growing up · growth mindset · OT · preschool · slice of life · speech

A Letter to Isabelle

Isabelle and I attended her new preschool's open house this afternoon. It took awhile, but eventually she was comfortable enough to start playing alongside a friend.
Isabelle and I attended her new preschool’s open house this afternoon. It took awhile, but eventually she was comfortable enough to start playing alongside a friend.

I’ve been recuperating from the surgery I had on August 12th. I haven’t written since August 11th. Earlier today my father told me, “you’re back to reality now. Start writing again.” (Thanks for the tough love, Dad!) So here I am.

I’m taking some inspiration from a piece Dana Murphy shared on Facebook last weekend.  It was written by Glennon Doyle Melton. I read it as her way of preparing herself to have a conversation with her son about being compassionate to others.  And it reminded me of a conversation I want to have with Isabelle before she starts her second year of preschool this week.  In fact, this conversation has been on my mind ever since I overheard her say, “He holds his marker like a baby,” about one of her peers after she learned how to properly hold a writing utensil this past March.  She starts school on Thursday so here’s my letter to Isabelle (which I’ll use as fodder for the conversation I will have with her tomorrow).

Dear Isabelle,

You start preschool this week. Well, one of the two. The other one starts after Labor Day. I can’t believe you’re going to be out of the house, doing some type of school, every weekday this school year. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too much school for a four-and-a-half-year-old… But you love your first preschool so hopefully you’ll love the second one too.

But that’s not what I want to discuss. Instead, I want to talk to you about struggling and kindness.

Struggle is defined as proceeding with difficulty or with great effort. I hated to watch you struggle to crawl, to stand, to walk, and — most of all — to talk. Things haven’t come easily for you.  You’ve exerted great effort to attain every goal you have reached.  And while I could look at those struggles as weakness, I’ve reframed them in my mind. You have an excellent work ethic.  You’re tenacious.  You have grit.  And that’s why you’ve been able to overcome your struggles.

I know you will continue to struggle with things in school.  And that is okay.  Everything happens for you. However, things often happen later than they do for your peers.  And while you might have to work harder to attain things that come naturally to other kids, I’ve come to believe it will make you a stronger adult since you’ll know what it is like to work diligently to do something.

You’ve overcome so much in the past two and a half years since your CAS diagnosis.  I am so proud of everything you’ve accomplished in speech and in OT.  And while I know you’ll have to continue to work at things, I know some things may actually be easier for you (e.g., using scissors, imaginative play, following classroom rules) than they will be for some of your peers who haven’t had as much practice as you at doing some of those things.  And that is okay.  Just because someone cannot do something you can do doesn’t mean they are a “baby.”  All it means is they haven’t mastered that skill yet.

It is important to stay calm if someone’s actions, behaviors, or habits annoy you. Trust me, I know from experience, that’s really hard to do.  But part of being a good friend is being patient.  And part of being patient is being a kind person.  Instead of making someone feel bad if they cannot do something as well as you, you can show them how to do it (if they want your help).  And if they don’t want your help, you can play together or do something together both can do.  We want to make our friends feel good.  Being sweet towards others usually makes people happy.

When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.

I hope you’ll be the kind of person who chooses to be kind, especially when you see a friend struggling.  That’s what I’d want for you if you were struggling.  I hope you’ll choose kind, again and again and again.

I hope this year is filled with happiness and growth. I look forward to watching you develop into a confident five-year-old this school year.  I hope life hands you an easier path — one that’s not riddled with struggles — in the years to come.  But if it doesn’t, I will be your biggest supporter — always.

Love,

Mommy

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slice of life · speech

Another Run-In with a Homonymn

My husband is home (WHEW!), but he’s working this morning.  Therefore, my Sunday looks a lot different than usual.  Instead of sleeping-in and working on my book, I found myself preparing breakfast for Isabelle.  Here’s a snippet of our breakfast preparation conversation:

Between this conversation and the "from scratch" debacle the other day, I'm wondering what other words are confusing Isabelle that she doesn't talk about.  English is such a hard language to master, isn't it?
Between this conversation and the “from scratch” debacle the other day, I’m wondering what other words are confusing Isabelle that she doesn’t talk about. English is such a hard language to master, isn’t it?

I’m happy to report she was pleased with the papaya and forgot all about the watermelon!  (BTW: Click here in case you’re wondering what the “Watermelon Man” song reference was about.)  But, when she didn’t want to eat any more pineapple, this happened:

 

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Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.
Jewish · slice of life · speech

Silenced (A Slice of Poetry)

Betsy challenged us to try some poetry for our slice of life stories the other day.  My heart was heavy after leaving synagogue with my family today. I decided to do a quick write about what I was feeling in a new “Poetry” notebook in my Noteshelf App. From there, I crossed out unnecessary words and looked for the meatiest parts.  Here’s the poem I came up with:

Silenced

You can sing the songs.

Sing them today.

No.

Are you embarrassed?

Are you worried

you won’t sing the right words?

Yes.

It’s taken you a long time

and practice

to speak.

It’s okay

if you don’t get

the words right.

Other kids

won’t sing the right words either.

{Disbelief.}

“Shalom Everybody”

{Lips didn’t move.}

“Barchu”

{Lips didn’t move.}

“Shema”

{Lips didn’t move.}

“Little Shabbat Candles”

{Lips didn’t move.}

“Dinosaur Knocking at My Door”

{Lips didn’t move.}

“Bim Bam”

{Lips didn’t move.}

My heart breaks.

She’s fearful

of making a mistake.

One day

I hope she finds freedom

to use her voice

in prayer

and

in song.

 

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com  for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

 

music · OT · slice of life · speech

Grilled Chicken, Fries, & Apple Juice

Click on the image to enlarge.
We watched one of the roller coasters, top, do a test ride in Hersheypark after lunch (which is featured in the bottom pictures).

Tuesdays are the busiest day of our week now that Isabelle is in school*.  And when I say busy, I mean BUSY.  She has three therapy sessions from 9:00 a.m. – noon.  Seriously! I’m just doing the driving (48 miles’ worth) — she’s doing the work!

Her music therapist is available on first-thing on Tuesday mornings so we are in her office by 9 a.m.  Isabelle sings, dances, follows directions, works on turn-taking, and more.  Then we head to occupational therapy, where she has a 30 minute session (as opposed to the 45-60 minute session she has on Thursdays) since we don’t want to burn her out before speech therapy, which is the final session on Tuesdays.   Her occupational therapist works with her on a variety of things that require motor planning, which she struggles with.  She’s making great progress, but she’s only started to make progress with this second private session each week.  Therefore, I couldn’t cut it either.

I didn’t love the idea of packing three therapies into one day, but it had to be done.  Childhood Apraxia of Speech requires repeated practice with speech during the week. While I do lots of home practice, there’s no substitute for her working with her a trained speech-language pathologist.  Therefore, she sees her on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As long as Isabelle works hard in her sessions (THANKFULLY, she almost always works hard! The kid is a trooper with a growth mindset, which is why she’s my hero!), we do something special afterwards. However, by the time she’s finished on Tuesdays, it’s lunchtime. She wanted to go for pizza today.  had pizza at the Apraxia Support Group meeting last night and last Thursday after her OT/speech sessions were over.  My waistline couldn’t take anymore pizza.  So, I mad three other suggestions.

“Mommy just ate pizza last night.  Let’s go somewhere else.  Do you want to go to Chocolate World?”

“No,” she replied.

Who is this little person?!?!?

“Uh, okay. Well, do you want to go out to lunch?”

“Yes. Pizza.”

“Not pizza.  How about Panera, Chocolate Avenue Grill, or Devon?” I asked.

She considered her choices.

“Seh-dehn,” she replied.  (I knew that meant Devon. Her verbal errors in that word are so off, but once I figured out what she meant by Seh-dehn a few weeks ago, she smiled.)

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes! I wan chih-kihn, fiez, and apo jus,” she replied matter-of-factly.

“Well, let’s get in the car and go out for a special lunch,” I said.

She repeated her order again after I buckled her up in the car.  Grilled chicken, fries, and apple juice.  I smiled.  At least she knows what she wants!

Devon is not the kind of place I normally take a three year-old for lunch.  It’s more of a Saturday night type of restaurant.  But after she worked SO hard and willingly sacrificed her pizza lunch so I could eat a salad, how could I say no?

So we went.

*=On Mondays and Fridays she receives services at school.  Wednesdays are her “free” day so-to-speak.  No therapy services at school.  Must feel like a weekend to her.  I’m not sure.  I try not to bring it up.  Therapy is a way life when you have Childhood Apraxia of Speech.  Going to therapy appointments is our “normal.”

 

growth mindset · slice of life · speech · Uncategorized

Speech Workout

SOLSC on TWTWe had an intensive home-speech therapy session this morning.  It started with me letting Isabelle pick what she wanted to work on.  The choices:

Isabelle wanted to do the puppy pages first.  Of course she did!  Who could resist the cute dogs in the book?

But the thing is, the work she had to do wasn’t so easy.  She had to name actions using nouns, verbs, and objects.  She had to combine different levels of bisyllabics, polysyllabics, and final consonant words.  The workout book reminds parents (or SLPs) not to stress about proper grammar yet.  As a writer, I initially wanted to stress about this, but I’ve come to realize it’s more important for my child to be able to move her mouth, tongue, and jaw in a variety of ways so she can put together simple sentences.

I recorded Isabelle using my iPhone’s voice memo app this morning. I did it so I could play back what she said… so she could hear herself. Once she went down for a nap this afternoon, I uploaded the files to SoundCloud because I want to share with others, like you, dear reader, how hard my little one is working.  Children with Apraxia don’t have words rolling off of their tongues like kids without Apraxia.  It’s HARD work for them.  And boy did she have a speech workout this morning!  Take a listen:


I’m sharing the next sound file since it includes her frustration towards the end of it. I know some things are so tricky for my daughter to say, but yet she perseveres in the face of something that’s really tricky.  (Granted, it sometimes takes a lot of encouragement from the cheering section — me — but it’s worth it in the end!)  Apraxia isn’t always pretty or perfect.  And that’s okay.  Because my daughter has a growth mindset, which is allowing her to make progress with her talking, which will ultimately help her in other aspects of her life.

 

OBSERVATIONS · picture books · speech

ISO Wordless Picture Books

journeyLast Friday, I spoke with my daughter’s speech therapist about Isabelle having more trouble than usual, lately, getting her words out.  This has been going for about three weeks and isn’t getting better.  Therefore, her SLP asked me to bring some wordless picture books to today’s speech therapy session. Of course, I waited until last night to look for the books, which meant I was tearing up my house trying to find Flotsam by David Wiesner after Isabelle went to bed.  I couldn’t find it. Thankfully I knew of the origin of Aaron Becker’s Journey, which I intended to bring along with Flotsam.  But one wordless picture book didn’t seem like enough. Therefore, I grabbed two other picture books Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans and Tubby by Leslie Patricelli Isabelle knows well in case her SLP wanted to work with Isabelle on those.

I handed over JourneyMadeline, and Tubby to her SLP at the start of the session and explained she knew the latter ones very well. (Even though the average person might not be able to understand Isabelle’s recitation of Madeline, I can tell you that if she didn’t have CAS her “reading” would be spot-on!) After they worked on some sequencing cards to determine how often and when Isabelle would have trouble saying her words, she asked Isabelle to read the books to her. First, they did Tubby. As I sat outside of the one-way mirror listening with headphones, I was pretty impressed with Isabelle’s “read” of the book. She only had trouble stating what was happening on a couple of the pages.  Madeline, the book she knows backwards and forwards, was much harder for her.  I couldn’t imagine why she was having trouble since we’ve read it COUNTLESS times in the past couple of months. And then it dawned on me: it was her CAS that was preventing her from getting her words out.

After Tubby and Madeline, they entered the world in Journey. Her SLP told me, in advance of today’s session, that many kids with CAS don’t like wordless picture books since it requires them to do a lot more of the work. The words aren’t right there.  There is no one right answer. Therefore, it requires them to do a lot more talking since the answer has to come from within them. As a result, I noticed she only demanded that Isabelle tackle five page spreads from Journey with her today.  She asked Isabelle very general questions like “What’s happening here?” or “What’s going on?” or “Where is she going?”  Most of Isabelle’s answers made sense, but she did state that the girl was going to go to Chocolate World through the red door.  (Thankfully she revised her prediction on the following page!)

At the end of the session, I debriefed with her SLP to talk about what they did. Essentially they were working on prosody and sentence structure.  She feels it’s important to model the speech to help expand Isabelle’s language. Therefore, if we have to spoon feed things to Isabelle when she cannot get out the words she wants to say for the next few weeks, then so be it. Her speech therapist reminded me to vary responses with word-based and wordless picture books so that Isabelle doesn’t think there’s just one response for a given picture or on a page.  Since we’ve spent so much time teaching her to say what we see, we (i.e., me and her SLP) need to be more creative with our responses.  This reminds me of when I’ve taught students how to use conversational prompts in discussion groups and then they become too reliant on one or two prompts. Children need a variety of things to help them talk in a discussion. And Isabelle needs a variety of ways to respond so she doesn’t rely on just one or two ways to start sentences (which becomes easy to motor plan, which is why she uses the same phrases over and over again).

I have my work cut out for me in the next few weeks. I’m going to rely on wordless picture books to help me to do this work, rather than books she knows well, so she doesn’t feel confined by the words. However, I need to find a variety of wordless picture books for this purpose.  I started searching over at the Nerdy Book Club today and found a post with top ten wordless picture books. I need to research them so I find the ones that will be the best fit for my kiddo. I’m open to more suggestions. If you have a favorite wordless picture book that would be perfect for my three year-old, please leave the title and author/illustrator in the comment section of this post.

Jewish · OBSERVATIONS · rituals · speech

A Day of Rest

“I’m making pah-tee for Daddy!”

Last night, before sunset, Isabelle was planning a “party” in her kitchen for her a daddy. She gathered pretend cookies, a kiddie teapot, and other assorted goodies in a basket.  She carried them to the great room, deposited them on the floor, and hustled back to her play kitchen.

Back and forth she went, from the kitchen to the great room and back to the kitchen again.  But it was time for Shabbat.

“Isabelle, you may continue your party after we do our Shabbat prayers,” I said.

“NO!” she shouted in my general direction.

“Isabelle, we need you to come here before Shabbat starts,” my husband said.

“NO!” she howled.

A few minutes passed.

“You may bring your chair over to light candles,” I said.

“NO! I’m making pah-tee for Daddy!” she exclaimed seeming exasperated with us.

Marc and I looked at each other.  We were feeling a little exasperated with her.  This was not exactly the shalom bayit I dream of when I think of how Friday nights usually go.  Usually she’s excited to drink the grape juice and eat challah.  Usually she’s excited to help set up for Shabbat.  Usually she brings a chair over to the kitchen island, where we say the blessings over the candles, her, the fruit of the vine, and the challah.  But not last night.  Nope.  Last night she just wanted to play.

“If you don’t come over, then you’re not going to eat challah,” my husband stated.

I was less than thrilled that he was dangling that in front of her, but what choice did we seem to have.

“Yes call-ah!” she retorted.

“Then come over here,” he said.

“No. I make pah-tee for YOU!”

“Then no challah,” he said.

Not even the threat of not eating challah, which she loves to devour, was motivating her.

THINK Stacey, think!

I walked over to Isabelle’s Daddy party she was setting up.

“No mommy! Dis for Daddy!”

I ignored the slight, knelt down beside her and said, “I want to talk to you about something, Isabelle.”

She stared at me through her big blueberry eyes with her bottom lip stuck out a bit.

“Yes call-ah!” she shouted.

I took her toddler-sized hands in mine and held them gently.  It was time to take a different approach.

“You know how you work hard all week with Miss Marie and Miss Kelly on your talking?”

She nodded.

“They’re helping you learn how to get your words out, right?”

She nodded again.

“Well, you work hard all week long.  And it’s very hard work to get your words out… I know that.  You go to see Miss Marie and Kelly and then you practice at home with mommy.  And you also go to Miss Mandy and Miss Jena and Joanna and that’s hard work too.  You work so hard, all week long.” I paused to let that sink in.  “Well, Shabbat is a time where we leave the work we did all week behind and we stop.  We don’t work on Shabbat.  We rest.  Don’t you want to take some time to rest from all of the hard work you did this week?”

“Yes!”

“I thought you would.  So, put your party aside.  You can have the party later.  Come and celebrate all of the hard work you did with me and Daddy.”

I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed.  “I love you very much.  Will you come and join us for Shabbat so we can take a break from all of that hard work you did this week?”

“Okay,” she said.

“Do you need help pulling over your chair or can you do it yourself.”

“I need help,” she replied.

And just like that she came over.  I pulled over her chair and we kindled the Shabbos lights.

And just like that I vowed not to do picture cards or speech work with her on Shabbat because everyone deserves a day of rest when they work for six days straight.

 

OBSERVATIONS · slice of life · speech

Observing Through the One-Way Mirror

I watch
Earbuds in ears
To my hard-working daughter
And her patient speech therapist
As they work together to help her
With her words.
She does better
Without me in the room.
While that was tough to swallow
At first
It is so nice to listen & watch
What she is capable of doing.
She has come so far in the past year,
But as I listen-in
I am reminded
Yet again
Of how much further she has to go.

 

accomplishments · slice of life · speech

The Magic of Music

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.

Isabelle has to follow rules when she uses the "white piano" at the music studio. Here she's pictured playing with her pointer fingers.
Isabelle has to follow rules when she uses the “white piano” at the music studio. Here she’s pictured playing with her pointer fingers.

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.

Crossing off items as they're completed.
Crossing off items as they’re completed.

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.

Check out the other slice of life stories at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.
Check out the other slice of life stories at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

narrative · slice of life · speech

Panera Paper Napkin Narrative

20140310-155359.jpg
The Story of Our Morning

I relish slow mornings. However, we’re usually out the door within 75 minutes of Isabelle waking up in the mornings, which means I have to get up at least an hour before she does. If I’m not ready-to-go before she rises, then I have to give up my morning stretches, my morning makeup, or my “Morning Joe.” None of these leaves me feeling or looking good!

Monday mornings begin with music therapy. Then we have two hours “off” before she has speech therapy. But her music therapist called me yesterday afternoon (Bless her heart for that early phone call!) since she was under the weather. Therefore, I knew we’d have a slow start to our day.

I always try to do something special with Isabelle after her clinical speech therapy appointment on Mondays since that’s her hardest speech therapy session each week.

“Do you want to go for pizza after we see Marie?” I asked as we drove into the speech therapy parking lot.

“No, Panera!”

“Really? Panera?” I said. What three year-old doesn’t want pizza?!!?

“Yeah! Bagel!”

My stomach flip-flopped. As a New Yorker, I have a true appreciation for good bagels. In my opinion, Panera’s bagels are just bread with a hole in the middle. I don’t understand what Isabelle’s obsession with them is, but I know she loves them (despite the fact she has had Murray’s Bagels from Chelsea).

“Okay, if you do your work at Marie’s, then we’ll go to Panera for a bagel.”

* * * * *

Once the food came to our table, Isabelle decided she wanted to sit on the same side of the bench as me. In an effort to make some small talk, I decided to talk about our relaxing morning. I took out a pen from my purse and began asking her “What did we do first/second/third/etc.?” today. She came up with all of the items herself. I drew out each one and wrote a sentence about it on a napkin. Then, we practiced telling the story. After practicing three times, I secretly recorded her under the table:

Check out the other slice of life stories at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.
Check out the other slice of life stories at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.