SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gabe update

I know I just posted a video of Gabe playing basketball, and it tells a wonderful story about where he's at, but it's been a LONG time since I posted a real update on how our boy is doing.

We are thrilled that Gabe's health has been improving over the past 2 years. He still tends to catch viruses easier than most and is a bit sicker than most, but he's stayed out of the hospital. In fact, we haven't had to visit a doctor for anything other than an annual check-up in the past 2 years. The last virus Gabe caught was in late December when he got a stomach/vomiting bug. He was only sick 5 or 6 times. The last three times (going back several years) that Gabe had the stomach bug he threw up every half hour for at least 12 hours. It was actually a great encouragement to see him kick it so much quicker this time.

Gross motor skills still tend to be his strong suit (check out the video!). He can run, jump, climb, skip, dribble, and hop right along with the other kids his age. In many of these areas he exceeds the expected level of a 7-year-old.

Just today, the leader of our homeschool sports club was telling me how amazed they are at the change in Gabe's communication skills from last year to now. Not only can the coaches understand what he's saying, but the kids can too. Gabe has always loved to talk, he's just been difficult to understand. He has work to do. He struggles with the sounds that are made with the tongue in the back of the mouth--j, ch, and r.

Not only is his functional speech improving, but the content of his communication is advancing. He has always had a hard time communicating about a past event (even if it happened today). He seems to have a hard time absorbing a past-tense question, "What happened? What did you do? Where did you go? Who did you see?", as an understandable concept. Last night at supper I asked him to tell Daddy where he went during the day. After rephrasing it as, "Who did you see?" he blurted out, "I go to the Fosters, play with Alex, watch baby animals."

Gabe's greatest challenge has come in the area of fine motor skills. His fingers lack dexterity and their clumsiness frustrates him. We are working on self-dressing. We've been working on it for three years. We take itty bitty baby steps. We began with me laying the shirt or pants in front of him and then holding his hands and assisting him putting them on. I keep trying to draw back my involvement and today, for the first time, Gabe went to his drawer, found a pair of pants, and put them on with no physical intervention! (Yes, I gave some verbal instructions.) It was the first time his, "I did it all by myself!" was completely true.

Gabe is still homeschooled. He is learning to read. He knows all of his letters and sounds, has an arsenal of about 100 sight words and is able to phonetically sound out all first level words. He can count to 30 and with a little help get to 100. He's working on counting by 2s and 5s and finding a number on a number line. I just never thought about the fact that comprehending that 23 comes after 15 and before 40 might have to be learned and not just 'figured out'. It has been a fun challenge to find the games and methods that help him catch on to things like that. It makes me appreciate how complex our brains really are!

As we all know, who we are involves considerably more than how your muscles work and what you're doing in school. Gabe has a great imagination, sense of comedy, strong perseverance, and is very empathetic. He loves to go places but always wants to get back home. He loves loves loves his nieces and nephews. He's learned to be shy when he feels under pressure in the spotlight and he'll fidget with his glasses. He knows when he wants to be a ham on stage and when he absolutely does not! He knows how to push the buttons of older siblings or caregivers as he tests them to see how much he can get away with.

I used to call Gabe a tornado on legs. He's definitely calmed down and I'm finally not on high alert at all times. I'll still have to watch the doors in the summer, but every season, every year brings constant change and advancement. It's strange to remember that there was a time he wasn't a part of our lives. I almost can't comprehend what that was like. But, I'm enjoying the growing up changes and I'm still enjoying how slowly he takes it. Well, most of it, I will be very happy to see him independently taking care of all his personal needs! Like everything else, it'll come with time.

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