90dB of freedom, kind of…

Mommy I'm here CL305
Mommy I'm here CL305

I've mentioned here a few times that Billy has a problem with wandering away from us and getting into trouble. We employ a number of solutions to help at home (hook and eye latches at 5 feet on the screen door on the front, multiple door locking mechanisms on the main door itself, and using our alarm's "Stay Instant" feature), and thus we feel relatively confident we won't have any incidents at home under normal conditions. But sometimes we have to leave the house for something other than school (who uses constant supervision and a door wedge at roughly 4-5 feet high to make the door difficult for children to open (adults have no trouble)) and as Billy gets older, carrying him everywhere isn't a useful strategy, or practical.

Now, I'll say this, and you're probably thinking that given 3 seconds with your back turned, the kid will be halfway to the nearest busy street crossing. No, that'd be easy, because it'd be predictable. Wandering isn't driven by just walking aimlessly – it's done with a purpose, and a goal. Normal kids would communicate that goal to parents, and you'd either at least be aware of what the plan is, and have a chance to join them, let them go, or stop them. Many times, Billy cannot (or does not see the need to) notify us of what he wants or what he is planning. Billy knows quite well what his plans are and what his goal is, he just doesn't share it with us before silently disappearing. You'll turn your back to do something and 9 times out of 10, he's still right where you left him, counting things, or playing in the rocks, or whatever it is he's doing at the time. It's that 10th time that he has found something more interesting, and has no reason to communicate it.

So in comes the Mommy I'm Here CL305. We have tested it this weekend, and it seems like it's useful enough to do what we want to do.

The basics are this:

Child wears a teddy bear with a radio transponder and a 90dB siren in it. It can receive signals from your parent remote from up to 150 feet.

You wear/carry/whatever a parent remote, which receives signals from the transponder, and warns you when the received signal level from the bear is weak – corresponding to roughly 20-40 feet of distance in open space. (this is affected by things like people in between you and the child, or metal furnishings (metal folding chairs, cars, grocery store racks, etc)

When this threshold is crossed (it seems like the bear pings at about once a second, and missing two pings seems to be the threshold) your parent remote will begin chirping loudly (the volume and sound is similar to an alarm clock).

At any time, the parent can press and hold a button on the remote to sound the child's alarm, which is roughly the sound of a smoke detector. It's very loud, and anyone seeing a child running making that sound is very likely to try to intervene, or at least won't forget which direction the child just ran in. When the parent releases the button, the sound stops immediately.

This product is much cheaper than many on the market (though many of the more expensive ones are GPS/cellular based, or are literally run by LoJack and based on the same RDF technology as the stolen car trackers. so there's a reason for the price discrepancy) and involves no subscription fee, and my personal favorite – does not require assistance from law enforcement to use. It does have the downside of having to have been set up and turned on when the kid wanders, but because you're notified when the kid gets about 20 feet away, if you do this step, you won't have to worry about GPS signals. You can't just have it on and then turn on your remote when you want to find the kid, as they pair when first turned on, so your remote has to be turned on with the child nearby in order to work.

It does what it says on the tin, and while there are circumstances where the parent alarm can sound at perfectly benign distances, they generally worked as advertised, and I'm glad to have another tool in our toolbox.

So here's some pictures of Billy's sensory tent, and just a goofy picture of him.

Billy's "Train"
His sensory tent contains a super soft Angry Birds pillow, a fleece Angry Birds blanket, an inexpensive rain stick, and the rug is a soft, fuzzy, large looped blanket from Target. Billy likes hiding out here and reading when things get to be too much for him.
He insisted that I take his picture, so here it is.

The secret to surviving developmental delays

The secret to life that makes dealing with a child with developmental delays enjoyable is that you get those cute moments when they're growing up, but they're just spread out over more time. If you can set aside what kids their age are supposed to be doing for a moment, you can still enjoy those firsts as they come up.

The skills were harder to master, more anticipated, and sweeter when they finally arrive. And as they arrive, slowly and in spurts, you get time to celebrate every one of the skills. How many parents get to celebrate the first time their child cuts a 6 inch straight line in paper? Or the first time they mimic the drawing of a cross (as in crossing of horizontal and vertical lines, not a religious symbol). I'll remember each of these when they come up. Most people don't even know when those skills emerge, it's just something that their kid does, just like every other kid.

Like today, Billy first showed interest in cleaning himself in the tub. He rubbed himself with a bar of soap, and while he didn't do a great job, he at least was interested. And this time, he let me rinse his body too, which was a nice surprise, usually he insists on doing it himself (and no disrespect Billy, but i'd consider that skill "emerging" at best, and as you and I both know, that bath needed to come to an end at that point).

And lately, he's been able to start to articulate what he wants in very basic terms, and where he wants it, as long as it's also very basic. Like a few minutes ago, he came up to me and started saying something nonsensical about his tablet, but then stopped, had what seemed like a moment of clarity, and asked me for lotion, and pulled up his shirt and turned around in a circle and pointed at his belly, repeating "lotion". This means he wants me to cover his torso in lotion, front and back. When I was done, he made a sigh of relief, gave me a giant smile, and said "Thank you dada!" and ran off noisily to play in his sensory tent in his bedroom.

(Oh, that reminds me, I need to be making a post about that sensory tent soon)

Semi-regular Billy Update

First the bad:
We've had a strange month with Billy. Near the beginning of this month, he started to refuse to use the toilet, and no longer notified us of his need to have a changed diaper. Back to square one on progress for that.

We received Billy's quarterly IEP progress report, and his self care (toileting and diaper awareness) progress were left blank. We thought that was odd too.

This week, we put Billy in an overnight pull-up on Sunday night. He was dry when he got up, so we sent him to school in it. He got home, and he was soaking wet in his diaper. It was the same pull-up he was in when we sent him, and it was soaking wet. Hmm. Odd.

The next day, we changed his diaper, and I wrote "8am" in sharpie on the inside of it near the top of his butt. When we picked him up, he had made a BM in the diaper, but it was the same "8am" diaper.

I shot a pretty dismayed email to the school social worker asking if changes had been made regarding staffing, because we had been noticing some disturbing patterns regarding diapers. 3 hours later, there was a freaked out voicemail from Billy's teacher (at 6:30pm, no less) apologizing profusely, stating they "had a lot of projects going on" and were profusely sorry for the lack of attention on the topic. Seriously? *sigh*. Well, they're on the topic more now. I don't want them to be nervous around my kid, but he needs individual attention on this stuff, and making sure he's cared for is (supposed to be) job #1 there.

Part of me suspects there was some sort of incident at school (maybe Billy fell off the potty seat there, or got pinched) and was difficult regarding diapers and toilet training after that. As he doesn't really communicate anything of non-immediate consequence, we'll probably never know.

Parent teacher conferences are coming up. I don't know if I'll be able to join them or not (Becky will attend either way), but we'll see.

Now the good:

Tonight though, I'll be happy. For the first time in several weeks, he asked to go potty. He was already partially done with a BM in his diaper, but he sat on the toilet for the longest period he has so far (roughly 3-4 minutes) and farted a lot. I was pretty happy with seeing him return to the toilet.

On the upside of school, Billy has been more communicative lately. He's using more canned phrases to communicate certain things. It does help quite a bit, and honestly, the phrases are a relatively good choice of wording most of the time. Some of it is even kind of cute and humorous. And we're hearing a lot more individual words to describe items – colors, easy nouns, etc. I'm pretty pleased with that development, as it's making life a little easier around here.

And Billy's actually reaching out to catch balls now rather than standing there and letting them hit him. He's generally unsuccessful at catching them, as he lacks coordination – but we're getting somewhere. And if you're a halfway decent thrower, you can stage some successful catches for him so he gets excited and encouraged.

Overall I think this school thing has been a win.