Between ages 1 and 2, we were learning about and adjusting to Liam’s likes and dislikes – what would trigger a crisis and what would calm him.
He definitely liked having a set schedule, one that allowed him to get a nap and eat precisely when he was hungry. (I will talk later about his sensitive system and low-blood sugar). We began to adhere to that schedule faithfully. It was quite a change from our pre-Liam days. We would find ourselves leaving family or friend events early, or arriving late, depending upon when Liam needed to eat or nap. As a family, this adjustment made us happy – or at least it kept things “even.” Less meltdowns and stressful times for Liam – happier, less stressed parents.
However, it definitely changed our “relationships” with others. My mom’s advice was that “the child should live with you, not you with the child.” Friends eventually stopped inviting us to parties, dinners, hang out, because we either declined one too many times (due to the time of the event, or possibly the amount of people who would be in attendance), or because of Liam became agitated if we stayed too long. We became a family who stayed in. We ordered in, instead of going out to eat, because that was a long amount of time to expect Liam to “sit still” or “keep quiet.” It’s much like our life is now – quiet and without too many events on nights and weekends. We do go out to eat, thanks to devices. Quite honestly, when he was older, the Nintendo DS was a huge blessing. (Yes, I have felt really guilty about how much time he has spend on devices, but we’ve tried meals and events the other way – not working!)
Additionally, we found out the toys that Liam liked (in addition to videos), and environments that would keep him content. In the picture above, you see a foam floor that Liam loved to play with – he was mesmerized by numbers and letters. He would play with them individually, like a little girl might play with dolls. (In fact, I think I’m the only parent on the planet who put the alphabet in “time out” because it wasn’t playing nicely with others).
This passion (preservation we would later learn it was named) shaped his literacy and numeracy skills: he was hyperlexic early on. We embraced his “talents” amidst the difficulties. We would have him count, a lot. We were impressed and rightly so. He is not a savant, but definitely excels in math and music. He could name a letter from us humming the song that was assigned to that letter on the alphabet ball. He has a great memory, but probably not an eidetic one. Once, when I accidentally called the image below a “piano,”
Liam sighed, “No mom, harpsichord.”
He also liked confined spaces: hence, the huge box in the picture. Thankfully, we had to get new appliances during this time period. He would draw all over the inside and outside of the boxes (mostly with numbers and letters). Boxes were safe places he could play securely in. When he became stressed and didn’t have a box to which he could retreat, he would circle a playground, a living room/kitchen (if it was open enough to do so), a lobby, reciting the alphabet.
He was telling us in many ways what made him happy and what he did not like. Once we clued in to how he was communicating with us (having a regimented schedule helped us notice these things more clearly), we could anticipate and avoid his feeling distressed. So, while the world saw us jumping through hoops to make our kid happy, we saw it as creating a nurturing and peaceful environment from which we all benefitted greatly.