Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Nana Banana!

We love you very much and hope you have a GREAT day!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Handicapped Child in Area

Deaf Child Area, Blind Child Area, Caution: Handicapped Child in Area.

I feel pretty opposed to having a sign like this in front of my house, and I'm not sure why...

Why? Why do these signs make me cringe? I've thought about it a lot over the past year, especially every time I am driving and see a sign like this.

Before doing any research on the issue, I already had a very hard time believing that a sign like this actually works. Does your average person truly slow down and drive with more caution when they see these signs? Do they just ignore it? Does it distract them from driving because they are looking for a disabled child? I gotta be honest and say that I've never driven any differently after seeing one of these signs. Of course, I generally tend to drive the speed limit and be very cautious any time there are CHILDREN playing near the street...with or without disabilities.

I also wonder about the impact that it could have on the child to have a sign like this posted in front of their house. Do they really want to point out to the world every day that they are a "handicapped child?" Is there an implication that they don't have the sense or ability to keep themselves safe, at least as well as anyone else? I think the argument could be made that a child who is deaf, blind, or physically disabled might be more capable of learning to be safe. It seems they may quite possibly learn to use their other senses (as well as a great big dose of common sense) to be aware of dangerous situations out of necessity.

Maybe I would feel differently if I had a child with severe autism, a cognitive disability, or a behavioral disorder who may truly not understand the danger of running into the street. I suppose in these cases there is a chance I might really feel my child is at risk. But would the sign make a difference?

I started thinking that maybe just a "children at play" sign would be better...until I did some research and found an article basically stating that "there is no evidence that special warning signs of this sort reduce driver speeds or crash rates."

The bottom line is that we won't be requesting a sign. If I thought it would work I would be more likely to consider it, but even then it would cause me discomfort. Instead I will teach my kids to be aware of their environment and use common sense. Be cautious, stay away from the road, and pay attention to cars. I plan to get one of those "Slow: Children at Play" driveway safety signs to discourage cars from pulling into my driveway to turn around when we are outside.

I understand that accidents happen, but as their parent I will do my best to keep them safe (as in, I will be ultra paranoid and never let them out of my sight anyway).

I'm curious to hear everybody's thoughts on this. Do you have a sign? Why or why not? Do you pay attention to the signs? Do they change the way you drive? Do you like the signs? How do these signs make you feel? What do you guys think?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What's going on?

My brain is a jumbled mess right now. I feel the need to get some of this information out of my head and onto the blog so I can think straight again!

I took a weekend trip to California to visit with some of my dearest friends. We had a fabulous time, despite the fact that two of us (including me) were sick with a yucky bug. I am still sick in fact, putting a slight damper on the joyful reunion with my family I was envisioning after my little vacation. I imagined that I would be rejuvenated and ready to tackle the world, but ended up needed a couple more days to recoup. I may even need a few more still. My poor husband. He's the one needing a vacation now!

The girls, particularly Eden, seem to have a little virus too, but overall it has been just a minor annoyance (so far) and they have mostly been happy and doing well.

So anyway, I've been meaning to do an update about the girls and what is going on with them lately. So here it is...

Holland had an eye doctor appt a couple of weeks back. The vision in her left (weaker) eye has gotten worse again, and she is not using it as well as she was. So, she got a new prescription and picked out a new pair of blue frames (her favorite color). We also started patching again for 2 hours each day. She has another appt next week to see how it's going. There is a possibility that she is going to need another eye surgery. We put it on hold 3 months ago because she was doing really well, but we may have to revisit after we see how things are going now with the new prescription. One of my goals for the summer is to look into vision therapy. I understand that there are mixed reviews about it's effectiveness, but I feel like we should look into it if we are considering another surgery.

Physically Holland has made a lot of progress over the past year. Her balance has improved and she is falling a lot less. She is much more sturdy and we can even let her play on a jungle gym more or less independently and trust that she will be safe. She is also allowed to go up and downstairs on her own, as long as she holds the railing. I just talked to the school PT on the phone, and she said that Holland's motor skills tested in the 33-36 month range. She still has an awkward gait, particularly when she tries to run or jump, and she holds her left hand out or up a lot of the time. We have to remind her frequently to pay attention to that left hand...otherwise she sometimes forgets it's out there in space:)

In terms of learning, Holland is pretty much spot on. She's really smart, with a great memory and a great sense of humor. She can recognize almost all of the upper and lowercase letters, knows most of the sounds (not perfect, but on track), and recognizes several sight words. She is great at rhyming, and identifying words that start with the same sound. She is very interested in spelling, and asks me to spell words for her all the time. She picks up new vocabulary every day...even when we don't want her to. She also remembers, and reminds us all when we say something we shouldn't. She's the PC police at our house. We're "not allowed" to say:
"What the...?" (This one came from preschool.)
"I need to take a dump." (Thanks for that one daddy...lovely.)
"I'm gonna kick your butt!" (We love our cousins!)
"I'm gonna kill you." (Cousins again)

At school I see Holland's weaknesses in transitioning from one activity to another, and getting started on and completing her work independently. She nevers wants anything fun to end, and still melts down in tears or pouts when it's time to stop playing or come in from outside. She needs a lot of direction to complete tasks with several steps, and has a hard time staying on task. Even going to the potty is a chore because it takes her so long to follow through. A lot of this still has to do with motor weakness, but attention span also plays a huge role. I can always tell her school work from Eden's, because Eden will cover the entire page with paint or color, while Holland will make a few marks and be done with it.

Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to be Holland's mom. She can be demanding and whiny at times, but she is also really sweet and reasonable, so we work it out. Everynight at bedtime I tell her "I love being your mom." She usually responds, "I love being your daughter." Except for one day last week when she said "I love being your dog...woof" And just last night when she said "I love being your honey."

Eden is making gains across the board right now, and I am really excited about her physical milestones, as well as huge advancements in her language skills.

I have to credit hippotherapy with some of the improvement in her trunk tone over the past few months. She has been riding for about 9 months now, and we have seen consistent progress. In the beginning she had two side walkers holding her up at the sholders. Now they are able to do just a thigh hold, and she maintains the sitting position on the horse all on her own while holding the handles. She consistently catches herself and pushes herself back up if she starts to slump over. There are very obvious improvements in her strength and posture and she can ride for close to 45 minutes now before getting tired. Just yesterday two of the older gentlemen volunteers who hadn't helped her for about a month had a chance to work with her. They both commented to me separately how much improvement they saw in her. Eden's hippotherapy PT has also been raving about how much change she has seen, not just physically, but in terms of how well she is speaking and the concepts that she talks about and understands while riding. We LOVE hippotherapy!

Eden had a little physical setback last weekend. On Friday her home-based PT noticed increased tightness in her left leg and did a lot of intense stretching with it. Eden complained several times that it hurt. Then, over the weekend John and I both noticed that she was having a hard time crawling, was falling and hitting her head a lot more, and wasn't standing very well at all. On Monday she came home with a note saying that she didn't want to stretch out her left leg in the straddle sitter and was complaining that it hurt. So, I checked it out. She said that the pain was in her knee, and she didn't want to straighten that leg out at all. She couldn't long sit or bear any weight on it. It even appeared to be a bit swollen. Long story short, I called the doctor, talked to one of her PTs, made an appointment, and John took her in while I was out of town. The doctor bent her leg a couple of times, asked her if it hurt, and announced it was fine. And, after a week, it does seem to be fine. But it did really worry us for a few days, and I started having heart palpitations and stress thinking about something being broken or dislocated or out of whack...and surgery...and pain...and medication. It made me really nervous. I hate always having to think about these things. I also hate the fact that I can never get comfortable. I'm always waiting for the next shoe to drop.

In better new, I cannot express enough how amazed and in awe of cochlear implant technology that I am. Eden's language has gone through another recent spurt where I can just see so much more depth of understanding and expression. We've just gotten to another level, so much that Holland is able to understand Eden now, and they are playing and interacting in a whole new way. They are spending hours now engaged in imaginative play with each other, pretending to be store clerks, customers, chefs, teachers, students, babies, dogs, farmers, doctors, oh, and did I mention DOGS? I loooove to listen to the chatting with each other while they play, and actually getting along. They still fight and argue a lot, but at least they seem to be past the worst of the "gimme my toy" stage, and can actually appreciate each others' company for a while.

We were riding in the car one day and Eden was pretending to have a pet cat. The cat's name was "Matah", she wore glasses like Holland, and had a purple leash. Eden was talking about her "cat" and kept saying "he has glasses" and "he has a purple leash." I asked if her cat was a boy or a girl, and she said "a girl." So, I told her if it's a girl, you have to say "she", like "she has a purple leash." Then all of a sudden I saw that little lightbulb come on, and knew that she got it! Right away she started correcting herself when she slipped, and within a couple of days she was using "he" and "she" correctly every time. It was that easy, because she was ready. It has hit me recently that she is going to be correcting everything soon, even those really endearing things that I love, like how she says she wants one of "daddy's wakkles" for breakfast, or that a "catterkiller" turns into a butterfly. We may have to start using "wakkles" and "caterkillers" ourselves so we can hold out as long as we did in our family, when we all started saying "prinzels" instead of pretzels, so much that my little brother didn't even know they were really called pretzels until he was about 12!

Eden is learning fabulously right now too. She also knows all of her letters and sounds, and has a great sight vocabulary for a 4 year old. She recognizes everyone's names, as well as the words Pizza, and GO, in any context. She can also finger-spell...she knows the whole alphabet and can spell many words in sign, including Mom, Dad, Holland, Eden, Zippo, Nana, and Papa. She picks up new signs really quickly, and I would really like to take a sign language class so I can learn enough to start communicating with her when we are swimming, taking a bath, or at bedtime, when she doesn't have her CI processor on. Eden is an awesome lip reader though, and we carry on entire conversations without her hearing much that it surprises people who think she MUST be able to hear. Even Holland tells me, "well she can hear a little."

Eden is at a point where she is starting to understand a little more about her disablity. I can tell that she is getting a bit sensitive in talking about it and sometimes her eyes will well up. We're getting a little more of the "I just want to watch" mentality, and it breaks my heart. This is going to be tricky for me to navigate. I want her to have a sense of confidence and self-assuredness, while at the same time accepting and understanding her physical limitations. I try to do this by talking about about her disability matter-of-factly. I try not to say she "can't" do anything. Instead of saying she "can't walk" or "can't hear" I usually say she uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around, and her "hearing" to help her hear. Just like Holland and Mommy and Daddy wear glasses to help them see. Everybody is different, and our differences make us so much more interesting.

It will take a long time before my girls will be able to fully embrace that idea.

But I know they will. Because it's TRUE!