Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Early intervention

When Olivia was in the hospital, one of the things that came up was making sure that we would have the resources needed to catch her up if necessary. She spent almost an entire month in the hospital and most of that time, she was intubated (breathing tube). The doctors let me know that it is very common for children with health issues (or being at the hospital for an extended period of time) to fall a bit behind in their milestones. I have asked several heart moms about this and almost all of them said their child had some type of delay. I want to mention that just because a child is a bit behind, does not mean they can't catch up but getting them help to do so is key. I have a few friends who had their child in Birth to 3 (completely healthy kids by the way) and they are now caught up and doing great in school! Anyone I've talked to about this always stresses the importance of early intervention. Where we live, our early intervention program is called Birth to 3. When we brought Liv home from the hospital (after her surgery stay), I set up a time for them to come to our house and do an evaluation. During that evaluation, our main concern was her eating difficulties. Olivia was also slightly behind with her fine motor skills but everything else was on track. Since she wouldn't eat, they sent a therapist to our house every other week to work on helping her to learn. They also gave me tips (different bottles/nipples, face exercises, different textures to try, etc.) on helping her but as most of you know, this didn't work out so well. Olivia sort of stumped the therapists she saw, it wasn't that she didn't know how to eat, it was just that she didn't want to. I attribute a lot of that to the feeding tube, not only was it bothering her throat but it was also keeping her full. You can read more about that in my previous post - More about the tube. Just to be clear, I think feeding tubes can be a life saver in certain circumstances. After I was able to wean her off the tube, Birth to 3 continued to come. They helped her with improving her fine motor skills, therapy is basically just play time for Liv. They bring different toys and puzzles, they watch and guide her. They teach me how I can help her when they aren't there and it's been great. She is pretty much on track with fine motor skills now but last month I brought up my concern about her speech. At 18 months, a child should be saying at least ten words (don't quote me on that because I can't remember exactly what they said) but Olivia was only saying three. She was saying "mama", "dada" and "cat". After another evaluation, the therapist said Olivia was speaking at a 13-15 month old level, so we started services for speech. I was told that it's a good idea to start practicing some sign language with Liv so that she wouldn't get frustrated if she didn't know how to say the word. Livy picked it up within a few days, she can sign for "all done" and "more". I am going to introduce a few more signs this week. I was worried that signing would make her not want to talk at all, since she could just sign what she wanted but it's actually the opposite, signing helps speech. Olivia has picked up two new words in the last few weeks, she is now saying "hi" and "baby". Aside from that, she understands everything. If I say "bring me the ball" she will, if I say "where's dada?" she will look at Paul, she knows her name, she points, she makes eye contact, she smiles, laughs and socializes. The therapist said these are all great signs and that since Olivia is making progress, she is confident that she will catch up. She surprises me every day. For example, sometime last month a commercial came on for this cat toy that Olivia got last Christmas, she saw the commercial, got off the couch and ran to the shelf to point at her cat (she knew she had the same one). I know Olivia is smart, she's just quiet. I know I'm rambling a bit but I guess my point is, don't get discouraged. You know your child best and if something seems off, it doesn't hurt to get an evaluation. Olivia's cardiologist told me that he sees a huge difference between the kids that see Birth to 3 and the kids that don't. I understand that some people don't seek help because they want to believe everything is fine but it's not a bad thing if your child is behind. I have an ongoing struggle with myself, I try not to be paranoid but I also don't want to turn a blind eye. I love Olivia and I want the best for her, helping her early on was an easy decision for me. My hope is that she will be completely caught up before she starts school. If she isn't, that's okay too, we will worry about that if/when the time comes. I will continue to encourage her and I will always be a proud mama.

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