Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Moving Slowly Forward

OK, Internet, I hope you are sitting down for this post, because it is going to be FREAKY LONG. Also a bit whiney. But in a good way.

So, I forgot to mention that last week, Mr. WG and I met with a really nice child psychologist who happens to also be our neighbor. He knows D. from shul – he gives out lollipops to all the kids. Dr. Neighbor listened to what we had to say about D., asked intelligent questions, showed us that he had done his homework, and made insightful comments. He stressed that compliance should be a major concern. He explained that we needed to find ways to set and enforce limits and boundaries with D., and he asserted that intense speech therapy would help with that.

“Everything comes back to the language,” he said.

That makes sense.

“Well, we’re supposed to start speech therapy in the next week or two,” I explained.

He allowed that that was nice, but he insisted that we verify that the therapist would not solely focus on articulation, but would concentrate on actually getting him to use much more language than he currently does.


He also told us that we need to insist on annual assessments that include the regular expressive/receptive language evaluations, but that also incorporate some sort of IQ testing so that we can see where D. measures and therefore know what it is reasonable to expect from him.

“We’re on the waiting list for Dr. LongWaitList,” I said.

“That’s a great place if you don’t know what’s wrong with your child,” he said gently. “If you’re looking for practical suggestions about what to do next, you need a different kind of place.” And he told us about it and when I returned home, he had emailed me a link to the assessment center he recommended, which is attached to a school.

A school that offers a multi-age, language-based, developmental curriculum for children 18 months through fifth grade with communication and learning differences, but average to above average learning potential.

A school, in other words, that seems like it was designed precisely for D.

I called them. They mailed me a packet that looked so good that I found myself thinking, “$18,000/year is totally reasonable.” All the teachers in the preschool program have advanced degrees in speech/language pathology and extensive experience with special education.

I spoke to the woman at the assessment center, where we could sign up for an assessment regardless of our decision about the school. The woman I spoke with told me that I could set up an assessment appointment, or I could go ahead and schedule speech therapy, and they’d do the assessment during the therapy sessions. We went with the latter, because, well, that means we’re starting speech therapy. TOMORROW.

And we’re touring the school today.

In the meantime, Dr. Neighbor came to observe D. in school yesterday. He’s obviously very good at what he does, because he really pegged my kid in 45 minutes. We met with him immediately afterwards, and he started with the good news:

  • D. absolutely is not on the autism spectrum.
  • D. can sit and focus on an activity (building with blocks) for a period of time. He can leave that activity – to say hello to a teacher, for example – and then return to it and resume.
  • D. does interact with other children, albeit fleetingly.
  • D. does sometimes do what he is asked to do.
  • D. does know what is expected of him in many situations. For example, when his teacher says “Boker tov leKU---“ (Good morning to EVERY---“ D. answers “lam” (one).
  • D. is engaged in his surroundings, active, and inquisitive.

And then, of course, we had to move on to the bad news:

  • D’s language skills are nowhere near the level of the rest of the children in the class.
  • D’s interactions with the other children are extremely fleeting and not language based.
  • D. often won’t follow through on instructions.

Because of the language issues, he is at risk for not developing relationships with other children. Left unchecked, this would be terrible. That’s why, he explained, D. absolutely needs to be in a program that is designed to focus on his language. In the meantime, for him to get anything out of the class he is currently in, he needs a shadow.

These are hard things to hear, even though it is not new information. It’s like that bit in that Cammie McGovern book:

How was it possible to live so long in a state of denial? She can only say this: It is.

Yes, I know these things, but it hurts to hear someone say them out loud, even with the compassion and professionalism Dr. Neighbor exudes.

He is coming to our house tonight to observe the dinner hour. Which I suppose means that I should serve some sort of dinner, right?

Also, we decided to go ahead and not take D. or Baby J. on the cruise. I am still not quite sure that I have internalized this decision, but I need to get on board (Ha!) with it fast, since we already canceled their tickets.

And I think that, given what we are about to start with D., that it is the right decision.

What are we about to start with D.? Oh, well, Dr. Neighbor told us that when we tell D. to do something, we have to be prepared to ALWAYS follow through. If we say, “Go get your sneakers,” we have to be ready to get off the couch, walk him over to the sneakers, and bring them back if he doesn’t go do it on his own. Now, he was careful to explain that we should simply decide ahead of time when it’s worth it to ask D. to do something – sometimes, it might not be worth it. But we don’t want to fall into the trap of doing everything for him, so sometimes we have to make it be worth it.

Which means, if you read between the lines, that my couch-lazing days are over.


lisa said...

It is hard to hear those things, because it makes them real. I like denial, personally! But it doesn't get things done. That school sounds fantastic, as does your neighbor.

Dramalish said...

I hope it's alright to mention God....

I really do believe that God works His miracles through other people. Your Dr. Neighbor sounds like one of those people.

Much luck with the therapy and the school.

Out of curiousity, what kind of school does D. attend now?