Showing posts with label i heart early intervention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label i heart early intervention. Show all posts


Making Time, Making up "Therapy" Games

I vowed recently to give my littlest, Brady, more one on one time.  Two things have helped his devil possession challenging behavior this week. I cannot believe I forgot the first rule of parenting, at least the kind of parenting to which I subscribe: When baby cries (even an almost three "baby"), pick him up.

Isn't that ridiculous? That I haven't been living my Baby Wearing Truth? If one is trying to get something done like cook, or teach life cycles of frogs and a small person is wiping tears and snot onto one's leg and screaming so loudly no good thing can happen, one should be smarter than I, go get the Ergo carrier out of the car, and make the madness stop. Sadly, both of the tiny boys have wanted to be held, and they fight over  Ergo time now as well. I literally cannot win them all. They are driving me bonkers. And I mean that in a I-look-like-I've-been-hit-by-a-truck-tired way.

But besides being more deliberate about holding time and hugging, I have been trying to remember to bestow a few minutes of alone time for teaching and playing.  Recently Brady saw the big kids playing a feisty game of UNO and was bummed he couldn't keep up, so I decided to train him for future endeavors.

He obviously was rocking this, so like his awesome Early Intervention therapists suggest: I took it up a notch. Made the game harder. I thought since the two babies are so flipping emotional lately, we'd work on social skills and turn taking. I called in Tsega who had been having a hard time but pulled it together for a few minutes of bliss. Brag alert: they are adorable. And for those of you with toddlers at home, I am sure you will tense up as I do while watching, at all of the moments that could have turned them into puddles of rage, but didn't.

There. Patting myself on the back. Because even though I shouldn't have to force myself and remember to get down on the floor and play with the babies, it's hard. And a little time and a little giggling goes a long way with them, sweet little monsters.

Is it Friday yet? No?


Victory, therapy, with an updated Victory

Yesterday I hit "post" on this piece, but need to add to it. Are you sitting down? This morning, I woke up to the sound of a vacuum. My three girls had woken up, gone straight to our attic to organize all the toys, barbie clothes, legos, etc, and then proceeded to vacuum the space. It is spotless up there. All while I was sleeping. For fun. Because they knew we had friends coming over and cleaning is, wait for it, the right thing to do when company is coming.

I don't even know what to do with myself.

Today I dropped Mimi off at her yoga class and she laughed when she found out she was the only kid again. I was all proud of her for being so OK with doing her thing, not being self conscious at all, not wrapped up in what someone might think. (Please USA don't ruin her). Then I thought. Wait, I want a private yoga lesson. With that twenty-something heartthrob teacher. How is this fair? And should I be concerned I am leaving my twelve-year-old with a twenty something heartthrob with a name like Tucker or Hunter or something? I don't know anything. And I certainly never thought in a million years I'd have a twelve-year-old Ethiopian daughter who had private yoga classes with hot guys. I just didn't see it coming.

The kids' first snow fall resulted in eating, snowmen and jolly frolicking. I hate the stuff. Bah humbug.

This week I took the six kids to IKEA, list in hand. We were on a mission for a friend who does not live near this abomination of a store. Forgive this listing our achievements, for they truly require documentation. After all, have you ever taken this many unstable little people to this place?

They all sat and ate lunch like normal humans who were not raised by wolves. (Thank you kids-eat-free Tuesdays!)
No one spilled anything. No one choked or gagged or peed their pants.
No one ran away or got lost.
We did helped a little lost boy who, incidentally, didn't match his Mama. I had noticed them earlier because I always notice other non-matchy matchy families. No one at Ikea would have thought for second to not look for an African American mom for this boy. He was brown, kinky hair, and his mom was Chinese. Luckily, I saw him, grabbed his hand and headed back where his family was.
The crowning glory of the afternoon: We made it through that ridiculous place with zero tears. I don't know the last time we made it two hours anywhere without tears and for some incomprehensible reason they all chose to make it through IKEA way past nap time. They won. I won.
Also, what the heck, yene lijotch? Where are these skills while we are trying to do school work, or go to church?

Also worth noting, they love this place so much and that is kinda wrapped up in why Hubs and I never want to take our children to any kind of Disney establishment: the insane joy and overload they can experience for free just playing at IKEA for fifteen minutes. I don't think we are cut out for Disney.*

*Will revisit topic in eight years. But frankly, we'd rather visit Bermuda or Ethiopia again. I just don't see how Cinderella and Buzz could move up the list into worthwhile expenditures.I mean, can you imagine the thousand-dollar tantrums and overload we'd get there?

Felt proud to vote Tuesday. I maybe felt prouder that I took my kids with me. The day before we had a lesson devoted to democracy, and who gets to vote and why, taxes, withholdings, entitlement programs, charity in general, ending in watching part of the debates, and our own town-hall speeches. The children had thoughtful answers about the pros and cons of the candidates and Samantha made an excellent point that whoever lost the election should be the Vice President so everyone in America could be happy that their priorities would still be validated and heard in Washington. There you have it. A six-year-old has the solution to our woes. Still, all this being said, the electoral college kinda takes the wind out of my voting sails. It's hard to tell people "your vote counts" when that is only true for about ten counties in the whole US. However, I will say this, while I am not the woman to reform it because I have no working knowledge of things like election reform, I will make some cookies for whomever does.

The primary source of stress in my life for the last six weeks has not been adding two new children to our family. It has been my daily and nightly search to find therapy for Tsega, who is turning three next week and aging out of Early Intervention. Tsega has had, by the hand of God, the most amazing women placed in his life to support him and his parents and the last two years have been surivivable almost entirely because of the therapists he sees each week. They keep us all stable, above water. Over the past few months I have probably looked into twenty different therapy places/people and none have turned out to be a good fit for my sweet little man. Some didn't want to work with him becuase he was too young. Some places didn't accept insurance. Some folks that were recommended to me said they wouldn't work with him because they didn't feel they were the right person. It has felt like a ticking time bomb because I did not want "holes" in his therapy. In my, or rather, his ideal world, Tsega would end therapy with EI one week, and the next, start at the new place. This is it. His last week. And I still don't have everything lined up. I have headaches, can't sleep. I have even been emailing specialists in other states. Talking with Hubs about flying Tsega and I to therapy.


As today a door closed, and I fought some ugly crying, a window opened just a crack. The HR chica at Hub's work is calling our insurance *for me* to ask all the questions I would have to ask about getting reimbursed for a therapy I'd like Tsega to receive.  The mercy and genius of this arrangement, if it is not obvious, is that she can do it in the privacy of her office and I'd have to do with with the kids screaming and bleeding. She has no idea the burden she just lifted from me today. I also appreciate she knows ins and outs of insurance better than I do and will ask questions that probably wouldn't occur to me to ask.


Wanna know what I am trying to get insurance to cover for my sweet man? Hippotherapy. No, not hippos like in Botswana. But occupational and behavioral therapy with a licensed therapist who also teaches children to ride horses. OT via horseback riding. I actually found an OT who is willing to work with Tsega even though he is young (two farms I looked into recently only work with kids age four and up) and she actually has openings starting in three weeks. And all I need is insurance to decide to cover this.

I am praying this is the right fit. He is losing his special teachers, his best friends, frankly. He needs something in that place. I learned a long time ago that Hubs and I are not enough for him. We love him. And when it comes to trauma, love is not enough. He needs support we cannot give him. And I would very much love this to be "it." I feel a heavy mantle of responsibility about this. It has turned into a spiritual journey for me, frankly. I am a crazy woman on a mission to find him the right people. 


Deep end

Welp. I wasn't lying in a recent post when I mentioned we jumped into the deep end as a family. Our new 12-year old and 6-year-old from Ethiopia have been here almost three weeks, and life is in full swing.  And it is worth mentioning that "school" right now is looking very very unschooly, which is not something I ever thought would happen, but here we are. We are in an intense time of learning how to be a family, learning how it works to be together, learning how faucets work and flushing toilets and how often one must wash hair and just how dirty is too dirty for a shirt?

Before we can get to math we need to learn things like how toilets can have paper flushed. Promise, it's ok. And All clothes can come off for a shower, and only mom carries the two-year-olds down the stairs and only mom or dad open the envelopes that come in the mail. And, please for the love of pete we stay in our seats while the car is moving.  Despite us taking a few weeks to focus on learning basic words in English and practical family and life skills before even thinking about cracking open science curriculum, a few days after the girls got home, life with a schedule began in earnest.

Tsega and Brady for the first time joined a class sans Mama. Normally weepy and hesitant over such things I find myself relieved and excited for my babies. This class is offered through Early Intervention which was essential to the decision, as my special boys are in a class with teachers who get them and are specifically using this class to help teach them certain social, behavioral and speech skills.

I feel particularly blessed that one of Tsega's angel therapists, who does not teach this class, made room in her schedule to be his one-on-one support during class, as he is not capable of making it through a class without direct and personal help.

She comes, in addition to her normal therapy with him, two times a week to class. Team Tsega, decided that we should use the last few months we have of Early Intervention giving him a chance to stretch and get some new skills (Read: desperately needed regulation-in-public skills), and this class may give him more confidence in a group setting. I hope, I hope.

Brady, though developmentally behind most of the kids in there, thinks he's died and gone to heaven. He does not miss me for a second and believes himself to be at some kind of Disneyland. He also thinks he's hot stuff.

Tsega and Brady aren't the only ones who started classes. Fikir and Mimi started a home school singing classes with Samantha. Fikir blew me away on her first day, which happened to be after five days of arriving here.
In mere seconds she was singing, joining hands and having a grand ol' time. Though she has NO idea what she is singing, she loves being apart of a class and the music and sticks close to her Sissy, Samantha for now. 

Mimi had a harder first day due to a MomFail of not adequately informing the teachers of who she was, that she'd only been in the US for a few days and that she could use some support and extra demonstration. I think we both cried that first day. But after a pushy  advocating email to fix things, the teachers have been wonderful and Mimi is having a blast in her class as well.

In addition to choir, Mimi has started exercise classes at the local YMCA, which offers classes to kids and teens at two price points: free or five dollars a pop. So she goes to fitness classes, on her own, three days a week. Tonight she decided to try out a zumba class, and I desperately wish I'd stuck around for pictures. She came home and told us the routine she learned was to All the Single Ladies, so I pulled up the song and she demonstrated. It was awesome and hilarious and, did I mention awesome? Mimi is fearless and fierce. I pray the US of A does not rob her of her confidence. Tomorrow's class involves obstacle courses and dodgeball and she can't wait. Creating PE and enough exercise for a home schooled twelve-year-old at first seemed difficult. But this girl can do it all. (Including teaching herself to ride a bike and mow the lawn this week.)

She isn't the only one who needs fitness though, and so Fikir has joined Samantha at rhythmic gymnastics. This gym is not "cutesy." The girls train for two hours at a time, the first hour strength, flexibility and apparatus training, the second hour at the barre, with ballet instruction. It's hard core. And Fikir jumped right in. And Samantha is doing beautifully "sharing" her activities with her sister, who I suspect in the future may want to make things competitive between them. I am keeping my eyes close on their friendship and dynamics to be sure.

Samantha in the foreground, Fikir behind her working it out. Samantha is more graceful, Fikir has almost 20 lbs on her sister in sheer muscle. It will be fun to see what they do with their respective talents.

In addition to this the Cookie Monster also attends a gymnastics class, the three girls start piano lessons next week, and we are starting to fit in slowly slowly academics with reading and writing. But it's no small task.  For example, today I was surprised to realize that neither of the new girls understand how months, weeks, days and years work in the US. The calendar is different in Ethiopia, and even then they did not pay attention to dates the way we do here. The girls didn't even know when their birthdays were until we told them last week and that is typical of many Ethiopians. Trying to explain why October is the tenth month, so when we write the date we use 10/10/2012, well, lets just say I was speaking in a language they don't understand twice over.

There are tears. Fits. Bumps in the road. But we are still doing well. The smiles still outnumber the tears and I couldn't be prouder of all of the children. This stuff is hard work. And I am enjoying watching unexpected friendships crop up among the siblings. Like I said, for the most part, we are still paddling in the same direction. I hope we can keep it up.


Six: an Ode to Early Intervention

Soon, we may be up to six sessions of Early Intervention a week. And it isn't too much. Not even close.

These women are angels of mercy in our house. They have been the most solid, constant support for my boys since they came to live here. Tsega and Brady love their teachers. I might love them even more.

I beg of you, if your kid isn't reaching a milestone. If he struggles with sensory processing. If he isn't speaking yet, anything that makes you wonder if your child is not progressing, call your local Early Intervention office. Yes, it's true most kids will get "there" eventually. But it baffles my mind when people don't want these geniuses in their home. Did you know that therapists for children are flipping wizards? That they can coax words out of previously silent children? In our case, on the first visit.

Did you know they can coax strength from frail limbs in ways you nor I ever would have thought to try? That they see reasons why your kid does or doesn't do something that you are not trained to see?

If you are as lucky as we are, they will swoop in and with love and care and teach you how to parent your child better. How to help your child reach his or her potential.  They will stand in as mild therapists for you, too, as you voice concerns and fears for your child. Or they will stand as witnesses to the marvelous uniqueness and insanity that is your (OK, my) home.

They will be there when your 14-month-old throws a blanket over his face and runs like a bat out of hell into a wall for fun. They will be there when that same child climbs to the top of the bunk bed and jumps off, but catches himself with one arm and then gently lowers himself down a la Cirque du HolyCrap. They will watch that same child at 18 months go grab a 9-inch chefs knife and attempt to make a sandwich.

They will asses that child and find that he qualifies for therapy for sensory seeking behaviors that interfere with tasks, and developmental therapy to help him interact more with adults making eye contact, asking permission, etc. Later speech therapy will kick in.

They will help your preemie baby strengthen his hands so he may one day use them to crawl. They will show tricks to help a child build strength in his tongue so he may one day suck and speak. They will help you strengthen his neck so he beat back the torticollis. They will show you how to help him sit so he improves his balance and strength. They will know better than you sometimes (or all the time), what the next goals should be and how to get there. They will teach you ways to interact with kids that are not taught in Parenting 101.

They will understand what an amazing mile stone it can be for a baby to finally track with this eyes. Or laugh spontaneously. Or use those pincher fingers. Or throw his plate on the ground when he's done eating. Or make eye contact while saying hello. Or attempt to copy the words up up up!

They will rejoice with you at the little things.

They will change everything. But like I said, only if you are as lucky as we are.

This post is brought to you by the wonderful women pictured with all three of my boys in this post. They have blessed us more than I can ever express or repay. They all deserve massive raises and free passes to heaven.


Itty bitties regarding superheroes, preemies, home school prep and guest blogging

Did you catch it? Sure, it's not big news compared to a famine affecting people we love and debt crises, but hey, I still think it's noteworthy: According to Marvel Comics, Peter Parker is has been killed by Green Goblin and a new boy has taken his place as Spiderman. And who is this superkid? Wanna see what he looks like?
So glad to meet you Miles Morales, a half Black half Latino superhero. On behalf of my three boys who have yet to learn about Spiderman but will someday, I salute the creators/writers at Marvel for giving us a superhero with brown skin!

Moving on to other matters, I am in the delightful phase of collecting my curriculum and organizing strategies   for doing kindergarten at home with Samantha. I have begun timing us as we work on things like our reading lessons and writing practice, etc, to get a sense for how much we can accomplish together during the beloved naps. I am working on designing my planner that will allow me to pencil in a week or two at a time, leaving room for jotting down notes about what we actually did, how I might do it differently next time. Because knowing me and the movers and shakers coming up behind Samantha, there will probably be a next time.

So far, my favorite home school acquisition is a dry erase writing tablet. Perfect for writing s s s s s s s s s s over and over again. Samantha loves immediately erasing letters she doesn't like, and trying again. I like that we can practice writing anywhere and unlike paper that wrinkles, the board is nice and hard and doesn't slip away.

I found it at Mecca, otherwise known as Lakeshore Learning, and anticipate saving money on paper.

In other news, Brady is going to ramp up his Early Intervention schedule next month. We've been doing PT for awhile now, and she happens to be awfully good and sneaking in OT as well. Now we will have a dedicated PT, OT, Speechie, and Nutritionist. That is at least three appointments a week for the wee lad. And lest you wonder what on earth a Speech Therapist can do with a kid who at 14 months looks and acts at most 8 months, she has tricks up her sleeve. Like this one: feeding him a Cheerio not directly into his mouth, but tucking it into a side cheek pocket, where he must use his tongue to go get it and bring it to a place where he can chew it. Speech requires a tongue that can form sounds, and since his tongue doesn't know what to do much of the time  and is a very weak muscle for him, we must trick him into exercising this muscle. Never in a million years would I have those kinds of ideas. I think a good therapist in any of these areas is worth his/her weight in gold. I am excited for Brady and for all we are going to learn. Sometimes I pause and think how incredible it is what can happen to a kiddo when he is born too early.  All the things a typical baby brain and body become capable of when he is born full term can get shot to crap when the baby doesn't get enough time to cook.

My water broke at 27 weeks, and every once in awhile, like when the therapist acknowledges that yes, his reaction times and responses are very slow, they might always be I wonder what Brady would be like if that hadn't happened. I love him fiercely, and don't want him to be any different than who is, and we are so very blessed to have all these pillars of support to help him reach his potential, whatever it may be.

Finally, I am guest blogging over at EOR's blog today. I started this thought a few posts back, and continued it over there. Have you voted for them yet, by the way? Do you need another reminder? They are in the category for Most Innovative Use of Social Media for the Classy Awards. Help them $15K to help orphans and at risk children. If you already voted, go and do it with all your email addresses, and your best friends' and whoever else will let you. One vote per email address! They are still in third place out of twenty five charities.

No, really, this is final thought: is it the weekend yet?


life lessons from a feeding therapist

A few weeks ago at Brady's therapy session with a nutritionist/feeding guru from Early Intervention she fed him and observed him. She pointed out what he is doing well, what needs work, how to help him eat better and get him excited about using his mouth.

At one point he started grabbing for the spoon. She told me to fetch another, one for him, one for her.

A few bites later he reached for the bowl. She said oh, you want to feel it huh? OK, let's give you some to touch. This is food, honey, go for it.

And then she did the unthinkable. She spooned out a massive amount of mushy baby food onto the tray for him to play with. And he did. He rubbed it, squished it, got it everywhere. His hands, arms, neck, ears, hair and chair. Sticky and stiff and deplorable I was thinking, um, lady, are you gonna stay and clean this child and my kitchen up?

Upon reflection I realized how mess averse I am. Which is laughable and outright shocking if you saw my house.  I exert so much mental and physical energy attempting mess prevention and cleaning messes. And the sick thing is, I am not sure if it does any good.

The messes happen on days where I sit back, turn a blind eye and read blogs for two hours an hour, and the messes happen if I follow the Littles around with a proverbial whip screaming  

              One Toy Genre at a Time! The Legos and blocks and animals and trains are not friends. 
              Put one away before you get the rest out and don't even think about taking the cushions off
              the couch; so help me I will throw away this whole house and you'll never see another 
              toy again as long as you live!!

I think in life we humans spend a lot of time seeking ease, comfort, trying to avoid literal, emotional and psychological messes. We are always trying to get organized, make things easier, make more money, reduce stress. And yet, the messes keep on coming whether we try to avoid them or not. Maybe there is a takeaway from Brady's therapy. The life messes; the hardest situations teach us things. I think when we get in the middle of the mush we develop sensitivity, neurons connect, people connect.

Maybe we should be a little less afraid of the mess. Maybe, like with Brady, the mess is how we learn.


A message from the tiny one

Brady's OT/PT was showing some techniques to help him practice using his core, and I grabbed my camera so I would remember how she was propping him up.  Because once she is gone all the vital information turns to mush.

All of a sudden, she let go.

He hasn't really done it since, but he has a new bounce in his step, as it were. He knows he has muscles. He is loving discovering his body. He is learning!

Your friendly Scooping it Up reminder for the day:  keep your camera out of its case at all times. Let it wander with you. Today let it live in the kitchen, tomorrow on top of the piano or TV stand. You never know what moments you might actually capture because it was handy. Sure, it means you might get food or barf on it, or a kid might touch it. Believe me, it's worth the risk.