He continued pushing buttons. I asked again in the same way, he looked at me and continued. So, I made my voice even more firm without raising it or shouting. He continued. In the book we read, The Connected Child, they say that eye contact is important, so at this point, we went over to where he was, turned his face toward mine (he resisted quite a bit, but not to the point where we had to forcibly wrench his head to see me) and resolutely gave him a “No, Asher” while pointing to the phone. Of course, he reached out and touched the phone one more time. Aarrgh..
At this, I picked him up and set him in a chair in the middle of the room for a “time in.” We don’t want to seclude him away from us. He understood he had to stay in the chair, and he did not leave from the spot. But his body language changed – he became rigid and cold, and he began grunting and pulling at his shirt. It was very obvious that he was upset with us (or maybe just me). Jess and I went back to building the puzzle, and after a minute or so I asked him if he wanted to join. He gave me a head shake and an angry grunt and kept pulling his shirt. We went over to him after a bit and sat near him, trying again to get eye contact. He avoided our eyes like the plague, and was grunting and shouting angrily so we just sat there for about 5 minutes just trying to get his eyes before moving on. It was clear he wasn’t budging, but he also wasn’t being violent, so I picked him up and he began bawling. Not so much an angry cry as it was just a broken, sad cry. He’s done this once before, but this time it was more intense and lasted about 20 minutes. Jess and I passed him back and forth a few times, rubbing his back and still trying to get eye contact. Finally, we took his shirt off and rubbed his back and he started to calm down enough for us to get eye contact. It was almost like he was giving in to it. We made face to face eye contact and told him over and over again that we loved him (in both English and Mandarin), and he finally started to calm down. Five minutes later he was smiling and laughing again as we prepared for lunch.
I think we handled this breakdown fairly well. And even though he was completely distraught during the episode, it wasn’t like he hit or kicked, spit or ran away. He just sat pulling his shirt and stewing for a while before breaking down and crying. This kid is pretty special, and even if the breakdowns do get worse, this one actually gave us some confidence.
Bonus video 1- Asher and I playing ukulele very poorly to the song show he likes:
Bonus video 2- Asher playing the xylophone keyboard in the playroom. This kid loves music: