Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mom as Therapist

We were at my niece's second birthday party last week and were watching her open her presents. When she got to the art toy and crayons and paper we'd gotten her, Haddie eagerly worked on opening the crayons and quickly selecting one. She began coloring with red and then purple, and the first thing I noticed was how she was holding the crayon. "That's a great grasp she has on that," I remarked to my sister-in-law. As soon as I said it, I knew who I sounded like: an occupational therapist.

After observing, listening, and taking mental notes during Ethan's therapy appointments for the better part of a year, I'm realizing that I've picked up more about occupational, speech, and ABA therapy than I'd ever imagined (I guess you could add Floortime to the mix as well, since I've studied much on that on my own and applied it with Ethan when I can). I see things not just as a mom but often as a therapist. And sometimes it's easy to forgot to take the therapy lenses off.

Sometimes I wish I could explain this better to Dan. I find myself, the way any mom sometimes does with her husband when she's with her kids all day and he is not, having to pull the reins back so that I'm not lecturing on exactly how to interact with Ethan. I know it's so easy for him to perceive me as just assuming he doesn't know what he's doing and that I always know best. I'll admit, yeah, sometimes I do feel I know best. But other times it's really just that I'm mired in all of the knowledge I've picked up that is floating around up there, knowlege that Dan couldn't have possibly acquired unless he'd been there, 10+ hours a week, with 5-7 therapists, over the course of months and months.

It's only by watching day in and day out, I want to say, that I know that Haddie was using a very mature grasp for her age, that she would score well ahead of her age range on that section of the Peabody Assement, and that the first steps to assessing pre-writing skills are your child's ability to imitate a circle, horizontal, then vertical line, and then a cross.

I want to say that thanks to Ethan's therapy, I've learned about the beauty of first/then (i.e. "first trace the line, then you can have a snack or "first eat your beans, then you can have more milk"). I know that to entice Ethan into trying a new and challenging task, to try introducing it in small steps. Try pairing it with a prefered activity, like when we alternate building blocks (which he hates) with playing with the top (which he loves). Or invent a song. Thanks to therapy I've learned that Ethan is an auditory (aural) learner and if you can't get his attention, make an interesting sound and it works like a charm. I've learned about holding toys up near my face to encourage eye contact, how to push him without pushing too hard, being playfully obstructive to get him to interact, and following his lead rather than trying to force my agenda all of the time.

I don't say all of these things to demonstrate how wonderful and perceptive I's more that I write this with a sense of deep gratitude. Just by the necessity of my needing to being there to observe, I've been given many, many tools to help my son, tools that I can use well past when his home therapy is complete in a few months.

Thanks to therapy I now know that gestures are so much more important than words, that communication comes in many forms, and that play is vitally, incredibly, wonderfully important. And I've learned that sometimes I have to take that therapy hat off and just be a give that hug, to kiss away those tears, to tuck in at night and wish sweet dreams, before all of the learning starts again.

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