Saturday 9 April 2016

Reading differences at the age of two

Today's post takes a look back at the differences between my two girls shortly after diagnosis. Sasha's lack of interest in books initially, and then when she moved on to repetition of the same few which she chose, was probably one sign of her autism. I've been reminded of how Sasha could count to ten in Spanish at the age of 2 and a half, thanks to Dora. I've just asked her if she still can do the Spanish (it's not been mentioned for ages) and of course she could.

Theme park picture with text Nickelodeon and mum Steph standing holding Sasha, with a lifesize Dora holding shoulders of Tamsin
This picture was snapped in a shopping centre somewhere - as you can tell from her face, probably not Sasha's favourite place. She was always a much bigger Dora fan than Tamsin ever was though!

I also mention below the first couple of books which I read on the topic of autism; there have of course been many more since. I think it's a common theme that many parents, after a diagnosis for their child, will find themselves with a very large pile of books by their bedside which rarely seems to get smaller. In a future blog post, I'm going to list some of the ones which I've found really useful, so I'd love it if you can leave a comment with any that you've found to be particularly good and that way I'll add them to my list and we can recommend them to others.

Posting some more random thoughts following tonight's bedtime..... bedtime is certainly another area of difference between our two girls. Character difference or learning ability difference, I'm not sure.

Sasha has never really been interested in books, unlike Tamsin who has always wanted at least one but preferably 2, 3, 4 or 5 stories before bed, as well as being keen on them at other times of day from a very early age. I remember back fondly to the time when Tamsin was around 1, and we would have the same book at bedtime for months on end - it was the Spencer bear book, with flaps to open and a soft bear to stroke on both the front page and the inside last page. Tamsin would stroke him until she fell asleep! Wobble Bear was another one which got repeated endlessly and was well loved. Tamsin has also always been a big lover of soft toys - we have LOTS and I can guarantee she would know if we took any one of them away. She knows where they all came from, which are hers and which belong to Sasha. Sasha has never really shown any interest in soft toys, apart from Terry Turtle, who has gone everywhere with her from a very young age - possibly because he is very easy to grab round the neck!! Lately she has taken to using him as a pillow rather than cuddling him, not sure why.

Tamsin has never been keen on going to bed to sleep, and sometimes does use books as a way of trying to make sleep time as late as possible (I'm sure this is a common theme with young children!). Sasha on the other hand, had what I considered a great bedtime routine (until fairly recently), where she was always happy to go straight to bed after her bath, and when I did show her a book she would flick through the pages as fast as possible then push it away. Things improved over the last 4-6 months and she will now happily sit on my knee for a book at bedtime, but 90% of the time it has to be a Dora book (fortunately we have a few!) and even now she's not interested in hearing the story. Generally I can just get one, or at a push two sentences out per double spread, while she tries to race ahead to the pages she knows (Map or Backpack pages being the favourite - I'm guessing because it's a familiar format) or look under the flaps. She likes to say the word for every item in Backpack (although to a stranger the words would be hardly recognisable) but will only move on when I've repeated the word after her. This is similar when she's counting her numbers up to 10, and although she will do this sometimes without me repeating them, she won't move on when she's counting up to 7 in Spanish unless I repeat! For some reason she has dropped the number 6 in Spanish and won't be convinced that seis comes inbetween cinco and siete - not that I'm complaining, any numbers in any language is great!!!

Now whilst I'm sure she isn't the only toddler not wanting to sit still for a book, this did make me think again tonight about what's the difference between this and other 'normal' toddler behaviour? Well the answer is that it's not just this behaviour, it's all the little things that I've been mentioning, and more, which all add up.

I've read one great book on autism so far - Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm. It was a great concise introduction to some of the behaviours and challenges faced, and in only slightly irritatingly American-speak :). Now I've started my second book, which is The Autistic Spectrum: A Guide For Parents and Professionals by Lorna Wing. Both have been eye-opening and struck chords in slightly different ways - the first more emotional and the second a lot more practical. Lorna Wing explains that autism is now considered to be a cognitive/brain development issue rather than an emotional/how the child is brought up one. After just a couple of chapters I'm already intrigued and would love to get a brain scan for Sasha, although it's debatable whether this would actually bring any conclusion.

There are 3 milestones coming up for Sasha which I'm slightly dreading. Potty training, losing the dummies and taking away the bedtime milk bottle. I've been using the excuse that she doesn't understand/grasp concepts and explanations very well, but I'm not sure if it's me trying to chicken out of them really. . All of them will be trying in their own way, but will feel like a real sense of achievement when they've happened. Sure it's easy for other people to say 'oh go on, just do it!' but the reality of being down on your knees scrubbing the floor and repeating yourself for at least 4 days (and that's what it took Tamsin is not one I relish! I'm also thinking that keeping the dummies until after Sasha's first flight in an aeroplane in May would be a good idea, as they are a tried and trusted way of calming her down (amazingly, chocolate doesn't always work ;) ). Daily now I do feel like Sasha is understanding more and more 'concepts' - maybe it's all been the hearing which has affected her speech and in turn had a knock-on affect on her understanding? Or is that just wishful thinking.....?


For more information on autism please do visit and for more information on the specific type of autism Sasha has (Pathological Demand Avoidance, or PDA), please visit

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