Bacweems, Playgrounds, and More Sweet Potatoes

Yes, “bacweems” is a word, a really bad word in A’s language.  For the rest of us, it means “vacuum”.  Generally not something to cry over, but recently all I have to do is say vacuum and A is screaming.  Yes, the noise bothers her that much.

So why am I talking about vacuums?  Mostly because I find her mispronunciation incredibly cute and hilarious, but also because it’s rather fresh in my mind right at the moment.  I mentioned this morning that the house needed a good vacuuming and just like that, her day was ruined.  At least until I took her to the playground after dropping my son at school.

The playground has been my lifeline recently.  I discovered 2 weeks ago that taking A to a playground before or after therapy (depending on time) made a huge difference in her behavior.  She was able to get the input she needed and run the wiggles out all at once.  It has also resulted in a major increase in her appetite, which is always fantastic!  Another plus is that I am getting a whole lot more exercise than I used to and can now run a mile without feeling like I’m going to pass out (haven’t done that in number of years).  Of course, I’m still passing out at night right after that kiddos, but at least I’m making it through the day now!

It’s amazing to watch A navigate a playground effortlessly one day and the next day notice that she can barely manage the steps at the same playground.  Times like that I realize just how difficult things must be for her day to day, and yet, she just bravely pushes on and keeps going.  Her new thing, when she is having difficulties, is to constantly say, “I can do it!  I can do it!” until she completes whatever she’s trying to do.  And yes, we do celebrate when she does whatever she was trying  to do, even it’s just climbing three steps.  The Little Engine that Could doesn’t have a thing on my kid.

After making our daily trips to the playground, A not only eats better, but she’s sleeping better too.  That’s been the biggest blessing for me.  Getting back  to regular naps and sleeping through the night have made a world of difference for all of us.  Mind you, we weren’t exactly inactive before.  My kids and I are very active people, but finding the right times and outlets for A’s needs took a bit of doing.  It has gotten easier though as we have made progress in OT with her sensitivity thresholds.

Speaking of progress, it continues with the sweet potatoes!  It still may not seem like much to many, but A is semi-regularly eating about 2 tablespoons of sweet potatoes with minimal fuss as long as she is seriously distracted, and it doesn’t touch her lips, and I feed it to her.  Sounds like a lot, right?  It is.  But soonish she’ll be able to feed it to herself without a problem and then we’ll move on to other things.  In the meantime I will be single-handedly keeping my local sweet potato farmers in business for the foreseeable future. I’m sure they are doing happy dances as I speak…write…whatever it is I am doing right now.

As much fun as this has been, my alarm has just rather loudly informed me that it is time to go get my son from school.

Yes, I need an alarm to help me keep track of time when I’m writing otherwise I would probably be at it for another hour or so.

And with that, life goes on and the playground beckons for one last visit before the week ends and the necessary weekend morning chores intrude on my fun.  Guess I’ll just have to pull out the Disney music so we can dance while we clean! After all, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine (and sweet potatoes) go down!

 

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Indy Cars, Snuggie Vests, and Sweet Potatoes

Two weekends ago we enjoyed our annual Indy Car race.  My wonderful hometown had the pleasure of once again hosting the opening race for the 2013 Izod Indy Car season.  This was A’s second race and, in my humble opinion, it went even better than last year.  Granted, A’s vocabulary is at least 10 times what it was this time last year, but she actually ate without a fuss this year.  Yes, we were away from home and she still ate well.  That never happens, even eating outside at home can throw this child off, but she ate surrounded by noisy cars zipping past.  Turns out the cars were the explanation.  For a child who has auditory sensitivity issues, the sound of the Indy car engines has a calming effect on A.  I cannot even begin to explain it, but I’m not about to argue with it!

As usual, I had packed food for the day that I knew A would eat (mostly yogurt and other “squeezie” foods), but she surprised me by munching on mini Nilla Wafers, bread (from my sandwich), and chips (her brother’s).  She didn’t ask for the yogurt, she wanted the “chewy” foods (i.e. – stuff that actually requires chewing).  That is such a change from her usual M.O. that I almost couldn’t believe it.  Almost.  Needless to say, this opens up a few more possibilities for local excursions.

A has made remarkable progress in the past month.  Since race weekend her speech has exploded.  It has been amazing listening to her and realizing that not only can I understand her, but others can as well.  I cannot even begin to describe how exciting it is.  Honestly, unless you have the “been there, done that” shirt it’s hard to explain.  The most remarkable bit of progress came just this past week though.  A took 10, yes 10, bites of mashed sweet potatoes.  Granted, they were “ant bites” (what we call really small bites), but she took them without a fuss or gag!

The cause for this sudden progress?  Her “snuggie” vest.  In therapy we have been using a SPIO vest on A with amazing results.  She calms down and can tolerate sensory input much better when she is wearing the vest.

Quick explanation for the confused.  A SPIO vest is a compression vest that provides the deep pressure and sensory feedback that help with body awareness.  More info can be found at www.spioworks.com

Unfortunately, the day that we are able to use the SPIO does not coincide with her feeding therapy so we had not been able to see if it had any effect in that area.  A’s PT had recommended that we look for either a swim suit or a leotard one size smaller than A’s normal size.  It would provide feedback similar to the SPIO (at a much lower price).  After much searching, I stumbled upon a 2 piece swimsuit whose top worked perfectly.  A has been wearing the top during the day since Thursday morning, and we have seen an amazing difference.

That night she sat at the table without a fuss, ate everything on her plate (peanut butter sandwich, applesauce, yogurt, and goldfish), and took the 10 “ant bites” of sweet potato in between her other bites.  You could have knocked me over with a feather by the end of the meal. I could not believe the difference.  That Thursday night was the first night we had been able to sit through a meal without A fussing, throwing something, or refusing to eat.  It was beyond amazing to realize that she managed to sit at the table for 30 minutes straight and eat without a fuss.  Yes, I did have to distract her a bit when it came to the sweet potato bites, but she didn’t shut down and refuse to eat after taking a bite.

Even more amazing was that after dinner, she sat and colored with her brother and I was hearing her use full sentences with G when she needed his help with a marker or wanted him to shift over some.  There was no screaming or hitting or crying.  I still cannot believe the difference that one little size 18 month (yes, she is that small that I had to go down 2 sizes to find the right snug fit) swim top has made for A.

I have to admit to being almost giddy and weepy at the same time when I think about the difference this has made for A.  I have, in the past 3 days, watched my amazing little girl cope with the world in a way she has never been able to in the past.  A is now able to go to a playground without clinging to me because the other children overwhelm and scare her.  She is willing to try new foods and happily sits through meals.  Best of all, she is able to tell me when she needs her “snuggie” to help her cope with the world.

I know it’s only been 3 days, and the scientific side of me is screaming that more data is needed before any conclusive determination can be made about it’s effectiveness, but the mommy side of me is screaming “SO WHAT! Look at that happy little girl!”  Yes, the mommy side is winning out right now.  I know what I see and I couldn’t be prouder of A right now and how far she has come.  She continues to amaze me everyday with how bravely she faces a world that is harsh and unforgiving to her eyes.  A world that sometimes chooses not to understand that nothing is wrong with her, she just sees and feels things differently than everyone else.  Differently, but now with one more drop of hope that she will be able to cope.  After all, to steal a line from Dinotopia, “One raindrop raises the sea.”

March: Madness, Miracles, and Mayhem!

Actually, I probably should have just called this writer’s block.  I am currently suffering from major writer’s block and have a letter that I need to coherently compose and it’s just not working.  So I’m here instead.  Productive, right?

That’s the madness part of the month.  I’m still fighting to get A into a more appropriate setting with the school system and for whatever reason, they just don’t seem to want to listen.  Personally, I no longer care about their reasons, they are attempting to handicap my daughter and I don’t like it.  At least I still have her outside therapy with an amazing team of therapists who helped bring us this far.

And speaking of progress…A has gained 2 pounds since January!  Yes, I am beyond ecstatic about that.  We had a visit with her nutritionist last week and I was rather nervous about how it would go.  Usually, A’s weight gain does not keep pace with her height.  This time, it did.  She has gained enough to put her in the 10th -20th percentile for her BMI, plus, she grew an inch!  I am over the moon and beyond right now.

A has worked so hard and has been eating so well since mid-February I knew she had grown some (the too small pants were my first clue…) but I did not expect a 2 pound increase.  Especially since she lost some weight with the school drama.  She’s doing so well that we are off the DuoCal, down to 1 Pediasure a day (sometimes less), and, best of all, we may be done with nutritional services by mid July if she can keep it up!!

A’s diet has not changed much during this time, but her tolerance for solids has definitely increased.  We have been working with sweet potatoes in both OT and feeding therapy.  In OT she gets to play with her food and in feeding we work on eating the food.  Working with both has greatly decreased her resistance to the potatoes.

Translation:  She no longer screams when you put potatoes in front of her or ask her to touch them.  Major progress.

In the meantime, A is babbling non-stop now and is making great progress with her gross motor skills.  It’s amazing the difference that little bit of weight made for her development and it’s so exciting that she’s finally catching up.

I know she’ll still have bad days and we’ll still have struggles.  Let’s face it, she ate great today, after trying to throw half her breakfast on the floor and partially succeeding (that would be the mayhem).  Yeah, it won’t be easy, but definitely totally worth it.

Now if I could only write that letter this easily…

School Districts, IEPs, Stress, & Peanut Butter Toast

Yep, I’m at it again with my bizarre connections.  Don’t worry, it will all become clear sooner or later.

A lasted only a few weeks in her pre-k class before it became glaringly apparent that she was not in the most appropriate setting for her needs.  She was becoming so stressed out at school that she began regressing at an alarming rate.  My sweet little girl was no longer making eye contact, threw tantrums at the drop of a hat, and refused to eat.  I gave it time, but when she started refusing the Pediasure I knew I couldn’t wait around any more.

I went the normal route of speaking to the teacher, who informed me that another staff member had questioned my daughter being in the class given the nature of her needs and that she, herself, was not comfortable handling some of A’s issues.

Before I go further I do want to clarify one major point.  I do not in any way, shape, or form blame the classroom teacher.  A’s teacher is a wonderful teacher/SLP who handles her class beautifully and is very good at what she does.  Unfortunately, she was not set up or trained to handle a child like mine.  Too often teachers take the blame when, in reality, the fault lies higher up the chain of command.  Now off the soapbox and back to where we were.

A few phone calls and in person chats later I felt completely stone-walled.  For some reason the higher ups in the district seemed to feel that their “snapshot” of my child gave them more knowledge than me and therefore they were better equipped to judge what was best for my daughter.

Yes, this would be where the stress part comes in.  Trying to get these folks to understand that even though my child was not a screaming wreck at school she was having issues.  After all, she came home every day she was there with a bloody lip and fingers from picking.  A didn’t feel safe enough to fall apart in the room so instead, she would withdraw, shut down, and pick (or bite) her lip until it was bloody.  Somehow, that never got noticed, even when I pointed it out.  Finally, after two weeks of rattling cages I think I am finally beginning to get somewhere.  I think what finally got through was when I pulled her from the class and explained to the principal and assistant principal in person, and over the phone to the district, was that A was not in a safe environment and I could not sit by and wait for them to do something.  Her needs were not being met and as her mother and her best advocate I was going to make sure that someone listened and took the necessary steps to correct the situation.

Oddly enough, it seemed to work.  We are now in “negotiations” with the district and hopefully a resolution will soon follow.  For now, they want to place her as an itinerant student.  Basically, that means that I will take her to the school a couple of days each week for her speech and PT .  This will allow the district to re-open her IEP and amend it to reflect any necessary accommodations that A would require to be successful within the classroom setting.  Of course, that could take the next 3 months, but it’s a step in the right direction and people are finally listening so I’ll take it!

Through these past two weeks, I’ve been working hard to get A back to where she was before all of this.  Happily, within one week of being home full-time again, her eye contact returned and the tantrums diminished (much to her brother’s relief I might add).  She is still struggling with food but is back to drinking the Pediasure so she’s at least getting something in her.  Thankfully, an answer to the eternal question (at least for this household), “What solid, with a decent calorie count, will you eat?” popped up tonight in the form of peanut butter toast.

Yes, good old, plain and simple peanut butter toast won the what will you eat for dinner lottery.  In fact, it was such a big winner that she ate almost 2 whole pieces along with her 3oz of yogurt, Pediasure, lemonade, and a cookie.  I suppose I should have thought of it sooner since she’s eaten it before, but it had fallen out of rotation during one of her brief regressions and I forgot all about it.

Then again…given how much peanut butter toast I ate when I was pregnant maybe it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that she does really like it.  Oh well, we’ll never know.  I’m just glad she ate a decent amount today and seems to be doing better.   At this rate I might just get to try out a few new recipes I’ve found before the summer heat gets here and really kills my urge to cook and bake.  Guess I’d better freeze some of those homemade chocolate graham crackers (http://weelicious.com/2012/04/09/chocolate-graham-crackers/)before that happens!