Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Early Intervention

I know that there are mixed reviews on Early Intervention Therapy. Some families think it's unnecessary. Some families dip their toes into the water a little. Some families dive all the way in.

I would say it's safe to say that we are part of the diving crew. At the beginning it was like diving off the edge of a cliff. And when we first hit the ocean below we drowned for a bit.

With therapists coming to our home every week on top of many doctors appointments- it was all a lot to adjust to. For a long time I felt as though my life was controlled by all of the therapy.

But over time we found our balance and greatly enjoyed the benefit of therapy while still having a life outside of all the appointments!

Here are some things that worked toward us finding that balance:

1. Layering appointments with two therapists on one day overlapping by a half-hour. We then only had two mornings for four therapists instead of four mornings for therapists. Two mornings were dedicated to therapy instead of having each day torn up just enough to make it not functional. Also, it was immensely helpful for the therapists to collaborate and compare notes during these joint sessions.
2. Replacing therapists that just didn't mix well with our family. To be honest I was too chicken to call and ask for new therapists when we weren't getting along with a couple of therapists a couple of years ago. But thankfully things worked out on their own in that regards and then in the next round we got the most amazing therapists. When you are dedicating so much time to something, it's important that you and your child like the therapists. Addison really took off once we got our current therapists because she LOVES them, and they truly have an amazing connection with her.

3. Not being afraid to take some months off from therapy. Last summer we took a break for a month or two. The extra time at the pool instead of at home in therapy was just what the doctor ordered. 

4. Having set appointments on certain days of the week. I found I was a lot less likely to forget appointments when I knew to just plan- Monday mornings, ST and BE; Tuesday mornings OT and PT
5. Letting go of the notion that my house would be perfectly clean for each appointment. One day last summer my house was especially horrible- piles of stuff were all over the living room, crumbs lined the floors, flies were all over the place because it was summer and they love my house...and the kids were asleep so I was FINALLY tackling the mess. I started the scrub down in the bathroom and decided to work my way out to visible. Of course, as soon as I finished the bathroom, Melanie showed up for an appointment I totally forgot about (because I put it on a different day than usual!) She didn't even blink an eye. Therapy resumed as usual, and I was thankful for her sweet ability to not even care since she was there for Addison and that was all that mattered for her.

6. Not being afraid to speak up with my opinion even though I was intimidated at time by the experience the professionals brought to the table. This goes hand-in-hand with finding just the right therapists. The RIGHT ones for you will listen to you and respect what you have to say even if it's not what was on their agenda.

We have been a part of Early Intervention since Addison was six weeks old. This week we said goodbye to it as we head into a new team of therapists at the preschool. 

I would describe our therapy experience as an "it hurts so good" experience. It was hard to keep up with appointments, overwhelming, and exhausting at times. But I can see the difference it has made for Addison, and I wouldn't trade all of these appointments over the past three years for anything.

As a new mom, it has been completely reassuring to be able to pick the brain of a professional each week on certain issues. The encouragement they gave me carried me through at times. The love they showed Addison was incredible (and returned!).
The Speech Therapist (Deanna) knew that Addison loved music, so she channeled her love for music as a way to teach speech to her. It was when she started with us that Addison said her first words and signed her first signs. We jokingly refer to her as Addison's own personal juke box because as soon as Addison sees her she immediately starts signing for whatever song she wanted to start with. Also, Deanna knew that Addison loved books, so she made social story books for Addison, taking pictures of Addison doing certain things and then putting a word on each page along with the picture so that Addison could pair the word with the action. The love and dedication that Deanna brought to each appointment was very obvious to Addison, and Addison loved Deanna right back( and has had an explosion of speech/signs as a direct result of Deanna's work.)
The Physical Therapists (Odette) is the only therapist left that was part of Addison's original therapy team. Patient, kind, sweet- Odette was the one shouting encouragement to Addison to finally walk and whispering encouragement to me that it will happen when it happens. I remember venting to Odette about nasal cannula woes; rejoicing after we returned home from successful heart surgeries; complaining about the snarky doctor at Addison's g-tube removal. Odette never once gave a response that wasn't gracious and kind. She always knew the right thing to say.
The Behavioral Educator (Eileen) has been so helpful with making speech connections through daily routine and with issues such as "Addison will walk right into a busy road and not stop when I yell NO and run to catch up to her. What can I do to help keep her safe?" (BTW, an example of collaboration: after Eileen made a bunch of tiny stop signs for us to practice with and gave me some exercises to do with Addison, Deanna made a dancing until we "STOP" game that Addison loved so much she started signing "stop" and freezing when she heard the word for the first time. Odette also used this as a physical exercise to teach Addison to RUN until we "STOP". And Deanna made a social story book called "Mommy says STOP".) Eileen is such a sweetheart, we missed her so much when she went on maternity leave back in November!
The Occupational Therapist (Melanie) has been our resource on getting Addison's little fingers to cooperate with stacking blocks, playing iPad, feeding herself, drinking from a cup, turning pages in a book, stirring empty bowls, opening lids, dressing herself, and so much more. The OT we had before Melanie I always felt talked down to Addison in her "baby talk" voice. Maybe it was just her personality, but it truly annoyed me. Melanie has always respected Addison and treated her like a real person even when they were working on the most basic of skills. Melanie has a down-to-earth way of connecting with Addison that doesn't involve high pitched questions that shouted "I'm talking to you like this because you obviously don't UNDERSTAND me". I absolutely love the way Melanie has interacted with Addison. She has always treated her like she's so smart and cool, and I can't express how much I appreciated that!

So yeah, it's a little weird that we are saying goodbye to that part of our life. Addison will still continue therapy at Preschool with the Speech therapist still  making weekly visits to our home, but we are now "discharged" from our old team. It's sad to not be able to see the therapists each week that we made such a connection with.

Here is a picture of Addison after her vey first therapy appointment at 6 weeks old (one week home from the NICU):
And here she is yesterday morning before her last Early Intervention appointment, feeding herself breakfast:
I think these pictures speak for themselves. 

To the therapists: Thank you so much for all of the help you brought to Addison these past three years! As we head into the next phase of special education, we are sad to leave our EI team behind, but excited about what comes next. Thank you for preparing us for such a smooth transition! You guys are awesome (and is it wrong that we're a little jealous of all of those lucky under-three-year-olds that still get to see you each week???)

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