Saturday, April 13, 2013

Getting a Head Start

The past few months have been challenging with Diddles.  She's seeming to struggle in many areas, and I wasn't sure what to do, or where to turn for validation on my maternal hunch - that feeling that something just doesn't seem quite right, and that we needed some extra help.

  • She has an individual teacher's aide in Sunbeams...  Yes, she's THAT child in Primary.  She doesn't sit still, doesn't keep her shoes/socks/dress on, seems really disengaged, distracted, won't follow directions, etc.  I've resorted to keeping her with me in the YW room during sharing time, and taking her to the small class just before YW's starts.  It's about all she can handle.  I feel so bad for her teachers, and I'm sure they wish we went inactive.
  • Josh took the kids to get ice cream cones last week while I was away.  Gave her a choice of sugar or cake cone.  She chose sugar, was handed her scoop, noticed the cone had a crack in it.  MELTDOWN.  Got a new cone.  Still crying.  Turns out the cone on display had a pink paper wrapped around it.  She wanted paper on her cone.  The trip was cut short because she was creating too much of a scene.  
Different ice cream cone, on a different day.  :)
  • Our neighbor friend, Christian, brought his dog over to play after school.  I was inside working on dinner, and oblivious to what happened next.  When it was time to for him to go home, Diddles followed him ALL THE WAY up the street and to his house (no shoes/socks or PANTS on) because she wanted to play with the dog.  Seems to have no concept of danger, rules, etc.  Has no remorse for breaking a rule (ie, scaring her mother to death when we couldn't find her for 20 minutes), and thought it was funny that we were chasing her down the street!
These are just a few examples.   I argued back and forth with myself as to whether this was/is normal 3-yr-old behavior, or if this is something I should be concerned about, and may be another deeper issue at play here.  I expressed my concern to our speech therapist, in the context that I felt that she needed more help in speech therapy and that I was concerned that summer was coming and her services would come to a screeching halt.  We've made such little progress as it is, I hated thinking of losing what little we've gained.  

Our therapist agreed that she thought it might be something else, and so began a rapid series of events to diagnose Diddles.  Josh and I filled out a huge questionnaire with everything from her personal hygiene to how she handles herself in play groups.  We were brutally honest - no sugarcoating to save parental face.  I took videos of her for language samples, and we had an interview with the Head Start director two weeks ago.  

It was such a strange spot to be in as a mother.  Lots of emotions, as you can imagine.   Guilt and frustration that as her own mother, I can't seem to be able to help her.  Hope that they can put a name to the behaviors we've been experiencing, even if that name may be autism (was always in the back of my mind).   Anxiety at what they might find.   Confusion that I can't seem to find answers, not knowing where I'm supposed to turn.  Fear for her future - knowing that the rate we're going doesn't bode well for how well she'll do in a school setting (she'll be old enough for Kindergarten in one more year!).  

They took Diddles back to a play room, and the director assessed her for 30 minutes in a play-based setting to observe her behaviors.  Then she brought me back into the room to talk about it.  "I have some concerns about Diddles."  My eyes welled up with tears.  Gratitude?  Relief?  Fear?  

She outlined three areas where Diddles has a delay, and they are all wrapped up in her delay in speech:  Social/Emotional, Cognitive and Communication.

The communication we already knew.  She has trouble expressing what she needs, wants, feels.  We're still in three-word phrases.  It takes her a long time to get out what she has in her mind to say.  

Social/Emotional looks at how they relate to others:  Siblings, parents, peers, and how they cope with different types of situations.  Diddles has trouble focusing on one activity for longer than a few minutes.  She's easily distracted. She loses control with meltdowns frequently and over unusual reasons.  She has little interest in playing with other children,  and doesn't have a healthy fear of things she should fear (ie: swimming pool, strange dogs, being "lost" in a store, etc)

Cognitive development is their abstract thinking, or as she put it, "pictures in her head".  It's their abstract thinking, reasoning ability, ability to retain and apply new information.  Most 3-yr-olds would be able to answer the question, "What does a dog do?"  or be able to repeat a step-by-step process after seeing it a couple of times.  She can find a dog in a picture, but couldn't tell you that it wags its tail or barks.  Even after several models, she wasn't able to stack the purple cups in size order.  Diddles acts much younger than children her age, which isn't helped by the fact that she's 150% for her height.  She's as tall as some 5-yr-olds!  She has a short attention span, and is easily distracted.  Diddles has some attention deficit tendencies.  

That's a really long explanation, but the good news is, she's a perfect candidate for the state-funded Head-Start program!  Although we don't qualify based on financial need, once a child falls into more than two categories of delay, they automatically qualify.  They took me around the facility and introduced me to the wonderful staff.  I felt at-home and so peaceful seeing where she would be learning.  They have their own building right next to the high school, with wonderful resources and programs.  An in-house, early-childhood speech therapist, small class size, and she would be in a group where the majority of the children are "normal," behaviorally-balanced average three-year-olds, so she'll be able to see model behavior and learn from the other kids in a safe, controlled environment!   Next Thursday we meet to discuss her IEP (goals for this next year), and then she starts school on the 22nd, M-Th from 8am - 11:30am.  It will go for four weeks, and then we'll break for the summer months, but I'm so happy she's getting that start.  They really feel like she'll benefit from this early-intervention, and with the right plan, she'll be all caught up and ready to go when Kindergarten begins. :)
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So, here's to diagnoses, new starts, and head starts and helping hands to help my child! 


Sarah said...

So happy this is an option!

Golden Girl said...

Aww..sweet Diddles! I hope this helps her (and you). Hooray for resources and help!

Laura said...

I am happy to read this from a parents end. I see this from the other side so often. I love to hear the emotion and heartbreak that you experience as you fight to do what is best. I am SO happy you have worked with her so early and are getting her the intervention, it will make all the difference in the world. You are a great mom for all the work, worry, stress, and love that goes into taking care of sweet diddles....

Trish and Matt said...

Wonderful news! This will be so great for Diddles, and really, for all of you. What an answer to your prayers.