Isabelle has enjoyed doing art for the past couple of years. She’s taken a couple of art classes. However, despite the instruction, most of her masterpieces look like this:
I appreciate these pieces since they feel like modern art. However, there aren’t any discernable objects most of the things she creates. Ever since the ocular motor dysfunction diagnosis, I understand why she struggles. Therefore, when I picked her up at art class this afternoon, I looked at her oil pastel creation and felt tears prick my eyes. But they weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of happiness.
“Is this a self-portrait?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she responded.
“Is this a picture of yourself?” I asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?” she replied.
“Because it looks like you, honey!” I responded.
Sure, her eyes aren’t that big nor are her lips aren’t that red. But I could tell it was a self-portrait prior to reading note the teacher sends home with each child.
“You should be very proud of yourself,” I told my daughter. “This is a masterpiece! We should hang this in your garage gallery.”
“Okay,” she said as a small smile spread across her face. “When can we hang it up?”
“We have lots of other pieces to hang up along with this one. Would this weekend be okay?”
“Yes!” she replied with more enthusiasm.
Progress takes time. Today was a reminder that she may be taking small steps forward, but they are, indeed, forward.
Isabelle's reading tutor worked with her on Friday morning. Saturday got away from us and we didn't read together. (i.e., She was read to, but she didn't practice reading aloud.) Yesterday morning, I knew I had a battle ahead since the day after her reading tutor comes is always the trickiest practice day (since we have a new lesson to review). With every subsequent day, the Orton-Gillingham practice pages get easier. However, the day after is always — always — a challenge.
I poured myself extra coffee at breakfast. Once the bottom of the cup was in sight, I asked Isabelle, who was playing in the next room, "Do you want to read now or five minutes from now?"
"Five minutes from now!" she called back.
I finished the last few ounces of coffee, knowing I would need as much energy as possible to get through our session. Not only were the Orton-Gillingham practice pages new, we were also starting a new Elephant & Piggie book.
When the five minute timer rang on my iPhone, I pushed myself back from the kitchen table, inhaled deeply, and called to Isabelle, "it's time to read together!"
As we settled in on the couch beside each other, I asked myself some questions:
* What if I didn't harp on her about keeping her tracker finger straight and underneath every single word? * What if Iowered my voice every time she raised her voice in frustration? * What if I hugged her and kissed her cheeks every time she thrashed her legs when the words tricked her? * What if I didn't mention she was making reading take a long time by complaining?
I tried all of those things yesterday. I praised her as much as I always did, but gave her extra attention, in the form of love, every time she got frustrated with something in the binder. (She is practicing voiced th words this week — and it's HARD for her to say and read — so there was lots of frustration!)
After five minutes of her usual antics, the amount of frustrated outbursts decreased. I think Isabelle had no idea of what to make of her mommy who was approaching the reading session as less of a teacher and more of, dare I say it, a loving mother.
By the time we finished the Orton-Gillingham practice pages, we decided to take a break before starting Let's Go for a Drive! Once we started the book, there were almost no complaints (except for one time when she got annoyed because I insisted she use her tracker finger on the page to help her reread accurately after two miscues of the word "the.")!
Yesterday was a small reading victory. Tomorrow might not go as well as yesterday went. But when your child struggles with reading, you'll take whatever glimmers you can get.
For the past few years I’ve started slicing on the final day of February. I’m always a day ahead since I don’t want to miss a day. Therefore, I don’t have to write today. After all, I won’t even be linking this “slice” to the challenge since I’ll be linking yesterday’s blog post on today’s call for slice of life stories.
BUT, here I am.
“I’m not a title person!” It’s something I regularly declare to the TWT co-author team (and anyone else who comes to me in search of clever wordsmithing). But somehow, I managed to craft titles for my blog posts for the past 31 days. Looking back at them helps me remember the month that was. Here’s a peek at every title I wrote for the 10th Annual SOLSC.
Can I Play Too?
Read Across America Day
The BIG Cut
The Human Body in Art
When the End Isn’t in Sight
We have an eater!
Things I’m Pretty Sure of Today
Nine Months to Take It Off
Oh Today We’ll Merry-Merry Be
I Wish You More
Picture Books to Weather the Storm
Big Sister Saves the Day
Me: By the Numbers
The Vulnerable Among Us
When the Ride Stops
In Praise of the Snotsucker
Questioning Myself (as the Parent of an Emerging Reader)
Magical Morning Moments
I Think I Need a Mommy Bracelet
Mutual Admiration Society
Ice Cream Friday Fund
Let Me Count the Reasons
Baking by Myself
At least someone appreciates my food!
My face is my child’s favorite toy.
Just a few more minutes…
Not too shabby, eh?
However, I’m still not a title person. Titles matter. Therefore, I still defer to the people in my life who are more capable at title-writing than I am! (It’s good to know and admit to your weaknesses, right?!!?)
Isabelle has been enjoying day camp. Like most kids, she comes home exhausted. There’s no way I could get her to sit with me to do her speech work at 4:00 p.m. after a day in the sun and heat. (And it’s been hot and humid this summer!) Therefore, we’ve been doing her speech work after breakfast, before we leave for camp, every weekday morning.
After breakfast, she asked to sit on my lap (what’s left of it now that I’m on the cusp of my eighth month of pregnancy.) We sat together and sang songs, like “Trot Old Joe,” for a few minutes. Then, it was time to practice. And you know what? This morning, I decided it’s not fair. While she rarely complains about sitting down with me and the iPad at 8:00 a.m., I felt angry. I wished we could sit together and sing songs, but I knew we had to start practicing.
It’s been a little over three years since her Apraxia diagnosis and we still work on her talking EVERY SINGLE DAY. And while she’s made enormous strides and can communicate with others, it struck me this morning that she’s worked harder at the age of five-and-a-half than most kids her age! I know this will serve her well in life. She’s got grit, determination, and a better work ethic than many adults. But it’s still not fair.
This morning, just before we fired up Articulation Station on the iPad, I said to her, “I want to take a picture of you sitting here and working beside me.”
“Because I want you to know, when you get older, how hard you worked for every word you have. I’m so proud of you and how you never quit.”
We’re worked on /s/ blends and initial /th/ sounds this morning. Here’s a listen into part of our practice session.
Today was my final day volunteering in Isabelle’s preschool class’s writing center. While she still has another four weeks left of preschool, her class is studying pets. Parents are encouraged to bring their dogs, cats, birds, etc. into school. (NOTE: I have pet allergies and asthma. Not a good combo!) Therefore, I had to declare today as my last day, which disappointed my daughter. Isabelle knows how bad my allergies are so she understood as best as a five-year-old can understand that kind of thing.
I’m glad I have kept records (on this blog and in Evernote) about the times I volunteered in Isabelle’s classroom this year. Fortunately, I wrote about the first time I volunteered there in September so I’m able to see growth. Here are some things I noticed about Isabelle’s growth as a writer in the past eight months:
Her stamina has increased. In September, it was challenging for Isabelle to sit for more than five minutes without whining to produce a page. Today, she spent over a half-hour at the writing center working on her book.
Her drawings of people are more representational. In September, her people didn’t have bodies. Now, they all have bodies as well as other features!
Her volume has swelled. In September, she drew one page and told a simple story about it. Now, she’s “writing” six pages! (NOTE: She’s not writing strings of letters to represent her words. She’s still dictating to me and I’m writing. However, she’s drawing across pages.)
Her drawings contain details. Sometimes she needs help thinking about what kinds of things she should draw on a page to communicate the meaning of the scene, but she’s gotten stronger at embedding relevant details in her pictures. (For instance, in the dance studio picture, top right below, she wanted to draw tap shoes on the girls. She also felt it was important to draw their dance bags since they change out of their tap shoes into ballet shoes at the midpoint of each class.)
She has grown as a writer one Monday at a time. I’m sure she would’ve grown more had I not taken off time for my surgery, work-related commitments, and prenatal appointments. Despite me missing several Mondays, she has progressed this year. Here’s what she wrote today:
Do we have more work to do at home this summer to make sure she feels more confident with writing as she approaches Kindergarten? Absolutely! For now, I’m enjoying the gains Isabelle made this year. As you’ll see (if you look at where she was in September or even where she was in January), she has grown by leaps and bounds!
I presented Isabelle with her playlist on my iPhone as she prepared to brush her teeth.
“Pick a song,” I said, as I do every morning.
Instead of scrolling up and down through the playlist with her finger in search of a picture she liked (which matches a song she wants to hear), she settled her finger towards the center of the screen.
“A…,” she began.
“A, what?” I asked.
“A.” She pointed towards the Jackson 5’s song. Then she continued. “A. B. C.” She looked up and smiled.
“ABC, what?” I asked. (I had a feeling about what she was doing, but I wanted to follow her lead.)
“ABC, da song! Dat’s ‘ABC’,” she said as she touched the screen with her index finger.
Next thing we knew, a new screen popped up and we heard the Jackson 5 singing and playing “ABC.”
“Wow! You read that. Instead of looking at the picture, you read the letters a-b-c and picked the song. You should be so proud of yourself.”
I continued, “That’s reading, Isabelle. The letters mean something. This song is called “ABC” and you read the title of the song. You can learn how to read the titles of all of your songs.” But then I stopped. She’s only four. Why push? And besides, we had to brush those teeth!
Have you ever heard of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment? It was a research study about delayed gratification, self-control, and willpower. Here’s more about it:
It began in the early 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where Mischel and his graduate students gave children the choice between one reward (like a marshmallow, pretzel, or mint) they could eat immediately, and a larger reward (two marshmallows) for which they would have to wait alone, for up to 20 minutes. Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with the Bing preschoolers and found that children who had waited for the second marshmallow generally fared better in life. For example, studies showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores and a lower body mass index (BMI) 30 years after their initial Marshmallow Test. Researchers discovered that parents of “high delayers” even reported that they were more competent than “instant gratifiers”—without ever knowing whether their child had gobbled the first marshmallow (Retrieved from http://theatln.tc/1GNkWB6 on 3/13/15.)
So what does this have to do with my kid? Well, I’ll tell you. While she can be impulsive (She’s four!), I think she’d wait the 20 minutes for the two marshmallows. Here’s why:
Isabelle’s favorite color is purple. Last summer, she wore purple nearly ever day. (The only days she didn’t wear it was when I needed to do laundry.) She has a purple winter coat, purple backpack, and purple quilt. Even her lunchbox carrier is purple! Purple, purple, purple!
Every day, Isabelle selects a Flintstone’s Vitamin to take. They come in three colors: orange, pink, and purple. When she started taking Flintstone’s vitamins, she would select the purple ones. Then the pink. Finally, her bottle was filled with orange ones. She didn’t like the color of them, but she ate them anyway. (Little does she know my mother allowed me not to eat the orange ones when I was a kid because I claimed I didn’t like them.) She didn’t like getting to the end of the bottle with just orange vitamins left. On her own, she developed a mantra in late December in an effort to make sure she had purple vitamins by the end of the bottle. I’d present her with the several vitamins in the cap and I’d let her choose one. Suddenly, she began saying “Save the purple ones!” And wouldn’t you know it? The last bottle of vitamins she finished ended with a purple one. Her favorite.
The “save the purple” mentality continues. It’s interesting to shake out a few vitamins into the cap every day to see which one she’ll pick. Inevitably, she always selects a pink or orange one since she wants to save the purple ones. But this morning, her hands had food in them when I came over with her vitamins. I said, “tell me with your voice.” She tried to put her banana and napkin down, but she looked like she couldn’t move fast enough. So instead she blurted out, “purple.” I was shocked. I’m wondering if having she choose purple since I told her to pick with her voice, not with her fingers today. Or maybe she felt she had picked enough pink and orange ones this week so she could treat herself to a purple one. Whatever the reason is, I am still confident she’d pass that marshmallow test.
Nearly ever one I know has told me four years-old is easier than three. I’d like to hope they’re right since three was a downright challenging year. However, Isabelle’s been four for a little over a week and, so far, she still seems like my feisty three year-old.
Case in Point: Preschool Pickup. Unless I’m working in a school, I pick Isabelle up from preschool a little earlier than her peers since she still naps. Today was one of those days where I arrived before the class’s rest time. As soon as her teacher saw me, she began recounting a story about Isabelle finding the courage to speak in front of her peers (to tell the story of why she’s nicknamed herself the “Cheese Machine”). It was a delightful tale that made my heart happy since she was able to hold her friends’ attention and was able to be understood by her teacher.
As her teacher and I chatted, I noticed a curly-haired girl run out of the room. Yep, you know who it was: my child! She likes to do this to me (i.e., run out of the room for my benefit since she knows it agitates me). I didn’t give chase. But after a minute, she didn’t come back, so I went in search of her. I found her driving towards me in a Little Tykes Cozy Coupes, which operates like the cars on “The Flintstones.” Apparently she decided it would not only be okay to leave her classroom, but she’d join another class who were using indoor bikes and cars in the preschool hallway. Um, no, that was NOT okay.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Driving!” she grinned.
“You’re not supposed to leave the classroom. You don’t run out of the classroom. You didn’t ask your teacher permission.”
“Get up,” I commanded.
“No, I’m driving,” she replied.
I didn’t mince words. “I need you to get up and get out of the car.”
She started to whine. And cry. And yell.
I swiveled the car around and pointed it in the direction where the cars and bikes are stored.
“Go and park your car now.”
“Yes. Drive back, park your car, and come back to your classroom or I will have to pick you up out of your car and carry you out of school.”
“Fine Mommy!” she said with disdain in her voice.
I turned on my heel and walked back to her classroom. 30 seconds later she returned. Good, I thought.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!
You’d think it’d end there. You’d think she’d be compliant and stay by my side. You’d think these things if you were raising one of those compliant four year-olds my friends talk about all of the time. But, no, right after she put on her coat and hugged her friends good-bye she bolted from the room again. But before I could exit the room, one of her little friends took off after her. “Isabelle! You can’t leave the room!”
But then he left the room. Ugh!
And then, to make matters worse, one of other little girls follows both of them out of the room in an effort to lay down the law. At this point, her teacher and I are out the classroom door, ready to collect all three of them. When we arrive in the hallway, the boy who ran after her says, “Isabelle took my truck.”
“Give it back to him,” I said. And she did.
Her teacher retrieved Isabelle’s friends and brought them back to the classroom. I admonished Isabelle for leaving the classroom and told her that she could get her friends into trouble by leaving since they followed her. I told her she had to ask permission before departing the classroom. While she nodded, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that she’d be doing this to me again sometime soon since she knew it didn’t bother me. I sighed. Enough. Let it be for today, I told myself.
Just as I was about to take her hand to lead her out of school, a girl from one of the other classes pedaled by on a tricycle with a passenger seat (or what reminds me of a preschool rickshaw). Isabelle attempted to jump into the passenger seat.
“Oh no!” I cried. “You are not going for a bike ride! We’re going home.”
“But I want to!” she whined.
“It’s not happening. Not now. Put on your mittens. We’re going home.”
* * * * *
I recently polled my Facebook friends asking:
I have a question for anyone who’s ever told me parenting a four year-old is much easier than a three year-old. (And there are quite a few of you out there!) We’re a week and a half into age four and no one has flipped the proverbial switch. I’m wondering… when did your three year-old morph into a more compliant, more mellow person?
NOTE: If you don’t have a happy tale to tell (i.e., four was just as hard, if not harder than three), then please don’t tell me that today. I need some uplifting four year-old stories… please!
I got a variety of answers, links to articles, and promises of hope. Most people reassured me that the change came later-on in the fours. So for now, I’m going to try to stay calm and firm like I did today. And when something ridiculous happens, I will write the stories down so my daughter will know exactly what she was like at this point in her life as she grows up into the amazing, strong-willed adult I know she will be.
Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to go out of their comfort zone and try something new. Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to take a risk. Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to do things for which they may not be developmentally ready.
For the past seven months, my daughter’s occupational therapists have asked her to use scissors. At first I felt sad watching her try grip the scissors. She often held them upside down. It took her months to cut along a thick, straight line using self-opening scissors. While her cutting isn’t perfect, she’s able to do it with some adult assistance.
Today, when she was at OT, I asked her occupational therapist why cutting was being stressed right now, while she’s still three and a half.
The answer I got in response was one I didn’t expect, but should’ve.
She told me scissor use isn’t developmentally appropriate until age five. However, she teaches kids as young as three to cut since there’s an expectation they’ll know how to it independently by the time they reach Kindergarten. That’s right. SCISSORS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE USED INDEPENDENTLY BY AGE FIVE! However, she knows if she doesn’t teach kids how to do it now, they’ll be behind. Same thing goes with pre-writing skills and so many of the other things she has to work on in OT. Of course, this led to a conversation about the time spent teaching to the test in public school. By the end of the session, the two of us were tired of thinking of all of the time kids aren’t spending PLAYING because they’re working in school!
I haven’t been pushing the scissors at home for the past few months since they tend to make Isabelle miserable. Of all of the things we have to work on, using a scissor isn’t at the top of my list. However, I don’t want her to be behind either. While I’m not about to start printing out oodles of things for her to practice cutting from Pinterest (Yes! There are tons of scissor skills pins out there.), I am going to reinforce the things the OT is working on during her weekly session. It’s all about balance, what’s good for your kid, and remembering what is developmentally appropriate.
On this day last year, things were not going well with regard to Isabelle’s speech. We were a day away from receiving her CAS diagnosis. She had been doing speech therapy for 10 months and had barely made any progress. To say I didn’t see the light at the end of the speech tunnel is beyond an understatement.
Two weeks after she was diagnosed with CAS, we began working with a music therapist. Slowly, through music, we were able to increase Isabelle’s consonant and vowel productions. Soon we heard approximations of words. Over time we understood real words. We have begun to hear short sentences too. As the parent of a child with CAS, this is a dream come true. While she has a long way to go, I can now see the light at the end of the speech tunnel!
We’ve been working with Isabelle’s music therapist for almost a year now. While she used to come to our house, we now go to her office. Her office is actually a music studio complete with guitars, drums, pianos, a xylophone, and more. Isabelle LOVES going to her office for sessions since she loves to play, listen to, and create music.
This morning we had a HUGE breakthrough. We were singing “Old MacDonald” with Isabelle. She picked out pictures of several animals on the farm and then needed to say the animal name and the sound it made. Plus, we were pausing so she could fill in other words. We’ve been singing this song with her in music therapy for almost a year. (Last April she couldn’t even move her mouth to move to say the “o” in E-I-E-I-O.) I knew she could fill in some of the animal names and sounds, but wasn’t sure she’d be able to fill in the words we were leaving out.
But then she surprised me and her music therapist! Take a listen:
She’s come a long way in 11 months! Whenever I question if I’m doing the right thing by taking her to five therapy appointments/week and doing lots of home practice, I have a moment like this and I know we’re traveling on the correct course. We have a ways to go since the multi-syllabic words are still tricky for her. Often the medial parts of the sentences are undecodable. However, she’s made tremendous progress and so much of it is thanks to music therapy.
But music therapy isn’t just great for speech. It’s been wonderful for getting Isabelle to follow directions and rules. Starting today, her music therapist created a schedule for our day that included pictures and words to help keep her on-task during our session. There were two free choice times (marked as “Isabelle” in the photo on the left) during the session, which allowed her to pick an instrument and do what she wanted. That’s really necessary when there’s articulation work and structured activities happening.
Today I’m thankful for the magic of music. I don’t know if we’d be where we are today without it.