Tomorrow is the first of Aud's speech therapy appointments, and will find us getting up, getting ready, and also having the kids ready earlier than usually possible to be in town and at the clinic a little before nine. I'm sure we'll get used to it quickly as this is to be our regular routine on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday indefinitely. I am nervous about it in the same way I expect a parent would be on their child's first day of school. I hope she does well, but most of all, I hope it's something she enjoys and that will benefit her in many ways. I'm also nervous for mine and Mark's sake in that I hope we will learn ways to better communicate with her, which is a thought that is exciting but also a little daunting. Frankly, I'm wondering if it will be easier to actually talk with her instead of to her while we assume we know what she probably is thinking, as we've been doing for the past two years and also, what are we going to learn about her through improved communication... I'm feeling a little as though I'm considering opening Pandora's Box.
Aud also had an occupational therapy evaluation this past Friday, as recommended by Schmeiding Center. The evaluation was done to see if she qualified to receive therapy, mainly to address her sensory problems. I have a sneaking suspicion that when the evaluations are completely reviewed and we receive the official report from the therapist, Aud is most likely going to end up with a Sensory Processing Disorder diagnosis, maybe mild, but if I was the betting man (HA!), I would bet she receives that diagnosis from the OT. Which is nothing new to us, because we see the "sensory issues" in play every day. (Covering her ears, taking off her clothes, flapping her hands, jumping, stomping, kicking, spinning herself around, sniffing and licking strange things, wrapping up in any blanket or towel she can find, gagging and spitting when tasting a bite of chicken, etc.) At first, you might not notice all these things. It sounds like a hoard of issues that would be so obvious at first glance, but really, to me anyway, they are a little more subtle than you would think. However, the more time you spend with Aud, the easier it is to pick up on what her likes, dislikes, and absolute 'can't-take-its' are. Right now, she is a little obsessed with eyes and holes. Which sounds incredibly strange, I know. But she enjoys (or seems to) pointing out which of her toys or pictures or things she sees have eyes. She also delights in finding holes. I don't quite know what the fascination is, but she is intent on them and rarely, if ever, misses a hole (in the ground, in a wall, on a car, in your clothes...). We still don't have a really specific appointment time on her evaluation that will either rule out or diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder, but the latest we've heard is maybe August or September-ish, since we have been bumped up the wait list through an internal referral. To mine and Mark's observation, she is showing more and more signs of repetitive behavior, such as lining up the toy cars, walking a small bicycle repeatedly around the perimeter of the yard, and I feel she is also becoming more set in her routines. The toy cars have to be 'played' on the front porch, PlayDoh at the table with me sitting on her right side, trains on the living room rug. She still is not very good at or interested in 'playing pretend.' She will pretend to talk on a phone, but when I tried to convince her earlier today to play with a baby doll, nothing doing. I even made it fall down and 'cry' for her to pick it up. Aud just looked at me and shook her head, then said one word that shut me down: "Dead." I am positive she meant to tell me that it was simply ridiculous that I should try to tell her that doll was crying for her because it was not alive. It was dead. She then pointed to her toy plastic horse she was holding and repeated, apparently for my benefit, "Dead." Wow. Kind of hard to play pretend house and dolls with a two-year-old who knows those things are not alive, and cannot even begin to imagine otherwise. That's just one example of her literal mindedness. While I'm on the subject, don't ask her if she wants something unless you really mean it, because she doesn't understand if you're "just joking." For example, things we've accidentally asked in teasing that she thought we really meant: "Do you want to sleep outside with the dogs?" "Yeah! ME?" "Do you want me to give you a haircut like Daddy's?" "YEAH!!" "You don't want to pee in the yard like the dogs do you?" She wanted to, and she did. Needless to say, we have tried to curb our sarcasm (which has been extremely difficult for me) and remember not to say things unless we mean them. Literally. Aud can be affectionate, even cuddly, but this must be strictly on her own terms. Do not hug her if she doesn't hug you first. At best, she will tell you, "Go away," and hold her hand out as if to keep you from coming closer. At worst, she will slap your face and then flap her fingers at you and run away to be by herself. She doesn't like for people to have a reaction when she falls or gets hurt. It distresses her and makes her angry. She will likely scream "NO" at you and then make an angry face and stomp her feet and stick her tongue out. I understand that some of those things may sound cute (taking things literally) or even make her just sound like a brat (slapping someone in the face). And sometimes, I admit, Mark and I struggle with figuring out what is bad behavior and what is "behavioral outcomes caused by sensory processing" as the sensory profile I completed this weekend put it. For example, we thought she was just being a brat in the store last night fussing and wanting to run up and down the aisles instead of being held by Mark. However, halfway through the store, we realized there was a ribbon decal along the bottom of her shirt that was touching her skin and it was making her insane. Duh Mom and Dad!! Other times, I feel like maybe we let things go that we shouldn't like throwing her pacifier across a room because she couldn't have something she wanted. We aren't always sure where to draw the line and we're hopeful that the occupational therapist will help us with that. It will be a relief to have someone look at things objectively and say, "Hey, I've noticed that usually when she throws her pacifier, it's because she's frustrated that she doesn't have a word for what she wants..." or whatever the trigger might be. I could go on, but to sum it up in a shorter way, right now we're on a road. It's a long and winding one (kind of like The Beatles sang about), and we're not sure exactly where it goes right now. So far, the map says we're headed in the right direction, but we've not been driving very long. We're finding out more every day about what makes our little girl tick and getting snippets of insight here and there as to how her mind is working and what kind of thoughts are governing her sometimes inexplicable actions. That's a start, and miles ahead of where we've been in the past.
Now let's talk about big brother for a minute:
I blogged once last year about how thankful I was that the kids had each other and how glad I was that Aud would always be there to look out for her idealistic big brother. To tell the truth, Aid is more like his daddy than I ever imagined. He doesn't wear his strength on his sleeve for everyone to see and be in awe of. They have a quiet reserve of strength my men. If Mark and I had never met, we wouldn't be the same people we are today. I believe that neither of us would be as good without the other. Not only is Mark able to temper my impatience and impulsiveness, but he's also well-equipped with a quick and searing wit to keep me laughing all the while, whereas I like to think that I surely do something that he appreciates (other than his laundry, of course!). :) Mark is also a very solid and unassuming source of strength. Many times my own had run out or been thin, and he has been there for me, able to stay strong himself as well as to give some back to me and build me up again. Aid is like that for Aud. Idealistic he might be, but he fiercely looks out for her. He's a stoic little guy and takes it in stride, though he's quickly becoming not-so-little. He takes care of her and though he gets angry and sometimes jealous, at the end of the day, he would fight to the death for her. Not to mention, he's always quick with a joke (even if the punch line doesn't make sense)! He may not be a loud and commanding leader, but faced with something uncertain, he's able to walk by her side, quietly take her hand, and say, "Come on Aud, I'll go with you." And I speak from experience when I say, it takes a strong man to do that and do it well and I am immensely proud to say, "He gets that from his Daddy." Well, that's enough of my senseless ramblings for one day. I thought it might be a good idea to set Aud at the table using dry rice in a cookie sheet as a tactile activity to run her fingers in whilst I blogged, and looking over my shoulder at said table, I see that she has made "rice soup." So, off to clean the table I go...
Oh, last but certainly not least, if we are expecting a visit from you this summer, let me say, see you soon and safe traveling!!