Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Delays and Interventions

I'm a Psych grad. And I have enough friends with kids who have special needs. And both hubby and I have/had uncles with special limitations (they were undiagnosed). So, having my child asseessed by a developmental pedia was part of my mothering plan because in my mind, it can just as easily be us with a special-needs child. Then, I met someone online who regularly sends her twins to the DevPed (every six months) and is a great advocate of it, even for kids without special needs, because she says, "at least you get a picture of their strengths and weaknesses and can consult with the expert on how to better support/address those."

I was all the more sold and bent on getting Yakee assessed. I had to convince hubs though, because he had the impression that you only go if there is a problem, and like most fathers... he was more ready to defend a child's 'nornalcy' than face the possibility of a 'problem'. But because he is a loving one, and very supportive of my mothering, he agreed.

In the end, I kept my reason for doing it simple: I want it done to serve as an objective reality check... so that I'll know for sure that my struggles with my child are 'normal' and not because of special needs I am not addressing. I wanted to be reassured that Yakee was just testing his boundaries, and I just need to find better ways of accepting his growing independence, to parent him better... rather than him having needs I was not meeting.

And I was very quick to encourage others to do the same. I looked at it as a well-baby checkup. At least have an expert tell you that YES, YOUR CHILD IS FINE.

But then... my passion for homeschooling grew. And I discovered Waldorf. I will explain the connection as I go on.

Yakee was already attending St. Michael when his first (and only, so far) meeting with the developmental pedia transpired. And I actually can't believe that I haven't blogged about it. Anyway, I wasn't sure what I expected and not quite sure how satisfied I was of the assessment. But I realized some things:
1) there were some tasks he didn't do well because I have not given him enough chances to practice (e.g. button up... I only stopped dressing him up completely after he started going to play school)
2) he hesitated a lot, and I knew it was because he didn't know the doctor, and not because he didn't know what to do/how to do it (because I have seen him play, I know what he can do... I'm not being a parent in denial)
3) I already knew listening is an issue for him (he was diagnosed to have auditory processing issues, which means it's hard for him to process more than one question at a time, or repeat long sentences... and that though it wasn't a cause for alarm then, it may be a sign of some attention disorder in the future)

We were advised to have him come in again for a check this year... just to make sure that if there is a problem, we could catch it.

So, anyway, like any prudent parent, I echoed these findings to his nurturers... and they assured me they'd make sure to come to him instead of calling him, and talk to him while facing him... stuff like that. But in the meantime, these same nurturers had so many great things to say about my child at the exit interview (which I apparently also forgot to blog about).

They told me how much of a natural leader he was, how he brought everyone together and kept the peace. I saw how much they appreciated my son for who he was, and I told friends later that I was literally fighting back tears because it was very humbling to me... I was the parent but I forget to see my child as they saw him. I was the parent and yet they saw something in my child that I have never seen or acknowledged.

And then, like what I said above, I discovered Waldorf. I attended the Waldorf Crash Course which changed a lot of how I look at children, at things, at parenting.

And I guess, when you're in love with someone/something... you  can't stop talking about it and feel extra averse to things that do not jive with it.

And I...  I seem to be becoming quite the fanatic against interventions that aren't natural for a child. And I find myself against things that take away the child from the home or from his parents.  So, I am now sort of anti-TV/gadgets for young children. And structured sports and play. And early school attendance. And early academics.

I like to think I was preparing to homeschool... but because of Waldorf, I find myself drawn by unschooling more. Regular school now feels weird to me, and certainly not for my kids.

I am telling these things just to give an idea where I am coming from.

Now... in our ygroups, a mother sought inputs about her son who still wasn't talking at over 2 years of age. Without thinking it through, I adviced the mom to sing more songs to the child and let the child move... I also said this:

"before... I would also say get your child assessed but I am now very iffy kasi
usually, if there is a delay, OT is recommended... and while that may be
helpful, one can also not say that the child just finally bloomed in time and
was finally ready to talk

i like yung suggestions to enrol in a class... not because I like the suggestion
that what your child needs is outside the home, but because it reinforces the
idea that sometimes, more people to talk to (or more things to talk about) get a
child engaged enough to talk

so, if you live anywhere near Kids Ahoy in QC for example, parang i'd recommend
you bring your child to their play sessions and alternate that with running in
parks... than manage your sked to bring your child to OT

but that's just me :) "

One of the moms there, one whom I really like and someone I know who had a child in therapy (plus, she's a play therapist) reacted to what I said... and brought up important points like:

1) Those who have not had kids undergo occupational therapy cannot really appreciate its value
2) DevPeds seldom recommend OT just after one assessment, and only really when they deem it necessary
3) It may be true that kids in therapy improved not really because of therapy but because of time (constitutional delay) but the emphasis should be on the improvement
4) Tests and measures serve a purpose
5) The assessment and if ever, therapy is not about and for the parent, but the child.

I was greatly bothered by this e-mail, not because I thought her points off-base (because I KNEW and BELIEVED in them already before) but because I realized I was being very dismissive already of what I once felt strongly about.

Oh, rebuttals came to mind asap... about how therapy is actually a lucrative business now, and how some therapists are holding families hostage. Or how some doctors are prescribing medication as Plan A.

More and more kids are being reported to have special needs, true. But, how about we look at TV/gadget use, diet, health, lifestyle and their routines instead?
Tests and measures serve a purpose, but they can also be counter-productive. They may be used as general guidelines but if one falls short of them, it shouldn't necessarily mean they have a problem that need to be fixed.

This also brought to mind the following:
a) The speaker hired at a Learning Styles seminar I attended didn't believe in ADHD and believed more in learning styles (duh)... that it's not that a child cannot pay attention, it's more that he may process things differently and that is okay. A parent, however, needs to be aware of how his child learns and teach/approach him that way.

b) Debra Bell, the speaker at the recently held Homeschooling Conference, shared with us the story of how one of her daughters couldn't read well till she was around 10. That daughter was homeschooled and is now a Math teacher at a public school. That daughter also acknowledged to her Mom (Debra) that she now knows that had she been attending regular school, there would have been pressure for her to attend extra classes or have tutors and that she''d have been made to feel lacking because of that 'inability' at that age.  (this same sentiment will be echoed in a lot of homeschooling blogs)

c) Dr. Fuller (one whose background in education and psychology is extensive), creator of Ball-Stick-Bird books, was surprised herself when suppposedly uneducable people (those with IQ below 60, based on standardized tests) taught themselves to read her books, when she created those books for high IQ but illiterate adults

d) A movement with indications of Steiner's anthroposophy is the Camphill movement, which basically looks at people with special needs as just different, without the need for the same people to be 'trained' according to the 'norm'. It's like one advocacy among the deaf... to hear shouldn't be THE GOAL but to self-realize despite not being able to hear.

(I do not mean to suggest that Waldorf/Anthroposophy and Homeschooling believers do not believe in delays and therapies... just that they may offer a different view of looking at the 'delays' and how to 'address' those.)

Now... "The assessment and if ever, therapy is not about and for the parent, but the child."

True, it is very sad when parents in denial would refuse to get a child assessed or not commit to a therapy regimen. True, the time a child is frustrated from not being able to communicate or move as he liked will be time that cannot be recovered anymore and may have lasting damage to their self-esteem.

By the same token, special classes and the resultant stress of those on the parents' emotions, time and finances could also potentially result in anxiety, frustration and shame as well on the child.

So, what is a parent to do?

I... I went to my husband and told him all this. I ended up crying, afraid that I might be veering off to one school of thought and end up jeopardizing my sons' future. After all, Yakee still has those listening issues (which is also weird because his widow is so strong) and Yamee is still not talking.

My husband listend and listened and listened and then asked me if parenting came with a manual and guarantees (no) and if I'd do everything I can for our children should they need help (yes). Then he told me that whatever we decide upon for them, they will accept it, thrive in it and if it was wrong, forgive us... because they'd also know that we love them. That I love them. He also reminded me to only worry about how I will parent our children.

(yes, isn't he wonderful?)

This reminded me again of the Waldorf belief that it is in our striving to be better parents that our children will bloom. So, whether we decide to just let them be, honor who they are now and let them unfold in their own time... or provide them with all the interventions we can to ensure that they have had help... it's going to be okay. The important thing is that it was done out of love and humility, faith and courage. Not out of fear, conformity, not because you just want to be different or too lazy/uninvolved to do anything about it.


So, when faced with the possibility of a child having delays or special needs, what do you do?

I guess you can start with home remedies, basically more intentional activities at home to address or possibly help with whatever it is you are concerned about. But also, just watch your child at play without intervening or directing the play. See what is coming out of her play, what she is good at, what she struggles with. Just be at a place where you not only see what's different about your child in a negative way (comparing to the usual standards) but also in a positive way.

Then schedule an assessment with a DevPed.

And should further assessments require drug and therapy recommendations... then I suggest to do your research and process the course of action with your spouse. Do you go into the therapy suggested? What are your options? Why are you doing this? Is it really because you want to help your child or because you don't want him to be different, lagging, etc? Can you commit to supplementing it with activities at home? (that's another thing hubs pointed out, some parents might provide all the therapy in the world but not be there with their child when they're needed, even just to talk to... same way that some parents might be so blind that their child is already asking for help... and hubs said, he believes that children do ask for help when there's something they really need that isn't being provided.) Are you open to changing course should one strategy fail? Will you check with your child if they think it is helping them? Should you choose to delay therapy, can you live with the decision? Should you choose to go into therapy, can you manage your expectations?

Parents know their children best and are in the best position to see if something's working or not, if their child is responding positively to something or not. And yes, we can get outside help... just hopefully, we don't lose sight of who our child is in pursuit of what we want her to become. And hopefully, we remember that there is NO ONE WAY to raise a child, or help a child.

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