This visit played out much like before. Simon met with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a developmental pediatrician, and a child psychologist (this is an all day 8am-5pm deal). One of the issues that came up in 2005 was a lack of cooperation to complete the testing - we all hoped that they would be able to get farther this time (for a more accurate diagnosis). In the end it was a bit better, but there were still quite a few things he simply refused to do during the testing (he would become hyper-focused on some other thing in the room ie: toy and continue to ask for that rather than respond to the adult asking the questions/trying to get him to engage).
There were also things that he simply didn't understand such as the concept of pretend play with small people or being able to look at a book presented to him and tell the story to the speech therapist based on the pictures.
We wanted this evaluation to be a check-in and a check-up. In some ways it is a second opinion on what we already know from the Early Childhood Special Education/Early Intervention specialists. His issues continue to be related to speech, behavior, muscle tone, and socialization/social skills.
As parents, Chris and I felt we also needed a check-in. Along with Simon being re-evaluated, we needed to evaluate ourselves. How are we doing? Are we doing as much as we can? What new strategies could we employ? We needed the opportunity to bounce ideas off the specialists and get more information and suggestions on how to address certain areas.
One of our main concerns all along has been nutrition. We have a super picky little guy when it comes to food and when you get down to the heart of it, some of it probably has to do with the fact that we have not been consistent in our approach to getting him to try new foods. We get tired. We get busy. We get off course. We do things that are simply easier on us (chicken nuggets again tonight, sure, sounds good to me buddy).
Some of our fears related to his growth (based on his nutrition) were alleviated by the developmental pediatrician who tested his fat content + height + weight and was able to show us on the growth chart that he is right in the middle of where he should be. A little sigh of relief there, but also a reminder again to us to get back on track. One of the things we will be doing in the coming months (as suggested by the developmental pediatrician) is visit with a nutritionist in Portland in conjunction with CDRC/OHSU. It will be another step in obtaining knowledge and strategies of different ways we can work with him.
Other goals we will be working on with Simon:
- Organizing some play dates to work on social skills + turn taking (Meg are you interested?).
- Behavior coaching/behavior management especially related to his desire to run away (which to him is simply a game of chase) - would love to find someone to work with us one on one - any one have any info on this sort of thing?
- Moving his language skills beyond simple identification to a conceptual level (looking at a picture book and being able to identify feelings) + working on reciprocity in conversation (keeping the conversation going beyond one statement question from me and one response from him). One idea the child psychologist suggested was to have a chat each night at the dinner table about each of our favorite things from the day and have that be a jumping off point for more discussion. Simon will need some coaching on this to get things going (similar to the picture story/schedule he brings home each day outlining his activities - we will probably bring this to the table to begin) but it is an opportunity to work on a bunch of different skills.
Lots of things to continue to work on as he gets ready for kindergarten. I think many of these issues will continue to be emphasized in his afternoon autism classroom (he will be in the typical classroom in the morning).
It was interesting being back in the building again. Lots of memories
flooded over me from our previous visit. On the surface I noticed how
almost everything there was the same - the toys, the color of the wall,
the furniture, the feeling in the waiting room.
In contrast, so much has changed in our lives over the last
couple of years. Autism, politics, work. I know that I look at the world differently than I did
prior to Simon's diagnosis. There has been a softening - or maybe the correct term is an awakening - inside of me and it has impacted every piece of myself and how I see people and the world in which we live.
Simon is the same amazing, handsome, fun kid he was the day we took him in for his first evaluation. He has definitely made progress and continues to grow and develop. The child psychologist remarked more than once yesterday on how there were times during the evaluation where Simon's eye contact and connection with him were fantastic. I loved witnessing that and loved that he is a man who is in tune to those sorts of beautiful moments.
Overall, it was a good visit.
Sitting here today it is tough to put into words all the emotions and observations and thoughts that carried me throughout the eight hours we were there. For me, writing it all out continues to be a big part of how I process and organize all this information. My observations will always be a bit cloudy as I find it hard to separate the hard facts from the emotions that seem to go hand in hand with being the mama. But that is ok, I am not the doctor nor am I the evaluator. I am the mama.
As for today, today we are moving forward once again. I sense that both Chris and I are back on best behavior. I can hear it in our voices when chatting with Simon. I could see it in the choices I made at the grocery store this morning and in my meal planning for this evening.
One day at a time. One foot in front of the other.