Thursday, March 31, 2011

This Just In...

Alert! Alert! Paige just pooped in her potty for the first time! She also got to hold a book and have me read her "Little Pea" during said poop. When she was finished, she said "Bye Bye!!" to the poop as it was flushed down the toilet. After much dancing and jubilation, she got to choose a special Hello Kitty puffy sticker to wear on her sleeve, which will go on a chart I make tonight after she goes to bed. She got to call her Daddy at work and said "A poo-poo!" when I told her to tell Daddy what she did.
And that is the end of this special Alert. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What you talkin' 'bout?

Hi friends! I've missed you!

I'm back in this space, hopefully more regularly! I've been sick pretty much constantly these past few months and have just plain been worn out. I've had a lot on my mind and you know how that happens and you seem SO MUCH MORE TIRED than normal and you just don't want to do anything extra? I'm waving my hand since that's been me for quite a while now.

Back in early December we decided to have Paige evaluated by our state's Early Intervention program. At that time, I'd spent a significant amount of time worrying about her lack of speech and her lack of interest in being with me or caring whether or not I was there. She spent a lot of time playing by herself, looking at books alone in the corner...generally keeping herself entertained all day. She seemed to wander from thing to thing without ever stopping for much time to really play with anything and never seemed to be able to focus on anything. When I spoke to her she never really looked at me or seemed to care about what I said. Her moments of eye contact were swift and fleeting. Now I know it's all called a "Lack of engagement." She could make the sounds of the animals and say "Dada" but couldn't say Mama or much of anything else that would be useful in her day. I wasn't as much worried about her speech in figuring that perhaps she was just going to be a "late talker," but it was the lack of interest and focus in anything that was starting to freak me out along with the fact that she wasn't trying to communicate via pointing or gesturing (which came not long after the evaluation, phew!)

The evaluators came out and it was a melee of women crammed in our play room as they watched Paige wander around and tried to get her to do different things. She ended up having very advanced gross and fine motor skills (well past 24 months and some things closer to age 3), and her cognitive skills were where they needed to be. But her expressive language (the words she says) and her receptive language (the words she UNDERSTANDS) were way behind. Meaning at a 10 month-old level. Paige was 19 months old at the time. They also noticed that she seemed to not be able to focus on things because she was too busy seeking out sensory experiences...she had to touch everything or chew on her doll or play in the bean box...and they hypothesized that THAT was why she was behind...she just couldn't organize herself enough to pay attention and learn from what was around her.

She was immediately assigned different therapies...a developmental specialist (DS) to help her work on social skills, eye contact, engagement, focus, etc. A speech therapist (a speech language pathologist) to help her develop her language skills. And an Occupational Therapist (OT) to help sort out her sensory needs and how to meet them so that she could focus on her tasks. She starting seeing the DS once per week (for one hour) and the others once per month (for one hour). Unfortunately, many snow days, illnesses on both sides and other challenges made the number of visits be dramatically less than planned so I can't quite yet say it has had a huge impact aside from the bits of advice they can share with me at the end of the visits.

But, I CAN say that through my own research, reading and studying I have figured out the best ways I can help Little P at home on my own time rather than waiting around. It may not be perfect, but it's something and it's consistent. In the beginning of January she had 10 words and as of yesterday (March 27th) she has 114 in her expressive vocabulary (words she can say without prompting). She is able to focus for huge lengths of time. She is able to follow directions now and point out anything in a book if I ask her. She is finally starting to mimic us...not just repeating words but also making faces we make in the mirror, silly dance moves, and other games (things she used to be unable to d0). She looks us in the eyes all the time now. She smiles and wants hugs and snuggles. She kisses us and says "night-night" at bedtime. She comes to me and clings to me through the day (which she never used to do). She has starting asking for things she needs and communicates her needs if she can't say the words (she never used to even point at things she wanted or needed...she'd just cry). She's a whole different kid in only 2-3 months' time! I can say that I believe that she's a late bloomer in hitting those certain milestones, but she hit them. My fears have finally subsided as she now acts like the other kids in her classes and even takes certain leadership. It's exciting since it wasn't long ago that she used to run away from the other kids and play alone in the corner and avoided everyone and everything at all costs. She certainly never could take direction or sit still. Now it's all different.

I've spent a minimum of one hour each day (usually closer to 3) of working with Little P. I've read a lot of texts about how to engage a child who is hard to engage. Our best method has involved PLAYING together in a concentrated way for several chunks of time through the day. The website Teach me to Talk has been monumental in teaching me HOW to play with Paige in a way that will engage her, keep her with me during play, and learn to enjoy being with me. In turn, she can LEARN from me (language, eye contact, fun, warmth, give and take, all sorts of social cues). We play with a variety of toys that are meant to draw lots of language opportunities out and it's worked like a charm. I've also learned lots of little social games that are fun. I can barely keep up now with the changes in her! Best of all, for me, is that Little P wants to be with me now and no longer insists on playing alone (she used to run away from me every time I tried to insert myself into her play). She always wants me nearby (which is the normal thing) and we enjoy a warm and loving relationship filled with rewarding moments and fun. I can't tell you how special that is when you missed it for so long. Little P. is able to express herself, share, and include me in her games. It's such a gift. I've also figured out what sensory activities Little P. craves and have learned to discern when she needs them through the day. She can focus and engage so well after a little time in her swing or squeezing the Play Doh...as examples.

In honesty, I spent a lot of time in the past crying and wondering why my daughter didn't seem to care if I was around. It was hard on me after all the struggle we went through to have her. (and I mean that in the way that we went through so much before we were lucky enough to have her and it felt like we'd already "paid our dues" in terms of challenges...of course that's not how life works)I felt such a bond WITH her but didn't always feel it FROM her. It's not to say she disliked me, she just didn't know how to engage with me in meaningful ways all of the time. She definitely had moments of needing me, connecting and enjoying my company. It just wasn't a deep and constant connection most people enjoy naturally with their kids. Now, that problem is long gone and I say GOOD RIDDANCE! I'll admit, sometimes now I get a little down that I have had to work so hard to have all of this happen (and will likely continue to do so). This stuff comes naturally without effort for most kids, and that's just not the case for us. It's been another challenge in my life that left me wondering "Why us?" We did everything "right." (I've learned that our kids come with their own special gifts, struggles, strengths and challenges and it has nothing to do with us as parents unless we are abusers and it's certainly not our kids' fault either...it's just what IS) I'm tired a lot and some days I just can't put in the effort to do so much extra. But, in whole, discovering how to engage Little P has changed our lives so drastically and thrillingly and I just had to write it here and share in case anyone else is going through a similar thing. We've gone through the tunnel and are coming out the other side. We are still on the road. Right now, things are exactly as they need to be and I feel really grateful.

Over the next while, I plan to write some posts about some of the activities and strategies that have worked well with Little P and her being a late talker/having a speech delay and what has helped her engage and enjoy relationships with the people in her life. Any experts out there, please know that my words are in layman terms and in no way am I trying to be scientific in this space. I'm simply sharing what I've been doing in my own words and leaving it at that. There are plenty of reference websites that go into more medical and scientific detail. Also, we are still in this journey and I'm not a doctor so I can't say I am an expert or that Paige is totally caught up on all fronts. I simply want to share what we've been doing since there's not a ton of information out there for the parent besides "read to your child" and "narrate what you do all day." (While those are great things, I DID them and continue to do so...it just didn't make much of a difference for us since P. needed MORE).

So that's what we've been up to for the past several months. I debated about not writing about it all here, but it's very therapeutic for me to share and I feel so many people can relate to my feelings. Little P. is doing so much better to the point where I personally feel she's getting caught up to where she should be now or will be very soon, and because of this, I wanted to share with others who might be wondering about a possible speech delay in their own children. There ARE little things you can do to help... starting NOW while you wait for those evaluations and answers or for time to pass until you can know more. Every child is different, so I can only speak about what we are up to and hope it can spur on an idea or two for you.

Wow. That was a long freakin' post. Sorry. But it's been a lot. Please know that I've missed being here and sharing our adventures. We're in a much better place and I have lots to tell so I'll so you in this space again VERY soon! Be well!

23 Months

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Your first pigtails!


Dear Little P.,

Today you are 23 months old! So close to being two! Your last month of being a 1 year old...I can't believe it. Sometimes I lay in bed at night and cry a little bit to myself, sniffling in the dark about how time slips right through my fingers and I can't seem to grasp it. I think about how having you in our lives has blessed us in the most complex and profound ways. Each day presents new challenges as we try and work together, you and me, to help you grow and flourish. I always end up realizing how happy you are and it always makes me feel better enough to sigh and fall asleep.
This past month you've discovered your social side as you notice how much fun others can really be. You smile and frolic with others in a way you never used to. You are starting to enjoy pretending and actually PLAYING with your toys. You've uncovered a big love of dinosaurs and roaring like them all over the house. We got you your very own Stegosaurus and Brachiosaurus figures the other day and it was like the best day of your life. Who knew some dinosaurs would be like the Second Coming? What a fun time we are having together! It hasn't been all roses and sunshine as you spent several days sick, sick sick. Puking every 15 minutes for 36 hours...and then having days of residual illness afterward. Not so fun for anyone, least of all you. I felt so bad for you and your poor listless body. But now you are fully mended and filled with energy. "Outside!" you scream half the day. You don't care that it's arctic-cold and windy until you get out there and promptly say "All Done!" We can't wait for warmer weather!
We're having so much fun, my little love. We make a great team. You and Dad make a great team. Together, we make a great family and that's my dream come true.
I love you deeply now and forever more,
Mama

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More Pigtails...

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I know she's playing with the blinds' cord and that's a no-no. But, she was attended (this is in my bedroom). She just loves to make the blinds go up and down and then make them stay that way. I'm always watching.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Treasured Moment

Last night as Paige was on her changing pad (after bath and getting her diaper on) she grabbed my hand and said "hug!" and pulled it to her chest/heart. (This was the first time I've heard her say "hug.") She proceeded to snuggle it with both her arms tightly and rocked her body a little to the left and then a little to the right. A sort of hugging sway. She had a big smile and held my hand so close. It was so sweet and I almost cried. She then did the same to Chris' hand.
Paige had never been much of a snuggler; always preferring to be on the move or doing something else (but not for lack of effort on OUR part to get snuggles!). She's been becoming much more affectionate in the past couple of months and I'm loving it!
I was lucky enough for her to do the hand hug with me again this morning after she ate her breakfast in her high chair. She suddenly grabbed my hand, said "hug!"and did the same thing. I about melted into a blob right there. That would have been a good time for her to ask me for a car. She missed out on that one!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

22 months

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Here is Paige, hoping to watch a show (but I said no and we read books instead)

My Dearest Little P.,

When you burst into my room this afternoon with Daddy you had the brightest smile...your cheeks bursting and I saw all of your teeth at once. You screamed with glee and ran toward me at lightning speed. I had just finished a nap (I've had a nasty cold AGAIN!) and I guess you missed me! You gave me a wonderful hug as I reached over the side of the bed. Those are the moments I string together like pearls at keep around my heart. These are what makes life so wonderful and meaningful. There have been many, many, many of these pearls lately!
Paige, you are such a happy kiddo. SUCH a happy kid. And that makes ME so happy and feel like I am doing something right. You rarely fuss about anything anymore; you are just so cheerful and excited about life. You are incredibly bubbly and bouncy. I often can find you skipping and hopping around as you say "hop! hop! hop!!" I have even found you in front of the mirror saying "Caw! Caw!" as you flap your arms as you pretend to be a bird; so silly. Your smiles have gotten more expressive and bright; your snuggles more cuddly. Our bond has strengthened beyond measure.
One of your favorite activities is to sit and "read" to me. You babble, jargon and chatter at a high rate with lots of inflection as you tell me a story from any number of books. I can never recognize any of the words and it just doesn't matter. Your stories are the most wonderful in the world. They are yours and I'll always be listening in awe.
We are having such a wonderful time together. I cherish these days and miss each one as it passes by. Being with you is the greatest pleasure. We've been through a lot these past few months but the challenges have delivered the greatest rewards. Being your Mama is the greatest job I could have ever dreamed of and I often pinch myself because I feel so lucky and wonder if I'm in a dream. I miss you when you are in bed at night all safe and warm. The morning brings the warmth of your smile and the delight of your giggles; I hate to be away from them!
You are going through some rapid changes with growth, speech, and a developing personality...it's like being there as the flower unfurls. It's so fast! You are so different today than you even were last week. There's simply no containing you even if I wanted to.
I often think about how loving you means giving you plenty of space to grow and find yourself. It means letting go of your babyhood and trying to control all your movements. But it also means knowing when to hold you close and enjoy right amount of togetherness for playing and learning. I don't always do it right, but I want you to know that I try my best to give you what you need to help you be your best.
Your beautiful and happy face tells me I'm doing just fine. So, thank you for that.
I love you always and forever more,
Mama

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We created a little nook in our bedroom with books and a few toys to make you feel welcome.

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You love a good scratch and sniff book

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Making a proper mess as you play in your room

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