One day I really am going to tell you all about my family's version of the Amazing Race.
It really was amazing, and it was more fun that I think any of us have had in a long time.
Except for that part where my dad almost killed me.
He hit a speed bump going at least 60 mph.
* * *
After taking a three month break from all things early intervention, I called and scheduled for speech and occupational therapy to come to our home ... occupational therapy helps Em with eating.
I was hesitant for a couple of reasons: Em made much more progress on her own with eating than she did during her first year and a half with feeding therapy, and I wasn't sure that the speech therapist was a good fit for Em ... and if I'm being honest, I knew she wasn't a good fit for me.
I talked with the therapy coordinator about some of my concerns (which she had heard before) and she assured me that the speech therapist was one of the best.
On Monday the speech therapist came and spent about 45 minutes with Emily and me.
She asked about Em's progress and I filled her in on what Emily has accomplished the last few months: numbers, letters, imitating tones, pointing, etc.
In response, here were the things the therapist suggested I was doing wrong:
-Emily will never learn to talk as long as I allow her to have a binky. And would I please make sure the binky is not in sight when the therapist is there as it will make her feel better.
-Knowing numbers and letters is nice, but it's not functional. How will knowing her numbers and letters help Emily learn to talk? It won't according to the therapist.
-Emily has the wrong toys, and she has too many to choose from.
At the time Em had been playing with two different puzzles - number puzzles that have an age recommendation of 3 years and older, and there was a toy keyboard that she had been playing with the night before. In the corner of the room was a rocking horse (technically it's a rocking butterfly) that Emily LOVES.
Ems' binky was on the couch, and stayed on the couch until the therapist got a little too close, and Em got nervous. When she's unsure of something she reaches for her binky.
When the therapist left I texted my friend and said, "Nothing like a little early intervention therapy to make you feel like a failure of a mother."
Later the same day Em's feeding therapist came and I asked him about the things the speech therapist had said.
He disagreed with everything she said.
I came to the conclusion that I was going to print out some information about Em's particular chromosome deletion so that the therapist could see that it was quite normal that Em isn't talking yet.
Em's geneticist told us that speech is the last piece of Emily's puzzle, it will come but it will take time.
I want to make sure that Emily is not just another 'case' to the therapist.
Fast forward to yesterday.
This is going to end up being a long post, and will probably break all blogging rules.
Such is life.
The speech therapist came again because she was anxious to implement a new program with Em.
It's called PECS. It's a program developed to help kids with autism.
The idea is to help kids learn to initiate communication and be rewarded for that communication, with the goal of being able to say "I want _________" by step four of the program.
In short, you teach a child to use pictures to communicate. If the child gives you a picture of something, you give them what they are 'asking' for.
The therapist brought bubbles and a toy to practice with. She showed Em the bubbles, and then when Em acted interested in the bubbles, she stopped doing them, and wouldn't do anything until Emily picked up the picture of the bubbles and handed it to the therapist.
I couldn't say anything to Emily, only help her with picking up the pictures and handing them to the therapist.
Em caught on pretty quickly and played the therapist's game for a little while.
She got bored though, and walked away and the therapist put the bubbles away.
After doing something else Emily came back to the living room, picked up the bubbles, smiled, pointed to the therapist, and took the bubbles to her.
The therapist wouldn't open the bubbles until Emily had handed her the picture of the bubbles.
"Isn't pointing doing the same thing?" I asked.
"She's initiating communication by picking up the bubbles and pointing to you."
"Em is really good at being able to communicate what she needs by pointing," I said.
The therapist said, "Nothing comes after pointing. She points and then what? She knows that if she points you will give her what she's asking for. She won't learn to talk that way," the therapist said.
"But picking up a picture and handing it to you is going to teach her to talk faster?" I asked. "She hands you the picture and gets what she wants...how is that different?"
I wasn't trying to be rude or argumentative, truly. I was just trying to figure out how her system of communication would be better for Emily.
The therapist didn't have an answer for that, and left soon after.
I called my friend who has two sons with autism and talked to her about everything.
She's very familiar with the PECS program, and has used it with both of her boys.
Her boys go to a school specifically for autistic kids and they use the same program.
My friend confirmed what I had been thinking.
The pictures are used for kids who generally don't or can't point to what they need.
At the school, pointing is the next step after the pictures - pointing is the preferred method - pointing is the advanced method of communicating.
I hung up from talking to my friend and felt very frustrated and discouraged.
The therapist is young - it wasn't very long ago that she graduated from school - she has more book experience than practical experience - I understand all of that.
And I know that she wants to help Emily learn to talk.
But so far what she's done is discount all of the progress that Emily has made, and tell me that the things I've been doing instinctively for my daughter are wrong.
Here's where the intervention comes in.
Am I being blind? Are the things the therapist is saying right and I'm wrong about all of it?
I'm ready to email both the therapist and her boss, and express my frustrations, but I don't want to do so if I'm being the mother that can't take constructive criticism about her child.
Chocolate chip cookies?