This week was Jonah's first Early Interventions (EI) class. The class combines occupational and speech therapy into a group setting. It was a little bittersweet to take him. I was excited to see him playing with children who are more on his level, developmentally. A lot of times when he is with his peers, he is quite timid because they are running around and yelling. Other times this makes him aggressive, and he'll knock other children over out of frustration. Sometimes I think he knocks them over because he honestly doesn't know how to play with them, because they are running and walking, and he can't keep up with the game.
So it was kind of nice to see children who are his age and at his cognitive level, but also not yelling and running etc. He enjoyed the free time, when the children were allowed to go to whatever center they wanted to in the room. He played with the textured balls along with another little boy, and then moved on to the Little People sets with a sweet girl.
He did not, however, like the "Circle Time." Circle time is kind of a hot word in preschool and early ed right now. In just about any daycare or preschool you go to, you'll hear them brag about their "circle times." For those of you who are curious, it is just a time for the class to come together, sing songs together, and do certain activities as a group. In the EI class, the goal of circle time is to play games that strengthen the children's balance, motor skills, and verbal skills. We sang songs that had motions. Even though they are songs we sing at home and that he loves, he did not want to dance with the other children. He clung to me, like a little koala bear. If we tried to pry him off, to get him to play the game, he would not only cling harder, but climb higher up my body. At one point, I thought he was going to climb right over my back trying to get out of that group!
I am hoping that it will only take a few weeks for him to get used to that environment. He used to be the same way with our music class, and he has really begun to get more comfortable and participate there. I'm hoping it will be the same with EI, or else it won't do him much good.
I did enjoy learning from the therapists who run the class, different methods of introducing what we are working on into our daily routine. I was getting frustrated before the class, because I felt that I already work so many of these things into our day to day lives. I talk to him about EVERYTHING. Constantly talking, just telling him about the world and hoping that one day he will repeat a word back to me- any word, I swear if he said "sock" while I was folding the laundry, I would probably shout out to the streets! But he never seems to care. We also encourage him to walk everywhere, rather than carrying him we hold his hands and walk him to his high chair or to his potty etc. We do lots of music. I get puppets out and we practice the animal sounds and different phonetic sounds. During bath times, I find myself talking like a lunatic "You have a B-Ball in your B-Bath! And a B-Boat! That B-Boat is B-Blue!!!" and so on.
I really was at the end of the road for ideas of introducing the concepts and motor skills that Jonah needs to learn, into our activities. And I was frustrated and upset. But talking to the therapists really helped me to get some fresh ideas, and a new approach to certain things. One of the suggestions they had was to put pictures everywhere of familiar objects and people, and to make a little family book that is just for him, that he can get and look at whenever he wants. And whenever he is looking at it, just tell him "That is Mommy! That is Daddy!" I really like this idea, and have already started to put familiar pictures where he has access to them. I don't know why I didn't think of it before, as we did it in my preschool room. It just never occurred to me to do it in the home.
We also discussed the orthopedic surgeon and his walking issues. There is definitely something wrong with his feet. When I do the exercises that his pediatrician has shown me, I realized that I cannot even push his foot to go flat like a normal foot does. Even with me pushing up on it, it remains pointed down and the arches of his feet turn out. His feet are always in the "tip toe" position, even when he is trying to walk. He will be needing x-rays and a series of diagnostic testing to see exactly what will help him the best. I was really worried about the cost of these tests. We've been running into resistance from our insurance to pay for certain things, and medical testing adds up. I wasn't focusing on the "price tag" or wondering if it's "worth it" I was just wondering how we are going to pay for these expenses on top of the expenses of a new baby on the way. When you're already immensely worried that something is physically or medically wrong with your child, it adds about a million pounds to the load of worry when the thought of cost comes up.
The EI nurse gave me some information about a program through the county that will help with the expenses. I always feel guilty about considering county-funded programs because they are funded of course by tax dollars. I feel like I am taking something that is not mine. But my family has reminded me that I do pay taxes as well, and in fact if I didn't need to pay taxes then the medical expenses wouldn't be difficult for us to pay. My little boy needs it, so I will swallow my pride and fill out the paperwork. We need the help, especially when considering that his speech therapy alone may cost us $150 per session.
We will definitely be continuing to go to the EI classes. If in two months, he is still freaking out about being in the group, I may consider some other options, just because he can't focus enough to get anything out of it when he's like that. But for now, I definitely see the good in it. Since starting the early interventions program and keeping in contact with the therapists about certain things over the course of his testing etc, we've been able to make a lot of progress with him. He will now tell you that a cow says "ooo" (his version of moo.) He will look at a picture of a cow and say "0oo" or pick up a cow puppet or figure and say "ooo." He can also tell you that a sheep says "aaaa" (his version of baa). And if you ask him what a birdie says, he'll say "Wo Wo" (woof woof) You might think he is confused, but Jonah's birdie really does say "woof woof." Daryl thought it would be hilarious to teach his mother's parrot to say "woof woof" so now that is the bird's favorite thing to say. If you say to Jonah "No, your birdie says woof woof, but what about the other birdies?" SOMEtimes he'll say "teeeeeteeeeeteee" But most of the time you would have to say it first. This is great progress that I am not sure we would have made had it not been for what we are finding out through the therapists and doctors.