Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Dog Problem

I think the most frustrating thing about having a child with a speech delay is the inability to communicate beyond super basic needs (and sometimes wants).

She knows about forty signs and about twenty spoken words, but they aren't always useful. For example, when she's upset and troubled, seeing her beautifully sign "bicycle" and "chicken" do little to help me diagnosis how I can best help her since she doesn't really objectively know those things. She can just show you the sign when she hears the word.

If you've been around this blog for a while, I'm sure you probably remember the infamous nursery story. A few months back I got paged to come to the nursery during church, and the nursery workers were frantic because Addison was clearly not well.

She was lying on an overstuffed chair, moaning, clutching her stomach, and appearing to the casual observer to be a child in distress.

The nursery workers were worried and clearly considered this an emergency.

Concerned, I quickly knelt down in front of my pathetic child and asked what was wrong.

She shot up as if miraculously healed and vigorously signed "CHOCOLATE".

When the nursery workers asked if she was going to make it, all I could do was laugh.

Addison wanted chocolate. She couldn't communicate that to the nursery workers (since she made up her own sign for "chocolate" that they didn't know). When they didn't respond back that they understood her (or gave her chocolate), she shut down into "distress".

I retell that story today (on a Saturday no less!) because we have a situation going on that I just can't figure out how to work my way out of. I thought that if I typed it out, answers would become obvious.

So Addison is obsessed with dogs. This is one of the signs/words that she can do both at once AND she can identify a picture of a dog and an actual dog by labeling them correctly.

When she sees a dog, she's very gentle, patient, and kind. And dogs love her too. She gives awesome dog "love" and if there is a dog nearby, she will find it to give kisses and hugs. Pretty much the girl's a dog whisperer.

She's so completely obsessed with dogs that we wondered if we should get her one that might possibly keep an eye out for her as well. The only problem is, we can't afford the big upfront cost of a new puppy (or even rescue dog- so expensive!) since we would have to put in an underground electric fence in our yard at the same time. Plus, let's face it a dog is a lot of work that we aren't really sure if we're up for at this time in our lives.

But when we found the perfect little one year old, already-trained 30 pound ball of dog cuteness for free on Craigslist this week, we considered adding the new responsibility seriously for the first time since she seemed to be a perfect match for our little family.

The problem? We told Addison about it earlier in the week. We had an appointment to meet the dog on Thursday, and I fed Addison that bit of information thinking that she would process it like all other information- in one ear out the other. She tends to pretend like she doesn't understand most things (even though she totally does- I really should have known better)

Also, Aaron and I mentioned to each other in our dog conversation how we could totally see the dog sleeping with Addison in her big girl bed (that we have yet to transition her to). We didn't say that TO Addison, but she must have picked up that bit of information somehow because she latched onto it as gospel.

When the appointment got cancelled because someone else claimed the free dog first, we figured that that was our sign that a dog wasn't in the cards for us right now, and we continued on our merry way.

Except for Addison.

Normally this little girl is fast asleep every night before 7, but this week? She has finally trailed off into a fitful sleep around midnight. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

When I check on her and ask her what's wrong, she says "Ow, ow, ow, ow" over and over again.

I then of course ask her what hurts. "Does this hurt?" I ask her, touching her nose and then her arm and then her belly.

She then (every time), says very vehemently "DOG" and signs it too so that there's no confusion.

She will do this every half hour or so when I go in to coax her to give up and just GO TO SLEEP. In between checks, she'll alternate lying in her crib, moaning as thought she's on her death bed, and running vigorous circles around her crib with a war cry.

Yesterday when we were loading up to go get our Christmas tree, I told her that we were going someplace very special. She lit up like that Christmas tree would look eventually and signed and said "DOG" with a new level of enthusiasm.

I told her that we can't get that dog that we talked about because someone else got her first. I told her how she can have a dog when she's older and ready to help take care of it. I told her that we can't get her a dog right now. I told her that she needs to go to sleep because she's going to get sick again.

She then says "Ow, ow, ow"

and then

"DOG, dog, DOG" with the sign and a fire in her eyes that says that she's not giving up.

I'm not sure if she doesn't understand that we're not getting a dog or if she is just refusing to give up on what she wants. I'm not sure if she's really staying awake until midnight every night waiting for a dog to come snuggle with her or if she's just going through a non-sleeping phase. I'm not sure how to communicate with her that she's going to have to be happy with a little brother right now because we're not getting a dog even thought it looked for a day or two like we might. I'm not sure how to convince her to SLEEP her normal schedule before she gets sick again (oh the horror).

I'm kicking myself for mentioning the possibility to her. I was just so excited at the thought of giving her something that she had asked for so many times that I shared the information with her prematurely. Rookie mistake.

So how do I get her to forget about the dog coming to sleep with her? How do I reverse the information in her head? How do I communicate the truth to her when I'm not totally sure what she understands from her very limited communication of "Ow" and "Dog"? How do I get my usually awesome sleeper to SLEEP?

Any advice for a mommy who learned a valuable lesson about leaking secrets to the enemy sharing "possibilities" with her children?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Deanna,

    Love the blog and visit often. My 5 year old with Down syndrome has been known to grasp onto one idea for a long time, and it can be challenging to move him once his mind is set. Two ideas came to mind, the first what about a large soft toy dog. You could then talk about needing it to be a toy dog to let it sleep in Addisons bed. The other would be looking into whether or not a Pets for Therapy dog would be a possibility in your area. We live in Australia and they are becoming more and more popular. Often you can fundraise to cover the cost of adopting a fully trained dog.

    Hope this helps,



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