Early Intervention

I have talked a little about Jake’s therapists and teachers.  I have told you how great they are, how they work so diligently to help Jake…to help me.  Without early intervention Jake would not be where he is today.  Early intervention is the foundation, it helps mold a child from an early age and gives them something to build on as they grow.

Since we first started this journey we have been blessed with some really awesome therapists.  I remember the first meeting I had with our case worker from the TN Early Intervention Services (who was a God send) and she told me about a company that was just starting out.  She wanted me to use them for Jake’s therapies.  I was unsure, I wanted the best.  My case worker told me that they were the best so I trusted her.  Come to find out a few months later they were in fact the best fit for Jake and for me.  I loved having these ladies come in to my home, work with Jake as well as give me advice.  If it was a bad day they would work with Jake and tell me how to help turn the bad day around.  The owner of the ‘new’ company would listen to my concerns and give me suggestions.  She led me, told me her thoughts, she held my hand and gave me the courage to stand up and trust my own instincts.  After a short time I knew Jake needed more help so we added ABA (behavioral therapy).  Again I was scared, I wanted the best.  I remember our first meeting with the BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) at an autism treatment center, she seemed nice, she asked me questions; I was unsure and scared.  I remember telling her that Jake didn’t like to be touched by people he didn’t know; as I was saying this another therapist who was playing with Jake picked him up, sat him on her lap and helped him into a ball pit.  I started to cry, I couldn’t believe he let a stranger pick him up!  I knew this would be a good fit.  Who knew the BCBA that I was meeting with would become one of my biggest supporters and a good friend. These two therapist’s, who I now consider friends, gave me advice.  They helped me, encouraged me, loved Jake, worked with Jake but most of all they showed me that I too could help Jake.  At the time neither of these ladies knew the other, but they were saying the same things to me, offering similar advice.  They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself — determination.  I remember both of them saying to me on multiple occasions…you are Jake’s mom, trust yourself and give yourself some of the credit for his progression.  These ladies not only gave Jake the early help that he needed but they helped me as well.  They showed me how to stand up and advocate for what my kid needs.

In February 2012 Jake started preschool, again I was terrified.  I called the teacher that would have Jake in her special needs preschool class, I talked to her at great length and she calmed my nerves.  I remember thinking this is going to be the perfect fit for Jake (and me).  Right before Jake was to have his first day of school we had a team IEP (individual education plan) meeting to set up the goals we wanted for Jake.  John and I went and met Jake’s team (teacher’s and therapist’s) and the meeting went better than we expected.  We felt respected and our fears were eased.  We were all in agreement with what Jake needed but more than that, you could see on their faces that they truly loved what they were doing.  Jake’s teacher has worked so hard with him, she’s always available to answer any question I have had and has helped me as much as she has helped Jake.  We have been blessed with an excellent teacher, aides and therapists. For the first time since Jake has been in school he has had a few really good weeks.  Let me rephrase this…these weeks have been AWESOME!!!  He is listening better, following directions, he is talking, requesting his wants, using his words more and more to share his feelings.  Jake has done so well he has earned a treasure from the treasure box (first time ever).  Jake is learning, growing and meeting goals that 2 years ago I thought seemed impossible.  Jake is writing his name, cutting with scissors, painting, playing with play dough, and playing with peers all with minimal help from his teachers.  Wow is all I can say…it isn’t that I didn’t believe he would ever be able to do these things.  But WOW — it is all clicking and coming together!!

To say we have been blessed with the best therapists and teachers is an understatement.  They have all loved Jake, loved me and worked hard to help Jake succeed!  I know we would not be seeing all of this progression without their knowledge, their dedication and their love for my kid. Since the beginning of this journey everything I have heard and read says early intervention is key.  Start as early as possible, work as hard as you possibly can and you will see the results.  Results we are seeing now, nearly 4 years later!

A treatment method or an educational method that will work for one child may not work for another child.  The one common denominator for all the young children is that early intervention does work and it seems to improve the prognosis.  Temple Grandin

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Persistence

One thing that stands out as I think about our journey with Jake is how important persistence is in our daily walk.  Being persistent is so hard because there are many times I don’t want to do it anymore…I don’t want to keep at it; I want him to get it so we can move on to the next item on our to-do list.  I tell myself, if I am persistent enough and consistent enough it will happen.  But when you’ve been working on something for almost 2 years you get tired, you throw your hands up in the air and think what does it matter.  But matter it does!  I know if I (we) keep pressing on he will get it!

I have been working with Jake off and on for the past two years to eat a sandwich.  I have made so many different sandwiches, tried a variety of ways to make it “fun” and each time he balks at it…he gives me a look of pure disgust.  He wouldn’t touch it, he would cry, he would throw it if given the opportunity.  There was NO WAY he was going to touch a sandwich much less take a bite!!  When school started I talked to Jake’s teacher, Ms. J, and we decided this would be the year of the sandwich.  It sounds kinda funny and I have asked myself, is it really necessary for him to eat a sandwich, does it really matter?  Well, it does in a way.  It makes my life a bit easier as I don’t have to struggle with what to send for lunch. It makes our trips to the pool, park or anywhere a little easier because I could pack him something to eat that is healthy.   I have sent a sandwich in Jake’s lunchbox almost every day and Ms. J has made a big deal out of what a big boy Jake is to have a sandwich.  She has encouraged him to at least touch it, she would point out the other kiddo’s that are eating a sandwich etc.  She tried to get him to take a bite.  He wouldn’t do it.  I was getting discouraged because here I am making a sandwich that gets thrown out every day.  Seriously on the verge of dropping the whole sandwich thing but on Tuesday I get this text:

sandwich

Persistence!!  I am reminded of a verse that I have leaned on before Jake and I find myself repeating part of the verse to this day   “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize” Philippians 3:13&14  I have gone to this verse for various trials in my life.  I just never thought I would go to it to help me with Jake eating a sandwich!  But I have and I know I will lean on this verse again and again as we are persistent and press on toward the next goal!

We aren’t fully there yet, I can’t set a sandwich in front of Jake and watch him just eat it but he is getting there one bite at a time!

“yes, good day”

Jake had 2 really good days at school this past week.  No time-outs, he listened well and transitioned with ease to his therapies!  Everyday that Jake is in school I wonder how he is doing.  Typically I will text his teacher and ask if it is a good or not so good day?  Jake’s teacher is honest.  Per my request, she doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  There are days her response is hard to read…but on Friday I was thrilled to read the following:

goodday

This put a smile on my face for the remainder of the day — two days in a row were good days — yippee!!!  🙂

Usually on the way home from school Jake doesn’t want to talk, he gets agitated if I ask him questions…he just wants to stare out the window and sit in silence.  I will try to ask him questions but he will either cry or say nothing.  On Friday when I picked him up from school, he looked tired so I turned on our music and didn’t try to talk to him.  He had that look on his face that said ‘I just want to stare out the window’.  As we were driving home Jake started talking and mumbled something.  I turned down the music and asked him “what did you say?”; Jake said “I had fun at school today.” I said “you did, that is great!”; he said “I had a good day” I say “I am so happy you had a good day, I am really proud of you!  Did you play with your friends today” he says “yes, J.”  I asked him if he played with E and he said “no, she went home”.  I asked “what did you and J play with at school?” and he says “J pway cars with Jake”.   I couldn’t believe it, I asked him questions and he answered.  This is something brand new for us.  Typically we ask questions and Jake just smiles or repeats what we asked him.  I realized as I was driving home I had the biggest smile on my face!  I was thinking ‘wow, we just has a real conversation; we just talked about his day!!’  Later that afternoon I was talking to Jake’s teacher, she told me that during rest time Jake stayed on his rest mat and read books quietly.  This is so not the norm for him!!  He usually wants to sit by Ms. J. at a table, he hates laying on the mat!!!  But on Friday, even when some of the other children were being loud or getting up, Jake stayed on his mat and read his books.  Such a big achievement for him!!!

Too many times I get caught up in the not so good and I miss the really good stuff!  I am trying to remember to take joy in the smallest of achievements.  Because the small achievements are what lead to the big ones!!

the stroller

Lots of stuff went on this week…we were tired!  We’ve been working hard all week on Jake’s sensory issues.  There is a saying ‘When you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met ONE child with autism’.  There is no clear-cut answer when it comes to finding what is going to work for Jake, we have to try many different strategies and then try some more and try some more.  It was a doozy of a week.  BUT that being said…last night we went to see Allie run in her first ever cross-country race.  I was nervous about taking Jake, we just never know how he will react to the crowds and the noise from so many people.  Fortunately we had the stroller and this thing works like magic for him.  Jake is really too big for it, his legs drag the ground at times and we have to have the seat almost all the way back so he can sit back enough to keep his feet from dragging.  If you saw him in this thing you would think he looks terribly uncomfortable.  But he is actually very comfortable.  Jake loves that it is a tight fit, he pulls his legs up which causes him to be squished up (something he loves — being squished) and the tight space helps him feel content.  If he gets overwhelmed he can sit back and the sides shield him from the world around and he can relax.  He doesn’t try to get out.  He loves this stroller!  I am glad we didn’t sell it when I thought he had outgrown it as this stroller has saved him (and us) on many occasions.  Anyway, Jake was great at the race.  There were a zillion people, it was loud and very hot but this kid didn’t seem to mind — he was content in his stroller and rode around playing with his train.  He liked the sensory input from the bumpy ride.  He was happy!  He loved being in his own tight little space which made us happy!  John and I were able to watch the race which, by the way, was great!!  Allie runs for the JV team at her high school and came in 57th out of about 150 girls.  She ran a 5K and finished with a time of 26.17 — so yeah, it was a great night for ALL of us 🙂

If you ever see me out and about pushing my 56 pound, 4 1/2 year old just smile, knowing that we found a strategy that works to help meet his sensory needs and that he is happiest all squished up in his stroller 🙂

Happy