7 months home!
We've begun stepping out into the world of therapy-specifically speech and occupational therapy. I knew it would be time eventually to get it started but we also felt Ben needed extra time at the beginning to just focus on learning what life in a family was. We have reached the point where it feels like things have stalled in the language department and I need some help, especially with teaching him some skills he needs to have to do his schoolwork.
Getting this set up is proving more difficult than I had hoped. I *think* we may have found something that will work for our family dynamics, provide what is needed in a workable schedule, be understanding of Ben's background, respect the boundaries we've put in place due to attachment concerns, and is covered by our insurance. It is a juggling act and thus far has been done mostly on the phone :)
I know the fun really begins when we do these weekly sessions with a big belly and 8 children in tow throughout this fall. Can you picture it? Don't laugh :) We do what we have to do and I know we will make this work, no matter how many suckers the siblings go through to keep them quiet and how many times the ipad runs out of battery life keeping them occupied during therapy sessions and how many days we get there just in the nick of time due to running late trying to get everyone ready. It is exhausting to think about but I am excited about the progress that Ben will make. I would love to know what he is thinking as he has not been able to tell us since he has been home.
We went to an initial meeting at a local therapy place last week and quickly learned some lessons. Biggest one is that I needed to be able to be in the room during the therapy sessions. Ben listens very well to me in most situations, but no one else. That scenario is not very conducive to getting anything done if he does not cooperate, and they don't know who to get him to cooperate. He does not do well in new situations and around new people. It tends to overwhelm him and instead of him wanting to shut it all out he wants to touch, see and hear everything and no one else exists in the room so he is like a top unspinning.
In the confusion of that first meeting while 3 people are asking me questions at once, we did get some helpful suggestions of things to start working with him on. None of it is hard, but they are all things that didn't occur to me to do or practice intentionally on my own. Ben can't drink out of a straw but we adjusted by just always giving him drinks in an open cup and he is well hydrated now so I was not concerned. I learned that he has a very poor suction and those weak muscles in his mouth (cheeks, tongue and lips) do affect his speech and how he pronounces things. We will be switching to a straw cup to encourage strengthening of these muscles.
Ben still does a lot of labeling of objects. He just recently added "in the sky' after the word airplane or helicopter. So now when he says that, I respond with, "The airplane is 'flying' in the sky" and have him repeat it. They suggested that for now I just add a verb to the noun like 'driving car' when he pushes the car across the floor and normally just says car to me. These things are not a huge change to what I was already doing but I am taking every opportunity now to have him say things in complete sentences.
He now understands that every dog is not named Jack and everything with wheels is not a car. It took a lot of convincing that the deer in the road was not the kitty that he thought it was :) Speaking of dogs, we have made some progress combating his fears of our dog. I decided to try having Ben help walk him around the yard while holding the short leash. As long as the dog is not behind him, making him feel like he is being chased by it, he is perfectly fine and happy to be that close. He will even stop to pet and kiss Jack on his own.
Ben has lost 2 teeth, and has another loose one. One of those lost teeth have come back in, and in addition he has almost cut through all four of his back molars. None of those are the ones that were removed but this should help a lot with him being able to chew properly. Currently he chews everything with just his front teeth but I'm so glad for progress that he is chewing at all, since he couldn't when he came home.
We have made some progress with eating habits. Ben is a very messy eater but he is good at using a napkin now. He has learned how to stab food with a fork. I now require him to put his spoon down between bites in order to slow down the speed he eats. I tell him: "Take a big bite, put your spoon down and chew the food. When your mouth is empty, you can have another bite". We have him take big (like a kids normal size) bites because it requires him to chew, vs. the tiny bites he prefers taking that allow him to just swallow immediately.
We took the children to the National Zoo for the first time. We had not been to a zoo in 4 years so it was a first for 3 of them and fun for all because none of them remembered the last time we were there. I was not sure how Ben would handle the animals. He did just fine, and even tried to kiss a cow.
We have begun school for the year and are working on getting new routines in place. We are looking forward to slightly cooler temperatures and being able to play outside without getting eaten alive by mosquitos!