I hope you’ll forgive my little bloggy hiatus this week. We had some very special company here, who traveled a long way to see their two new grandchildren (and great grandchildren!) dedicated last weekend.
Now that they are safely back home, I wanted to answer a couple of the questions I am most asked about Niko. (Note: this is really all just an excuse to tell you how awesome this little guy is, but really, people have asked me these things.)
Q: How is Niko’s cognitive development?
A: Apert Syndrome involves a premature closing of the skull bones in utero, and it can cause brain damage and therefore cognitive delay. We had read before adopting Niko that this is true in about 50% of cases, and were very prepared for the possibility that he would face some intellectual challanges.
A month with this little boy has convinced me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with his mind. In fact, he often knows more than I do!
The first time we took him grocery shopping with us, he pointed out every item we have in our house, and he knew what we were out of! He reminded me that we needed butter, since he’d seen me take out the last stick. When he saw the vegetable oil, he immediately began singing “Happy Birthday” (in Bulgarian) to remind me that we’d finished ours making June’s birthday cake.
When he helps me cook, he is constantly one step ahead of me, grabbing the stool to climb up for the collander as soon as he sees me put a pot of pasta on to boil. He knows which utensils I use for every single thing I make and serve.
By the second time we grocery shopped, he anticipated each button I needed to push to use my debit card (minus the PIN, but I’m sure he’ll know that soon enough too!)
Because he is always one step ahead of me in the kitchen (can you tell it is one of his favorite places to be?), when I go in to begin preparing a meal, I have to hold him back from opening every cabinet and suggesting every single food he’s ever watched me make. To do this, I tap on my head and tell him I have to “Think, think, think” first. After a few days of this routine, he looked at me one afternoon while we were sitting in the living room and said, “Mommy?” “Yes?” I said. I watched his wheels turn for a few seconds trying to come up with English words for what he wanted to tell me. Finally, he tapped his sweet noggin and said, “Think, think, think.” I never did find out what he wanted to tell me, but it made my day anyway.
In concrete terms, his assessment at the Children’s Hospital a few weeks ago (which he vomited through, thanks to a second round a stomach bug that swept through those of us who survived the first round) placed him at a developmental age of 5.1 years. Now, he just turned 6, so you might think that sounds a little bit delayed, until you remember that our little man spent his first five-and-three-quarters years in an orphanage. Typically, one can expect to see a month of developmental delay for every three months a child spends in an institution, so a six-year-old would be expected to have a developmental age of about four years. In other words, we have a really smart cookie on our hands.
Q: How is it going with his learning English?
A: Niko blows me away every single day with new words and with how much he understands of what I say to him. At this point, I have forced myself to drop the few Bulgarian words I know and just speak English, because he knows the English words for all of those words anyway. I probably speak to him about the way I would speak to a two-year-old as far as sentence and thought complexity, and he almost always gets what I’m asking or telling him.
A few days ago, he gave me a totally unprompted “welcome” when I thanked him for putting his toothpaste on his own toothbrush (clever and well-mannered!). He also opened up my hand cream and pointed out to me that it was “almost done” in the very same trip to the bathroom.
Today’s word of the day, owing to our efforts to take care of the one deficiency that came back in his bloodwork, was “vitamin D”, which he says with such enthusiam and flair that you’d think he was asking for an exotic dessert rather that a 1-mL dropper-full of (apparently delicious) baby vitamins.
His speech is a little rough around the edges (we knew that speech therapy would be on the cards just from how his Bulgarian was), but he keeps us laughing with his attempts at some of the trickier words. The letters S and T in combination with anything else seem to cause him particular trouble, resulting in words like “down-su-tair-za-ta” (downstairs) and “Bee-tu-trik!” (which I expect you can figure out for yourself.) He doesn’t seem to mind us laughing with him as he learns (I’m sure he has had a good old laugh at our attempts at Bulgarian as well!)
I’ll leave it at that for today, but if you have any other questions about the boy or anything else, leave them in the comments and I’d be happy to do another Q & A post at some point.