Milestones Ahead

Zoren started walking when he was only eight months old. For the first couple weeks it was a wobbly, bobble headed baby walk which generally ended in a nose dive and minor head trauma after about 12 steps if he didn’t make it to the nearest piece of furniture. It’s a good thing his oversized noggin is also pretty tough, allowing him to just shake it off, crawl to something he could use to pull his chunky self upright, and try again. It didn’t take long before those 12 steps turned to 20 or 30 and he mastered the tricky business of moving from a sitting to standing position independently. By 9 months old he was proficient at walking and already starting to pick up the pace so he could chase our cats thorough the apartment we lived in back then. Coincidentally, Astoria was an early walker too, taking her first steps at eight and a half months old, and chasing her brother around the house soon after.

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When Zoren was about 18 months old, he still wasn’t talking much. He said a handful of words consistently, could say his ABC’s, and had started to learn a fair amount of sign language but certainly wasn’t speaking in sentences or even verbally articulating his wants and needs to us like Astoria was by that age. Although he was slow to talk, it was very clear to us that it wasn’t for lack of language comprehension. By 20 months old he could recognize each letter of the alphabet (upper and lowercase), the numbers 1-10, and all basic colors. His spoken language developed soon after that, which I attribute, in part, to incorporating sign language into our daily lives. It was around that time, when he was maybe 22 months old or something, that we discovered Z has a knack for retaining information, especially from books. I have video of him reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to us when he was about 2 and am still amazed at how accurately and effortlessly he was able to recite the story from memory, using the visuals on each page as a trigger for that particular part of the story.

He became fascinated with insects the summer before he turned three and devoured book after book on the subject, quickly depleting the library’s extensive collection of bug and insect reference materials. He would spout out facts about insects to anyone who would listen, knowing the makeup of their body structure, the habitats they live in, and the important roles each plays in our eco-system. Very cool stuff and an early indicator that we have one smart boy.

Now, not even two years later, we are watching our boy exceed expectations even further. I have already written about some of Zoren’s articulation issues that have led us to where we are today with starting speech therapy services through the therapist that has worked with Astoria for the past three years. As a jumping off point for these services, our speech therapist gave him an evaluation that is used for children ages 3-10 and gives us a good idea of where Z is at with language comprehension, expressive language, articulation, and also indicates his approximate IQ. The results of this assessment pretty much blew me away. Although it is clear that Zoren has some articulation issues, his language expression and comprehension was assessed at an 8-10 year old level and he has an approximate IQ of 143. That, folks, is only two points away from a genius level IQ!! Now, I have known for a long time now that this boy is incredibly intelligent and as it happens, I recently found out my husband took an IQ test as a child with the exact same results. So it’s definitely clear that Z’s superior brain function comes from his daddy, not me.

I am, of course, very excited that our son is considered exceptionally smart but as our therapist pointed out, there are unique challenges that we will face with him due to his level of intelligence. We are already seeing glimpses of these challenges and are told they will likely intensify once Zoren starts school. In my opinion though, every child has unique challenges that they will face in school and in life, no matter where they fall on an intelligence spectrum. That said, I am confident that if and when any conflicts arise, we will have the perspective and knowledge, as his parents, to decide on the best resolution and follow through appropriately.

Zoren’s weekly speech therapy sessions have been going great and we have already seen vast improvements in his articulation over the last couple months. One of the tools that our speech therapist recently introduced is a sort of phonics system which she has been pairing with a new phonics book each week. I think it’s amazing just how quickly this system not only helps him with figuring out the correct pronunciation of certain letters in specific words but it has also built the proper connections within his brain that allow him to have a great understanding of the English language and our word structure.

We do a lot of reading in our house. We have shelves and shelves of children’s books which we add to pretty frequently because after reading about 10-20 books to the kids each day (per their request), this momma gets a little bored with the repetitiveness so we seek out new reading materials from the thrift store whenever we get the chance. For the last six months or so, Zoren has been especially interested in learning how to sound words out and is constantly asking us what specific words are in books and on signs, particularly focusing on how each word is structured and what sounds each vowel or consonant cluster make.

A month ago or so, Steve and I started noticing that Z was reading along with us instead of us just reading to him. We figured that since he has a great capacity for retention, that he had just memorized most of these books and was reciting them while we read. We also started to notice that he was recognizing most smaller words (an, and, are, the, it, on etc.) independently and decided it is time to really provide him with some tools to begin reading on his own. I started with making a set of flash cards with sight words that children are expected to know by the end of Kindergarden, figuring this would be a good jumping off point for us. To my surprise, out of the 35 or so words, Z already knew well over half of them by sight and sounded out a bunch more with no assistance from me whatsoever. Again, he blew me away.

Three weeks ago, at a speech therapy session, Zoren was given his first phonics reader as practice material for the next week. He and I read through the book together once using his phonics practice tools that the speech therapist provided. And then, to my complete shock, he read almost the whole book by himself, only stumbling over a few words (like “grins” and “lazy”), which he sounded out with little assistance. I was a bit skeptical that he was actually “reading” the whole book himself instead of just reciting the words from memory because, again, I know he has a knack for retaining information.

At the following week’s speech session I decided to consult our therapist on the matter and let Zoren read the book to her so she could weigh in. He read her the book, again stumbling over a couple words, but doing an excellent job. When he was finished, our speech therapist looks at me and says, “Yeah, he is reading. He read almost that whole book and although he clearly has some of the words memorized, which is part of the reading process, he is also sounding out and reading the other words independently.” She then pulled out the phonics reader that she brought to practice with him over the next week, and again, he was able to read most of the book without assistance. And it really dawned on me then, my four year old can read!! How cool is that?

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-reading to his sister :)

Now comes the burning questions… My brain is flooded with them lately. What are we going to do with him once he is school age? He doesn’t start school for a year and a half and already knows enough to graduate from any Kindergarten program in the area! (Did I mention he is already able to perform mental addition with any of the numbers 1-10?) Are the gifted and talented programs at public schools going to be enough to keep him challenged? Should we send him to a gifted and talented school? Should I home school him to ensure he stays academically challenged? Am I even smart enough to do that? There are about a million more questions I have that we just don’t have the answers to now. But one thing I know for sure is that this kid is going to do great things. I am so proud of how far he has come in his four short years of life and, daunting as it may be sometimes, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him!

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