Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Latest

Our "new normal" for the next year is taking shape. Our start has been a little bit bumpy, but not too bad overall. One thing I enjoy on a personal level is the interaction. I didn't realize that I actually feel energized at times having someone to talk to every day. Being at home with the kids, there were in the past days when I'd speak to no adult except the one at the Target or Big Y checkout, but I didn't realize that bothered me. I thought I was too introverted to really mind. Now I'm not so sure.

So, this is what's happening. We have Jessica, Ethan's main therapist, who's here Monday and Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Jessica is the overall overseer of Ethan's care, and the ABA provider, although we haven't done much ABA therapy yet. Mostly what she does is play with Ethan, try to engage him, while subtly working on speech at the same time. I LOVE Jessica. She's so positive, she's so encouraging, and she sees things in Ethan that I see. She sees that he has the ability to learn quickly. She's always telling me how smart he is. She has enthuiasm and genuinely likes Ethan. Even though he can be resistent with her, he likes her.

Sara is the occupational therapist and comes on Tuesday afternoons (partially overlapping with Jessica). She helps with Ethan's sensory issues (how he's reacting to sounds/lights/textures, etc.) and works on fine and gross motor skills. Again, most of this is done through play. Sara has only been here twice and Ethan's just starting to get to know her, but last week he started to open up and let her do a few things with him. Jen is the speech therapist and comes on Wednesday mornings (again, overlapping with Jessica). She's only been here once so far so it's hard to get a read on her, but Ethan seemed to already be starting to warm up to her.

Then on Fridays we go to Glastonbury for more occupational therapy with Diane. This was part of the interim therapies set up for Ethan when he was diagnosed, but Diane wanted to stay with him for awhile even after Birth to 3 got launched because she didn't want to interrupt his progress. A typical appointment with Diane usually involves things like: building blocks, doing puzzles, playing with playdough or shaving cream, crawling through a tunnel, or playing with balls. Again, it's all play, but play with a purpose. And Ethan needs to learn how to play. He needs to learn how to explore objects, use them correctly rather than just focusing on one part, use them creatively, and know how to transition to another toy appropriately. These are all things that come naturally to many children. Our appointments with Diane are sometimes tough because she has this habit of making discouraging comments (like "oh, you're just not going to give me any eye contact today, are you?") or shaking her head with resignation when he's not responding to her. It frustrates me, yet then she'll end our sessions saying positive things like, "I'm really impressed with his progress" or something to that affect, and I know she means it. I think she just gets frustrated with his aversive behavior.

That is Ethan's biggest challenge. He tends to just want to run away and not deal with a situation. He rarely tantrums...he just avoids. It's already getting better with Jessica, at home, but with Diane, who he's been seeing for two months, there are still issues. He's doing three times as many activities during a session than when he first started, but still, he tries to get up and go out the door. Sometimes I wonder if it's because he can sense Diane's negativity and frustration with him, as opposed to Jessica, who is so bubbly and positive. Other times I think about how much we're asking of him. Yes, we are mostly doing play, which should come naturally to a child, but it's a challenge for him, and we're talking about nearly 10 hours a week of focused play, with people he doesn't know that well.

One of my biggest challenges is to take a deep breath and take each day at a time. And to find that delicate balance of loving my child unconditionally while still wanting to help him reach his full potential. That sounds great in theory, but if you don't have the balance down, it's very easy to get tense with therapy...meaning, to think, "Are we doing the right therapy? Are we doing the right amount?" and to start mulling on "what-ifs." More than ever, I need to place Ethan in God's hands and believe He knows what's best for my child, and that if we're off somehow, He will show me.

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