Sunday, July 25, 2010
My Love/Hate Relationship with Early Intervention
Good morning. I know I've been strangely absent for the last few days. It's all because of one silly little post on Facebook this week—I made the mistake of saying that I had a "low-key week" planned. It was all downhill from there! No, downhill isn't really the right word. It just got a lot busier than I had expected to be.
And most of it was "good" busy. On Thursday we hosted what was quite possibly the best play date ever. J This summer we installed a big play set with swings, slides, a rock climbing wall—all sorts of fun—as well as 2 concrete patios. Since we have this new fun stuff, we love to have people over, and I need some good distractions these days, I decided to put our back yard to use. I invited just about all the moms I could think of to bring their kids over for a big fun morning. We ended up with around 15 moms and 30 or so kids having a fabulous time playing, talking, and feasting on PB&J. It was a great success, and definitely something that I want to do again. One friend stayed for a little one-on-one play date in the afternoon, and that night I had book club at my house. Yes, it was busy, but it was such a fun fun fun day.
Another appointment on my calendar this week was Early Intervention. A month ago I didn't even know what Early Intervention was—it conjurs up images of a group of people sitting down with my infant to tell him that they love him but he needs to stop sneaking whiskey into his bottles. In actuality, Early Intervention services are "specialized health, education, and therapeutic services designed to meet the needs of infants and toddlers… with developmental delays or disabilities." That makes more sense, since my child has Down syndrome and not a drug/alcohol problem… but still, kinda scary sounding.
Fortunately, we have a great facility nearby, so Roo and I headed over there this week. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew that he would be evaluated by 3 therapists—physical, occupational, and speech—and that my early intervention specialist and my Help Me Grow service coordinator would be there as well. If someone had pressed me on what I thought the appointment would be like, I would have said that we would be in a room similar to a doctor's office, they would lay Roo on the table, and the therapists (who would be very business-like and cool—not overly friendly) would look him over (somewhat disdainfully) one at a time and tell me all the things that are wrong with him. It was quite intimidating in my head.
In reality, it was a very positive experience. We went into their "infant room", which is basically like a church nursery—a classroom with baby toys everywhere and a few rocking chairs, and we all sat on the floor. They gave me a blanket to lay Roo on, and we just sat and talked. And they played with Roo. And they fussed over him. And they laughed when he gave them a big smile. And they told him how cute he is. And they passed him around and gave him lots of attention. And they told me how cute and sweet he is. Nothing at all like the image in my head.
At the end of the appointment, they each gave me their recommendations for treatment and a few ideas of what I can be doing at home with him now. I am happy to say that his communication skills are right where they need to be, and he's actually doing a few things that are in the 6-8 month range. (For those of you who know my family, you know that we don't make quiet children. Disability or not, apparently.) The physical therapist and occupational therapist both wanted to start treatment for him right away—not because he's so far behind, but because he does have a few delays, and the earlier we get started on them the better off we'll be in the long run. At the end of the appointment, the speech therapist asked me to stop by her office, where she showed me a picture of her 18-year-old son. He also has Down syndrome. In the picture, he's kayaking. It was unbelievably sweet. She wanted to encourage me, to let me know that she's been where I am, and that it's a special ride. She doesn't know if she'll be the therapist who works with Roo if/when he needs speech therapy (since he's sooooo advanced in that area now ;-) ), but she gave me her card and told me to call her any time I need to talk parent-to-parent. I was so thankful.
And really, that's how I felt for most of the appointment—thankful. I am very thankful that early intervention exists. That no one is asking us to put our child in some institution somewhere or telling us that he won't ever be able to do anything. I'm thankful for the opportunities for growth and development, for the chance to get started on therapy right away. I'm thankful that we have such a great facility close by—and that they will actually be coming to our house for all of Roo's appointments. It is overall a very good thing.
But can I tell you something? There's a part of me that hates it, too. I hate that we need it. I pulled into the parking lot for our appointment, and their toddler playgroup was just ending. Three little boys were walking out and I thought, "That is going to be us." We are going to be that family. Other moms are going to send their "normal" children to preschool with my child so that their children can "help" him and so that my child can learn from them and grow. They are going to have pity compassion on us, on him. We walked in and met another family with a 2-year-old boy who has Down's… and I saw my son in 2 years. When Roo was first diagnosed, I couldn't believe that he had Down's partly because he didn't look like he had it. As he's filling out, though, I can see it in him more. And this little boy that we saw… Roo looked just like him.
I love it, and I hate it. I'm thankful for it, and I don't want it. Something tells me that I will eventually feel that way about the Down syndrome itself. Right now only the 2nd half of each of those statements hold true.
Roo starts physical therapy this week. He'll have that once a month and occupational therapy once a month. We'll also have another appointment once a month with just the early intervention specialist, and a fourth appointment with our Help Me Grow service coordinator. Our dance card is getting pretty full already.
But for now, I am going to snuggle this little baby who is sleeping on my chest, then I'm going to drag myself into the shower and get my family ready for church. I love going to church. I am so thankful for our church, our ABF (our class—kind of like Sunday School for grownups), our pastors, our God. J And then we're going to spend the evening swimming and eating with our friends. I am thankful for our friends.
OK, now that I have counted some of my blessings and I'm in a happier place, it's time to get started on my day.