Something so unique about having a special needs child is that when most typical children are headed in one direction, you find yourself wondering if you should follow their lead, if it fits your child’s needs, or if you need to forge your own path, hope it fits your child’s needs and try to stand by your choices.
As you can see from our previous blog posts, our journey with Elizabeth has had quite the twist and turns, but we have arrived at a point in our journey that most parents get to and it is called It Is Almost Time For Kindergarten.” Yes, as we have been so busy with Elizabeth and her disorders, time has ticked by until we have arrived at this point, this crossroad.
I can remember thinking that even at the age when most children would be happily picking out a backpack and headed to Kindergarten, we were looking at the beautiful child and thinking “Where is the next best step for her?” We knew she would love the socialization of school, but her language was not strong enough to send her into the world and the school would be looking at her education goals based on that initial IEP test. John and I reasoned that if we used the year to work harder on speech and language, continued our work with Mary and all we did at home, we could make great gains and we could revisit the school idea next year.
This WAS our plan, however, we found having a conversation with a mother who had a daughter in the Montessori school in our area. Her words and feelings about the school sounded calm and encouraging. We investigated it further and thought we should enroll Elizabeth. Elizabeth went to see it with us and she was calmed by the feeling there, enjoyed watching the class work and seemed content. So into the school she went.
Something to note about children with Global Dyspraxia is that they do not generally have a natural curiosity about things. For example, they will NEVER pick up a toy and try to figure out how to dress it, move it or play with it. You will be needing to show them the above, repeatedly and break down those steps! With that said, Montessori has a philosophy that the child will learn via there own drive, pace and they are encouraged to find areas to “learn and explore” on their own…hence the individual pace and calm feeling of the school. Elizabeth’s inherent lack of curiosity due to her disorder and their inherent belief in education driven by individual curiosity did not blend well. Truth be told, she did wonderfully there. She sat in morning meetings, listened well, ate her lunch with little assistance, took the nice rest time they had after lunch and more. So we were encouraged in all that was being shown by Elizabeth. In fact, had it not been for the fact that Elizabeth liked to play/learn in only one area for a whole month, and we were kind of scared the year might wasted in terms of learning, we would have probably kept her there. But we knew we really could not let time slip by without her educational goals being met, so with heavy hearts we chose to leave the school.
As I said before our road has been full of twists and turns. We decided that because Elizabeth needed more one on one learning, we could home-school her, all the while continuing with her speech and language therapy, her work with Mary, and for the socialization aspect we would see if we could arrange for her to attend her old preschool for a couple mornings a week. The preschool said they would love to have her back, we found a young teacher who said she would be happy to tutor her, we turned a spare room into a school room and we then introduced Elizabeth to her new schedule. One I will say she took to right away and did beautifully.
Something to note here is that Elizabeth has these pretty severe disorders…correct? Yet, she is one amazing child to meet and work with as many people as she has had to encounter in her few years on this earth, not to mention all the places we took her to, some that worked out, others that did not. I venture to think that her life and challenges, changes and adjustments might just fell some, if not most, typical developing peers. I offer this out because to this day, Elizabeth is so open to teachers, therapists and people and I cannot help but think her early years and experiences have given her this gift.
So now that we had a path, we could focus on the work we were doing with our therapies. We could do our follow up at home, Elizabeth had her social outlet and her one on one tutoring was going well.
For the therapy, Mary had us working Elizabeth’s whole body, and core with certain exercise we could accomplish on a trapeze bar ( think bar from a playground set) attached to a beam in the basement, where she was to hang by her hands and lift and lower her legs and a scooter she could lie down on and use her arms to move it around the basement. Mary also had us working on encouraging more thinking language from Elizabeth. We were to read her a bit of a story and ask her questions like: “Who is the story about?” or “What do you think will happen next?” This way she could work on comprehension and also get some good language in there as well. Truthfully, I found these therapies challenging to do with Elizabeth but seeing her try and accomplish them made me quite happy for all the hard work and efforts we put into them.
Clarity and enunciation have always been and to this day still are our challenge. Dyspraxic children form habits so quickly…be them good or bad ones and some misarticulations come from bad habits formed as well as from the dyspraxia itself. Mary had encouraged us to buy bubble blowers from TalkTools as well as this neat button on a string to use to work her lips and tongue more. The button was placed between her teeth and lips and I tugged on the string and she kept her lips tight to keep the button in place. It was hard work to do but we knew at this stage of the game it was time to try this. Truly, I cannot imagine trying this therapy tool prior to this time in Elizabeth’s life when she was so severely affected by her SPD. I am happy to say she did well with these new therapy changes.
When there is a success, be it big or small, it sort of fuels you to continue, to rise to the next challenge. I can say that our Elizabeth has done that throughout her young life.
She started life as a beautiful baby and toddler, trapped by her disorders. She is now this beautiful kindergarten aged child whose personality and abilities are ever emerging. It is exciting to think of her future, believing she will continue to succeed…believing in her.
For a little bit we find ourselves able to rest and to take in all the good around us. A happy Elizabeth, therapies and school that fit her needs, and some much needed peace.
The journey continues….
Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.