Well, we saw the expert developmental pediatrician about two weeks ago for Jocelyn's big evaluation, and it went spectacularly.
He played with her and interacted with her for over 2 hours. At the end he told me that he officially does NOT think Jocelyn is on the autism spectrum and he officially diagnosed her with Mixed Expressive Language Disorder (MERLD) and mild dyspraxia (motor planning disorder). These were both things we've known about and weren't a surprise.
Kids with MERLD usually normalize sometime in elementary school. Jocelyn is truly doing wonderfully, and while she may need some support in kindergarten, she is well on her way to mainstream kindergarten.
MERLD kids often have auditory processing difficulties, which we have long suspected with Jocelyn and will keep an eye out for. MERLD kids also often struggle with reading, which we will also keep an eye out for. But, the wonderful news is that MERLD and dyspraxia are largely childhood disorders that children learn to compensate for and do not prevent children from becoming successful, independent adults.
We have been hearing this stuff from doctors for a while now, but it was too soon for an official diagnosis. Now that her language has come in a bit more, this doctor was finally able to see what he needed to see to be sure. Needless to say, we are thrilled.
If you would see Jocelyn now, you would probably notice that she doesn't use longer sentences like most kids her age do -- she uses mostly two-word phrases to communicate. But, now she communicates about the same stuff other kids her age do. She is able to keep up pretty well with her peers on the playground because that environment doesn't require much language. She struggles more when the environment is more language-intense, like storytime or such. But, she is getting better all the time.
Her pretend play took a huge leap this past week. She is now doing full-blown pretend scenarios with her toys. She will ask for her stuffed penguin, tell the penguin "Time to eat!" walk the penguin into the kitchen and put him in a booster seat, and pretend to feed it her food, talking to the penguin the whole time. It's awesome. She will also tell her daddy to sit down if he is not sitting down during dinner, and she will tell Elliott to keep his shoes on if he starts to take them off in the car, "Ewweeott, no shoe!" It's adorable and awesome to watch.
Elliott's development continues to follow much of Jocelyn's path, but he still understands more than she did and he follows social cues better than she did. His fine motor skills are still way, way behind, but his pincer grasp is emergeing finally, and his OT is working on refining it. He is still not feeding himself at all, and we are going to the feeding disorder clinic at Children's Hospital at the end of the month for him. Thankfully, his weight is fine because he will eat plenty of food as long as it is soft and fed to him on a spoon by an adult.
So, the rollercoaster is slowing down a bit, thank goodness. I look back at Jocelyn a year ago as she was about to turn 2, and she really is truly like a different child now, she has come so, so far. Life is still crazy, but our family's future is looking brighter and brighter.