Jake is one cool kid.
He's funny. He's athletic. He's disturbingly charming when he wants to be. He has huge brown eyes that everyone comments on, even now. He was born 8 days late with a full head of dark hair (umm, and weighed 9 pounds, 13.5 ounces. Yup, it hurt.)
I share this list not because I think everything about a person can be neatly categorized and explained, nor because I see Jake as a sum of these traits - there are days I rarely think of them at all, except as a touch-point for how to react to certain behaviors - but because I want to quickly give the reader some perspective on the things I write.
The good stuff:
Jake hit all his physical development benchmarks at the appropriate time; he has always been strong and athletic, walked at 10.5 months, and could outrun me by the time he turned 2. (Yes, this is sometimes a problem.)
Cognitively I always knew that Jake was fine; the kid knew what was going on. Even when he wasn't communicating verbally, he was following directions and letting me know what he needed. The older he gets, the more disturbing it is how advanced his math skills are. (He did not get this talent from me.)
Jake has thrived in mainstream schooling thus far, mostly due to wonderfully supportive and patient teachers. In the right learning environment, Jake is a helpful, sweet, and friendly student.
Jake's spatial reasoning is off the charts. He was putting puzzles together and operating electronics before he turned one, and this skill gets more distinctive as time goes by.
Jake's memory is amazing. He often tells me in great details about things that happened years ago. When he gets a new obsession (like Bakugon) he can instantly memorize 100 new characters and terms (and then tries to explain them to me, wondering why I'm clueless.) He has recall memory that allows him to grab a case from the DVD stack and say "Can we watch Season 4 disk 2 of this show? It has that episode that . . ." And he's always right.
The main things we have struggled with in Jake's development:
At Jake's birth, the physician noticed a slight heart murmur, a tongue-tie, and a chest abnormality. The heart murmur self-corrected. Tongue-tie discussed below. The chest abnormality (pectus excavatum) is a mild case and at Jake's 6 year check-up, the pediatrician was pleased with the bone growth and said it will most likely not require surgical correction.
Jake had a delay in both his speech and his articulation. We figured out when he was almost 4 that the articulation was from a tongue-tie, which we had surgically corrected. (It was also affecting his ability to move food around in his mouth, giving him extreme texture issues.) The atypical speech development, however, was a more complicated fix.
Jake has Sensory Processing Disorder; the main struggles when he was younger were tactile defensiveness, auditory defensiveness, and sensory seeking. (Sensory seeking children crave the deep muscle impact that is felt by very tight hugs, running and jumping, or falling to the ground from a distance. Jake is often found climbing furniture and jumping to feel himself hit the floor.) He also had extreme food aversions but is getting much better as time goes by.
Jake has seemed to have varying forms of social anxiety through the years. Sometimes it has been related to his sensory issues - if he knows he can't process the interactions, he just doesn't want to participate. Sometimes it has been a shyness thing, sometimes it is plain stubbornness. Jake has at times been selectively mute, but it's almost always in public and he recovers once he's safe at home.
Jake is a classic example of ADHD. Always moving, very impulsive, constantly seeking stimulation. The kid has so much energy you'd think he is on speed. He also has hyper-focus for things he is very interested in, such as Wii games or Bakugon toys - he will spend hours in these activities if allowed.
Jake's thought processes mirror a lot of characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome (especially lack of cause-and-effect reasoning, difficulty understanding abstract concepts, and trouble with social cues), however in his evaluations Jake narrowly missed being officially classified with an autism disorder.
What the evaluators WOULD officially say is that Jake has a "complicated profile" (umm . . . duh?) and seems to especially have trouble with "executive brain function," although further information on this term has been hard to come by.
(*edited: at Jake's 7 year check-up - September 2009 - Jake's pediatrician pretty much out of the blue told me that Jake seems to have Asperger's. My inner reaction? REALLY. DO TELL. Even after that conversation, it took 9 months of bothering his office before he would put it on paper for the school system, and at that point he backtracked. *facepalm.* Total time that has passed from the time I called him, crying, convinced Jake was autistic, to when he TOLD ME Jake seems to have Asperger's? ALMOST FOUR YEARS.)
Jake also has allergies which cause chronic ear infections (and he can't localize or verbalize pain well, so I often don't know about the ear infections until they're really bad), and to make life even MORE fun, he gets chronic nosebleeds because of some annoying blood vessels in his nostrils. There is a surgical fix, but in some cases patients have lost their sense of smell afterward, and I'm not ready to risk that, nor put him under again if not absolutely necessary. Good times, good times.