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Yesterday I read a comment thread begun when a friend asked about the duration of her toddler’s terrible twos. A perky friend chirped “as soon as they can say what they want to say” and another friend chirped in agreement. And then it hit me: Dar is stuck in the Terrible Twos. Liz Phair was exiled to guyville, Dar is seemingly forever exiled to Two-ville. And spoiler alert: the famous “terrible,” despite the kid’s apparent frustration, says more about the feelings of the parent than the child. Dar’s Terrible Twosity is sort of a funny-not-funny irony for me, since my Newsweek essay from forever ago was called “The Terrible Twenties.” (I didn’t think of that title, Newsweek did.)

Anyhoo, I’m preparing for an IEP later this month. We need to tell the school what Dar has been doing at home this summer, and then ask them to integrate it into their programs. We don’t want to lose the glacially paced gains he has made. Yesterday, when I might have been working on one of the books I’ve promised to publishers (and hey, myself), I was collecting and printing data from Dar’s home programs. I want you to look at these lists with the deep, deep appreciation that you never had to do this with your kid(s). After all, that’s how I look at them vis-à-vis my other child. What a blessing, that my younger child can say almost anything he can think, that he turns a simple page in a board book into a long made-up story of what he did at the zoo that day, that he morphs his life into song lyrics that he spins out of pure creativity. Meanwhile, his brother – terrible twos.

Here’s what Dar is working on – and he’s pretty good at them, all things considered:

Echoics (repeats noises)

  1. a
  2. ah-kuh
  3. baba
  4. baby
  5. bee
  6. boo
  7. buh
  8. bye-bye
  9. da
  10. daddy
  11. dee
  12. dee dee
  13. doh
  14. duh
  15. ess (shape up to “yes”)
  16. eye
  17. guh
  18. ha
  19. kah
  20. knee
  21. kuh
  22. mama
  23. may
  24. me
  25. mmm
  26. muh
  27. my
  28. nuh
  29. oh
  30. oh-no
  31. oo
  32. oo-ah (shape up to “wah”)
  33. pee
  34. puh
  35. shhh
  36. sss
  37. suh
  38. tah
  39. tee
  40. tuh
  41. wah
  42. zee


Completes different fill-in-the-blank phrases:

  1. You brush your _____ (tee, teeth)
  2. On your feet you wear _____ (choo, shoes)
  3. When you pee, you go to the _____ (pah-tee potty)
  4. If it’s not on, it’s _____ (ah, off)
  5. You hear with your _____ (ee, ears)
  6. You see with your _____ (eye, eyes)
  7. You smell with your _____ (no, nose)
  8. You talk with your _____ (mah, mouth)
  9. You walk with your _____ (pee, feet)
  10. You ride a _____ (bi, bike)
  11. You read a _____ (boo, book)
  12. At night you go to _____ (beh, bed)
  13. On your head you wear a _____ (ha, hat)
  14. In your room you play with _____ (tuh, toys)
  15. Ready set _____ (go, go)
  16. You drink your _____ (juice, juice)


Completes different song fill-ins – end of song verses of:

  1. Twinkle, twinkle little star
  2. Head, shoulders, knees and toes
  3. The wheels on the bus
  4. Bingo was his name-o
  5. Old McDonald had a farm
  6. Itsy bitsy spider
  7. Let it snow
  8. ABC song


Provides the sound made by animals

  1. Sheep – ba-ba
  2. Cow – moo-moo
  3. Cat – ma-ma (accept for meow-meow)
  4. Dog – bah (accept for bark, woof too difficult)
  5. Horse – nay-nay
  6. Pig – o-o (accept for oink-oink)
  7. Snake – sss
  8. Duck – ck-ck (accept for quack-quack)
  9. Bird – tee-tee (accept for tweet-tweet)
  10. Owl – oo-oo

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Tacts body parts (points on himself, on command)

  1. Eyes
  2. Ears
  3. Mouth
  4. Nose
  5. Head
  6. Shoulders
  7. Tummy
  8. Feet
  9. Arm
  10. Leg


Complies with instructions

  1. Clapping hands
  2. Standing up
  3. Sitting down
  4. Giving high-five
  5. Stomping feet
  6. Putting arms over his head
  7. Waiting 30 seconds
  8. Jumping
  9. Come here with adult at various distances, inside and outside


Provides intraverbal social information

  1. Where are you from? _____ (Buh-key for Berkeley)
  2. How old are you? _____ (fi for five)
  3. What’s your name? _____ (Da for Dar)
  4. What is this? _____ (juice for juice, atta for water)
  5. Who is this? _____ (dad for dad, mama for mama, buh-tuh/aza for brother)
  6. Hi Dar! _____ (hi)
  7. Bye Dar! _____ (bi)

Other programs include: tapping an adult on the shoulder to ask for attention (instead of screaming), bringing the iPad to an adult to make a request (instead of using the iPad from a distance), and replying to yes/no questions with “ess” (yes) or no.

Basically, our goal for the IEP is for the school to “maintain” these and build on them as well.

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One thing we’ve noticed over the summer is that Dar has found it harder and harder to be quiet for long stretches. Or are those the sounds that every parent hears the week before school starts? Perhaps. But we truly feel that his old intermittent “tee-tee-tee”-ing has become a near-constant “eeeeee-tah-tah-tah-neeeee”-ing. So many vocalizations, so little sense. We worry that he can’t fit into any public school, because let’s face it, that’s disruptive, and we can hardly blame them for sending him out of class (which they do; the year just began, so let’s not yet guess how often). Sending him out of class 1) encourages more such behavior, 2) reduces the time he spends learning. But what are they supposed to do?

I’ve said this before, but most of the private schools that help kids like Dar have a minimum age of six. (We guess this is because even parents of severely afflicted kids still want to try the “public option” first.) Dar turns six next month. So this really feels like sink-or-swim time for him with Berkeley Unified. Let’s see what happens.

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