It Begins Again

Tomorrow (Wed.) Chance goes back to preschool. We are both so excited it’s a little ridiculous. Him because of 1) kids, 2) kids, and 3) kids! Me because guess how much I’ve gotten done these last two months? Not fricking much. (I mean, besides chasing Bigfoot and photoshopping Joan Rivers head onto some chick’s crotch. Those are just sanity savers anyway. I am way too type-A to not have something “productive” going on. (Yes, Bigfoot is productive.))

I went into a meeting at his school last week armed with SPD info and what techniques have been working with him. Chance got to come for the “visit” and run around the playground while all the other kids were having nap time. (Ah, naps! How I miss you!) He’s been bouncing off the walls ever since then.

I love my son, I love spending time with him, but in the realm of deep dark confessions, I can’t exactly say that playing cars for the 100th time (cars playing “school”, btw) rivets my attention. Especially when he’s been bored, too*. If I even step near my office it’s like having a drug-sniffing dog at my stash in 2.5 seconds.

So… yes, I have a list. A list of things I can do (or start uninterrupted) in the 3 ½ hours, 3 times a week that will start tomorrow. I don’t care if the list is unrealistic or not. I don’t care if the list items** are frivolous or highly necessary. All I know is I will be accomplishing things!

Because so far this summer I’ve baked a lot and gardened. I feel a little grandma-ish, all panties aside.

Back to comment-inspired posts next time!           - wg

*Bored sensory seeker = pooped parent.

**All list items subject to replacement by sleep without penalty.

Good tired? Or just good and tired

We have been doing OT and speech therapy with Chance for three weeks now.  I'm also on the second week of a specialized brushing and joint compression technique that reduces sensory overload in SPD kids.  This technique is calming because it helps kids with sensory processing issues organize sensory input better.  In Chance's case, the brushing and joint compression wouldn't necessarily help with some of his motor-planning issues (but his therapists have been awesome!) but it does help with the hyper-awareness of sound and provides some of the deep sensations he craves (i.e. previously known as crashing into everyone and thing). 

What's really exciting is that I already see a difference!  Chance seems calmer and more focused.  The meltdowns have dramatically reduced: his last biting incident was last week and that followed a week long gap (which is a huge improvement compared to his peak biting period)!  He's still incredibly active but that's just the way he is - and no big surprise either, coming from a completely hyper, sometimes bonkers family.

I was basically feeling like a pushy, stubborn bitch when I went ahead for the OT/speech screening despite all the recommendations to "wait it out", but I am SO glad I did.  (Yay for bitches!)  Between now knowing what his triggers are, the combined therapy, and the brushing technique I see an improvement that I don't think would have happened for months (if at all) if I had waited.  Best of all, I feel like I finally know what to do and none of this changes his overall personality, it's just changing how he deals with things.  We still have a ways to go but I'm really, really pleased.  And Chance seems to truly enjoy therapy.  

On another note, having Chance home full-time with no breaks (for either of us) is exhausting!  As part of his therapy I'm trying to work in more structured activities at certain times, which in turn pushes out time for housework, shopping, computer work, etc.  My day is not ending until around 10:00 each night and then I collapse in front of tivo'd programming (because I CAN'T fall asleep right after coming back from Target that late).  Chance also seriously misses school so he wants to play with Mommy 24/7

Those 4 hours, 3 days a week sound like heaven right now.

                - the weirdgirl

Three Sucks

Chance had his first OT and speech therapy session yesterday.  He really liked it.  There were games involved and lots of play for about an hour and a half.  He basically liked it so much he had a big screaming tantrum as we tried to leave.  ugh.  That’s one of his biggest areas that could use improvement right now.  We’ll be out doing something fun and he doesn’t want to leave.  Sometimes we won’t even be doing something all that fun (for example, the mattress store!); he just doesn’t want to go back to the house.  (And I can’t blame him, because I’m pretty bloody sick of being stuck in the house right now with a toddler who misses preschool something fierce, too.)  He doesn’t have that level of tantrum at home, only when we’re out (so yes, I am that mom with that child).  Obviously this kid’s social life is not at the activity level he would desire.  (I can already imagine what high school will be like.  And the fights.  Oy, the fights!)

The option (just in case you thought I missed this) is to let him play until he’s tired enough to go home with minimal fuss.  So I’ve been experimenting to find the magic number of play time. As far as I can figure with this inexact science that number is three hours minimum.  Three hours!  Three hours out somewhere, doing something (but nothing TOO loud or TOO stimulating or we guarantee a freak out), before he is tuckered enough to head home (and sometimes not even then). 

For example, we met another mom and toddler buddy at The Jungle on Monday.  We spent two hours there – and it was cool because it wasn’t crazy busy because so many kids were already in school – then we all went across the parking lot and had lunch at Red Robin (another hour).  I got him in the car without a tantrum, but there was still some protest crying involved.

I actually think four hours would be ideal.  Then he might even fall asleep on the way to the car.  (That would be so cool.)

However, do you know how trashed I am after three hours?  (I am old.)

He goes back to preschool October 1st.  I need to come up with somewhat social, definitely active, not too over-stimulating, appropriately interesting activities for another month.

So I start imagining… what if you had The Jungle but it only piped in quiet classical music?  And it had a full café attached.  Not a pizza place, but a café.  With free WiFi.  And it could still have video games but they wouldn’t steal your quarters and the sound would be turned way down so as not to disturb the classical music.  And there would be attendants!  Fully-trained ex-daycare worker attendants to watch the children.  And (for myself) all the other parents are cool because all the children are hyperactive.  The kids just bounce off each other to their heart’s content (or until they fall asleep) while we sit and drink lattes.

I could spend 3-4 hours at that place.        - wg

A Beginning? Keep your fingers crossed!

(Not to distract from the topic at hand, but this is my 500th post!)

I’ve been in my cave this week, so to speak, but I’m ready to poke my nose out and growl.  (Nice growling, though. Growling to start conversations, not end them).  For those of you who have read my blog for a while you know that we were having issues with Chance (you can read about them here, here and here, and even some here).  Well, we’ve had some developments recently.

Right before I went to BlogHer, we made the decision to pull Chance out of preschool for the rest of the summer session.  Basically, he was still biting; not all the time but it was still enough that we decided a break was needed.  A break would give me more time to get assessments done and/or work with him on specific issues, and a break for him from the place where he kept getting in trouble (although he did NOT want to leave school).  He continues to be more physically rough, more active, less focused than the kids around him.  (We also have a vacation planned so it just made sense to pull him out.)  

This has been a long road to get assessments done.  I’ve been working on this process since February.  I was getting a lot of feedpushback and random advice, the two most frustrating being “just wait until he’s older,” and “read this parenting book.”  (This from professionals, some of them who hadn’t even seen Chance.)  It’s not as if I wasn’t open to trying different methods – I read the books, I implemented some of that advice – but a lot of it just didn’t feel right.  For example, people advised that I give Chance something to do every single day to “burn off energy”, when my instinct (and experience) was that he would get increasingly wound up if he didn’t have “downtime” days.  When I talked about how Chance always wanted to be on top of people, the advice I got was “just don’t ever let him climb on you and he’ll learn,” when my instinct was telling me that he somehow needed that physical touch.  Although it was suggested that I do hearing and/or speech screenings, when I asked about other sensory processing issues I got pushback.  Frankly, I needed some help (now, not six months from now) and my gut said some form of physical therapy.

A couple of weeks ago I said fuck it and I found a place that would do both speech and occupational (physical) screenings.  It was private and out of pocket, but waiting for referrals or help from the school district was getting ridiculous.

Chance had his assessments yesterday.  The therapists immediately could see, and point out, behaviors leading to the issues we’ve been having with him.  Suddenly, things we didn’t understand made a lot more sense.  Chance is showing symptoms of apraxia and dyspraxia, which are problems with motor-planning.  Essentially, when a person wants to move their body: 1) you get the idea of moving, 2) you plan the movement, and 3) you do the movement.  People who are dyspraxic get stuck at the planning movement stage and need a little extra time for the thought process.  Apraxia is similar but has to do with verbal motor planning, trying to get the words out.  Chance also seems to be hyper-aware of sound and it’s distracting the hell out of him.  The confusion of trying to process everything can cause a lot emotional buildup, anxiety or lashing out. 

Finally feedback that felt right.  Or at least a lot closer to what could work than anything before.  There have been a lot of communication disconnects between what I hear people say about Chance and what I observe.  For example, his school would tell me he can’t do such and such, when I would see him do such and such all the time at home.  The apraxia accounts for when he doesn’t respond to questions or instructions or when he sometimes avoids eye contact when you’re talking to him; he understands everything but he needs the extra time to process.  He could learn something at school and not do it there at all, but come home and do it perfectly.  Chance has problems with “on demand” instructions or requests, both physically and verbally.  This can also mean difficulty with group play.  

As for his activity level and rough playing, the occupational therapist pointed out that kids with these issues sometimes run around "wild" because running around is either easier than the processing or gives them time to process.  Chance seeks out a lot of physical contact because it helps him "ground" himself, releasing physical and emotional energy.  The biting was/is an unfortunate component of that. (Everyone who has ever observed him has said that his aggressive behavior never seemed vindictive, but like "he couldn't help himself".)

The apraxia/dyspraxia is not a definitive “diagnosis” by any means, but I feel like these are elements that we can specifically address that may help get our arms around his behavior.  We will be doing speech and occupational therapy and I have high hopes.

So that’s where we’re at.  Having a plan in place, hearing specific targeted techniques…this feels so much better than reading another book*.  

-         the weirdgirl

P.S. I went to the Parents of Children with Special Needs panel at BlogHer ’08 and I felt a lot of love and support from that community, especially being a “newbie” to this process.  I’ve also spoken to and asked advice from other blogging parents out there.  Your stories and encouragement mean a lot.  Thank you.

*Though, yes, I will be reading Out of Sync Child.